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The Muslim Brotherhood Makes its Move in Palestinian Territories
The big winner in the Hamas-Fatah peace pact appears to be the Muslim Brotherhood, of which Hamas is an armed branch.

While giving up very little Hamas, through the intercession of leaders of the Brotherhood, has sidestepped the issue of recognizing Israel while ceding little to Fatah and opening the way, they hope, for international recognition. This is a common tactical decision by the Brotherhood, which is often willing to trade off short-term contradictions for long-term gains, with the clear understanding that anything written now can be rewritten later.

But the fundamental issue between Fatah and Hamas ( and the Brotherhood) is deep and perhaps irreconcilable, and goes to the heart of the Islamist project. For Hamas, it is a religious matter of faith that Israel cannot be recognized and the Caliphate must be reestablished. Fatah, for all its bumbling incompetence, sees the territorial issues as a matter of policy and politics.

The noted scholar Mamaoun Fandy, recently warned in an article excerpted in the Middle East Media Research Institute, the Muslim Brotherhood has now conquered Palestine as a symbol in the Arab world.

This conquest "will transform [the Palestinian problem] from a resolvable territorial struggle into a religious struggle that cannot be resolved," he wrote. A reversal of this trend is highly unlikely because al Jazeera is, at least in large part, controlled by the Mulim Brotherhood, giving it the dominant medium in the region.

Here is a further excerpt that captures the dilemma, both for secular Palestinians and outside policy makers:

"At the time, the incitement was nationalist [in character], while today - after the Muslim Brotherhood has conquered a significant part of the symbolic Palestine - the incitement has become Islamist, and the domestic has become commingled with the external. This is because the structure of the Muslim Brotherhood's ideological discourse is not based on the separation of the domestic and the external, and because their ideology transcends the borders of [particular Arab] states.

"Hasn't the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt said that he had no objection to having [even] a Malaysian Muslim rule Egypt, as long as it was not ruled by a Coptic Egyptian? Likewise, the Muslim Brotherhood conquest of the symbolic Palestine means giving the [Palestinian] problem a religious character - and herein lies the danger.

"First of all, giving the Palestinian problem a religious character will lead to a Malaysian Muslim having more rights in Palestine than a Christian Palestinian. Likewise, it will transform [the Palestinian problem] from a resolvable territorial struggle into a religious struggle that cannot be resolved."

This move by the Brotherhood, as it strengthens its hand in Egypt and grows in influence in Europe and the United States, has gone largely unnoticed and is likely not clearly understood by U.S. policy makers. The focus is almost entirely on Hamas' unwillingness to recognize Israel, which is a valid point.

But the much larger point is that the Brotherhood is succeeding in creating a governed space, making the already-difficult resolution of any conflict impossible.

Fatah has led in the Hamas electoral victory through kleptocracy, nepotism, corruption, human rights abuse and sheer incompetence. There is little that can be in its defense. Except that the alternative will be far worse.
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