The Palestinian Islamist group Hamas on Monday condemned the killing by U.S. forces of Osama bin Laden and mourned him as an “Arab holy warrior.” “We regard this as a continuation of the American policy based on oppression and the shedding of Muslim and Arab blood,” Ismail Haniyeh, head of the Hamas administration in the Gaza Strip, told reporters.
Before you let this go with “Oh, that should play well in Congress,” it’s worth mentioning that the ostensible Al Qaeda/Hamas split is a favorite talking point of Hamas apologists. For certain foreign policy experts, it ranks with “Sunnis and Shiites never cooperate” as a pretext for engaging some jihadists because they wear different badges than other jihadists. Even this CNN article includes a reference to doctrinal differences.
Those differences don’t exist on the level of goals and tactics. They didn’t stop Hamas from releasing 28 Al Qaeda prisoners a few years ago. On the issue of confronting the West, they don’t prevent Hamas from getting pulled in Al Qaeda’s direction rather than vice versa. And then there’s this:
After Hamas assaulted and overthrew Fatah’s forces in the Gaza Strip this summer, Zawahiri issued an audio message assuring, “our brothers, the Hamas mujahedin, that we and the entire Muslim nation stand along side you.” Now that Hamas rejected power-sharing in Gaza in favor of brute force, bin Laden’s deputy pledges to help facilitate the “passage of weapons and supplies from neighboring countries” into the Gaza Strip… This would not be the first time the two groups worked together. In the early and mid-1990s, Hamas members received paramilitary training and even attended Islamist conferences in Sudan that bin Laden and members of his budding network reportedly attended.
So while Hamas and Al Qaeda do occasionally fight over who gets to be the top sharia-enforcing totalitarian in the Gaza Strip, their estrangement is vastly overstated. It remains vastly overstated no matter how many times it gets peddled by J-Stret co-founder Daniel Levy, or by anyone else who urges Western dialogue with Iran’s genocidal proxies.