One of the most enduring epithets for Hamas, right up there with “terrorist,” is “proxy.” If you Google “Hamas Iran proxy,” you get 1,750,000 hits. The idea that the relationship between Sunni Hamas, the Gaza affiliate of the Muslim Brotherhood, and Shia Iran was merely a marriage of convenience and not a true love match is rejected by those who forget that most enduring maxim of Middle East politics: “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” And implicit in that maxim are two more words: “for now.”
This conventional wisdom is due for a makeover. On January 17, a Ha’aretz headline announced “Hamas brutally assaults Shi'a worshippers in Gaza.” The article reported that Hamas fears “growing Iranian influence in Gaza.” But for years, we have been told that it is Hamas itself that represents Iranian influence in Gaza. What gives?
Further down in the article, the picture begins to make sense when we read that Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) members in Gaza are “converting” to Shiism. For Hamas, the “Arab spring” does not lead to a “summer of roses and wine” (with apologies to Gilbert and Sullivan). A day later Khaled Meshal, the head of the organization, still based in Damascus, unexpectedly announced his resignation. The regional picture is changing, and Hamas is trying to catch up.
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