- In-Country Power
- International Power
- Military Strength
- Special Skill: Rocket Power
- Official Title: Chairman of the Hamas Political Bureau
- Government: State-less / Hamas leader
- Years Left in Office: In limbo
- Political Classification: Center-left
- Education: BS in Physics
- Age: 61 (born December 31, 1955)
Khaled Mashal Facts and Information
- Khaled Mashal is the leader, and a founding member, of the political movement named Hamas
- Khaled Mashal currently resides in and operates from Damascus, Syria
- Hamas is a Palestinian movement that has political, social, and military missions...not all of which are always aligned
- Hamas is the entity in charge of the Gaza Strip and currently at odds with the Fatah movement
- Hamas is considered a terrorist organization by Israel & 'the West' which is why Gaza is being isolated and embargoed
My main man Mashal! Khaled Mashal that is, the head honcho of Hamas! What’s that? You have no idea what the hell a Hamas is? Then check out this run-down of Hamas before or after reading about its current leader Mashal. Hamas is the group currently in charge of the little slice of Palestine called the Gaza Strip, which is quite important in current events of the region. So let’s kick it with Khaled now to see what this dude and his group are up to…
Khaled Mashal has been the Chairman and key engineer of the Islamic Resistance Movement a.k.a. Hamas ever since the assassination of the former head Adbel Aziz al-Rantissi by Israeli special forces in 2004. Hamas’ main mission is the liberation of Palestine from Israeli occupation, although they have multiple other objectives depending upon who you ask. And the dude you would ask about such things is Mashal, who currently lives in exile in Damascus, Syria, from where he oversees the movement’s activities both within and outside Palestine. So if he lives in Syria, what the hell has this guy got to do with the whole Hamas movement in Palestine?
Well, Mashal was born in 1956 in a neighborhood of Ramallah, which is currently in the West Bank. After Israel invaded the West Bank in 1967, Mashal and his family left their village and moved to Kuwait, where he later enrolled as a student of Kuwait University, studied physics (he holds a B.S. in physics) and founded a Islamic Palestinian student group which challenged the authority of the only other organized Palestinian group at the time, that being Yassir Arrafat’s PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization.) It’s important to note that, even at this early stage in his carer, Mashal was never a fan of Arrafat, the PLO, or what would later evolve out of it as the political group Fatah. More on that below.
In 1971 Mashal joined the Muslim Brotherhood movement, which originated in Egypt (boy, haven’t they been in the news a lot since the Arab Revolution started?) and picked up a lot of their ideological musings…including staunch opposition to the existence of the state of Israel. Mashal then participated in the foundation of the Islamic Haqq Bloc, which competed with Fatah’s blocs on leading the General Union for the Palestinian Students in Kuwait. And now we get to more modern events, as Mahsal helped shape and found Hamas in 1987, leading the Kuwait chapter of the organization…but then Saddam Hussein stepped in…
When Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, Mashal and fam fled to Jordan, where he became the chairman of the Hamas Political Bureau in 1996. In late 1997, Mashal was the target of an assassination attempt carried out by the Israeli Mossad—which is like the Israeli version of the CIA—under orders from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (who is once again currently in the top Israeli slot here in 2011.) The agents attempted to inject a slow-acting lethal chemical into Mashal’s ear on a public street, but the operation was botched and the men were soon arrested. How freaky is that?
King Hussein, leader of Jordan at that time, was outraged by the attack and this provoked a crisis in Israeli-Jordan relations. Mashal would have died, but King Hussein insisted that Israel send the antidote to save Mashal’s life, and the deal also negotiated the release of over 40 Palestinian political prisoners (including Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin) in exchange for the Mossad agents and normalization of relations. What a mess! Epic ear-poisoning-fail for Israel!
So did Khaled just continue to chill in Jordan? Nope, not for long. In 1999, Hamas was banned in Jordan when King Abdullah, who succeeded his father King Hussain, accused Hamas of using Jordanian soil for illegal activities, and Hamas’ allies for trying to disrupt the peace treaty between Jordan and Israel as reasons for the decision. Make no mistakes about it: Jordan was pressured to do this by Israel, the US, and probably most EU countries, all of whom at this point considered Hamas as a full-on terrorist organization…nd all of whom pushe hard for the Jordanian/Israeli peace treaty at the time. As a result, Jordan arrested Mashal and later expelled him to Qatar.
And now we are about up to now. In 2001 Mashal moved to Damascus, Syria, where he ran the Hamas “political wing.” That was all fine and dandy until 2003 when Sheikh Ahmed Yassin (main Hamas founder) and Abdel Aziz Rantissi (co-founder of Hamas) were assassinated in an Israeli air raid on Gaza Strip. That left Khaled Mashal as the last-founding-man standing, and thus he became the world leader of the entire Hamas movement. However, he cannot return to the Palestinian territories for fear that he will be arrested or killed by Israeli authorities, so he continues to operate from Syria.
Why is he important to know? Since Hamas’ political victory in the Palestinian election of 2006, and the subsequent civil war between Hamas and Fatah in 2007, Khaled Mashal in the voice of the government of the Gaza Strip…and that little slice of Palestine has been nothing but hot and heavy in current events of the last several years. Gaza: Embargoed by Israel and ‘the West’; a source of rocket attacks into Israel proper; the center of world attention and international friction as outsiders have attempted to break the blockade which is starving the peoples out….this place is just a barrel of laughs, and will continue to be the tinder box for all Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
And Khaled Mashal is the mouth piece of the man player in all this madness. Is he a radical advocating the demise of the state of Israel? Or a moderate fighting for a just solution for the Palestinain peoples? Hmmm…I actually don’t know, and encourage input right here on this page in the comments section…especially from you folks that are from the area and know what’s up on the ground in Gaza. Give a shout and help a brotha out.
But if you want more understanding of the Hamas role in Gaza and the Israeli-Palestinian crisis as a whole, read on my intrepid learners…have another heaping of Hamas history:
So what the hell is a Hamas? Founded in 1987, Hamas was the Gaza Strip branch of the Islamic Muslim Brotherhood movement founded in Egypt. Hamas is opposed to the existence of Israel (that’s kind of extreme), and the Hamas charter calls for the eventual creation of an Islamic Republic in place of Israel (extreme, part deux). It is best known outside the West Bank and Gaza Strip for its suicide bombings and other attacks directed against civilians and Israeli military/security forces. It is just such attacks that have earned it the official label as a ‘terrorist organization’ by the US, the EU, Israel, Canada, the UK, and Australia. So to the US and its staunch lapdogs…um, I mean allies…Hamas is bad, bad, bad oh so freakiin’ bad! And those countries won’t deal with Hamas, talk to Hamas, or even write a letter to Hamas to tell them how much they freakin’ hate Hamas. Now that is hate my friends!
Unfortunately for ‘the West’ and its allies, Hamas is something else to a lot of Palestinians and Middle Easterners in general. It is a political party in the Palestinian territories, and one that has gained popularity in the last few years. Hamas is the only other real political party option for Palestinians besides Fatah. Fatah is the main political party in Palestine (see Fatah blog under the Mahmoud Abbas bio) and has been the stronghold of Palestinian political power for years. Yassir Arrafat was at the helm for decades, and now Mahmoud Abbas is the current leader of the Fatah party, and these guys have essentially been ‘the voice’ for Palestinians forever. Think of Fatah and Hamas as the Democratic and Republican political parties in the US—except of course that the Republicans don’t have a militant wing of their party that goes out and blows up people and shit….oops…um…my mistake again…bad analogy. I forgot about the CIA.
But hold the hummus! Hamas can’t possibly be a real political party! Who the hell would vote for a political party that advocates open violence? Why would anyone in Palestine really want to screw themselves by voting for a terrorist political party? Here’s why: the Fatah movement has increasingly been viewed as ineffective, inefficient, and downright corrupt by a lot of Palestinians. Lots of people are hungry, unemployed, and desperate. Many are interested in a change from the Fatah era, which has accomplished little.
On top of that, Hamas actually does a lot of ‘good deeds’ on the ground. They build and staff hospitals and schools and soup kitchens and a host of other do-gooder stuff that folks on the ground see and benefit from. That’s the Hamas social wing. Meanwhile, the Hamas political wing advocates a much more hard-core approach to solving the Palestinian/Israel dispute, but is also viewed as much less corrupt and as a real voice for the people. As such, the Hamas political party has been gaining popularity in the masses, even among those that do not advocate terrorist violence….dammit, that’s what makes them so confusing!…….
A political party or faction, much like any other party or faction worldwide, Hamas contains a shitload of different viewpoints amongst its members—again, not unlike the Republican or Democratic parties in the US. There are folks in Hamas who are staunch advocates of solving the Palestinian issue thru the use of force, while other folks in Hamas seek to use only diplomatic political means to solve the problem…there are also members of Hamas who focus only on the social issues of the Palestinian peoples, and others who are just about the grassroots movement on the street to build hospitals and schools. Are you starting to see the diversity of opinions here?
Dammit I hope so, because that is the only way you can understand their current dilemma. What has happened over the course of the last decade is that the political and social and militant wings of the Hamas party have kind of parted ways on what to do and how to act. There has been no singular front; no singular voice of Hamas that speaks for all. As the social movement in Hamas has struggled to keep up with charitable deeds in an increasingly desperate situation, and the political wing of Hamas has essentially been ignored and shut out of the political process, the militant wing has gained strength within the movement.…… In other words, as other options have floundered for the party, the militant guys have gained ground thru their deeds and actions—since no one else can seemingly get anything done, or be taken seriously by ‘the West’.
Am I defending them for blowing shit up? Hell no I’m not defending their actions! I’m just trying to explain why the more violent factions within the Hamas party have come to power. Dudes, they tried the political route—they put up candidates, campaigned for change, got lots of people to vote for them, won the election…and then were politely told to go away and shut the fuck up. Is it some sort of surprise to other world leaders that Hamas has taken a more violent approach to change, since its other options have been totally shut down? Oh wait a minute…I’m assuming western leaders know their asses from a hole in the ground. My mistake again. Let’s move on…
Now you know enough to get to the meat and potatoes of the current shit-storm: Since the death of Yasser Arafat, the Fatah movement has lost steam–and the Hamas movement has gained it. Hamas’s political wing had been entering local/state elections and winning a lot of them, mostly in Gaza Strip, but also the West Bank. Infighting between these two political factions has gotten nasty in the last few years, resulting in lots more death and destruction—as if this place needed some more. But now the real shizzle:
In January 2006, Hamas won a surprise victory in the Palestinian parliamentary elections, taking 76 of the 132 seats in the chamber, while the ruling Fatah party took 43.What’s the big deal about that? Well, in a parliamentary system, the ruling party of parliament gets to pick the Prime Minister, as well as form the ruling government. (The President is elected by a separate popular vote, like in US) That meant that, quite legally, Hamas was in control and would pick the Prime Minister and be in control of the workings of the Palestinian territory. Oops! The Palestinian government was going to be run by a political party labeled as a terrorist group by Israel and ‘the West’! Oh snap!
When this happened, Israel and all of ‘the West’ refused to recognize any government led by Hamas. They also pulled all funding from the Palestinian government, in effect immediately bankrupting an already impoverished government (Palestine relies heavily on foreign aid to operate). Dammit! I hate when those pesky democracies vote for people we don’t like! Democracy can be such a pain in the ass for ‘the West’ sometimes! Why won’t people around the world elect the leaders WE want them to? Why can’t they understand that WE know what’s best for them? (Can you sense the smart-ass-ness jumping off the page at you here?) What a joke.
Long story short, the Palestinian parliament was Hamas-controlled but since the world was going to shut them out entirely, Mahmoud Abbas (remember, he is a Fatah guy) kept power until some sort of power-sharing deal could be worked out. Well, they never worked the shit out. Hamas got fed up with the process and all hell broke out in summer of 2007—Hamas literally, physically and militarily took control of the entire Gaza Strip…..their political stronghold from the start. On June 18, 2007, Palestinian President Abbas issued a decree outlawing the Hamas militia and executive force, and two days later called the group “murderous terrorists.” The Hamas forces that were in real control of Gaza just kind of laughed that decree off. Abbas and the rest of the Fatah government were already safely secure in the West Bank when that mostly meaningless decree was made.
So what we have now is Hamas controlling the Gaza part of Palestine, Fatah controlling the West Bank of Palestine, and the possible end of any future singular state of ‘Palestine’ which contains both these geographic entities. Mahmoud Abbas of the Fatah party is still acting head of the West Bank division of Palestine; upon these Gaza events unfolding, every western power recognized him as the rightful ruler of ‘Palestine’ (whatever the hell that means at this point.) As such, all diplomatic channels are back open between Abbas and the US, the EU, Israel and others. All western entities have also promised to give all the previously withheld financial aid to the Abbas government. And only to the Abbas government.
And Hamas? Well, it appears that they may be more screwed than ever. As all western powers are only recognizing their Fatah rivals in the West Bank, their government in Gaza will remain isolated and poor. ‘The West’ is seemingly in no mood to deal with Hamas at all until they change their stance towards the right of Israel to exist, as well as an official renouncement of the use of suicide bombers and other ‘terrorist’ tactics. Hamas has not done that, and some extremist within the Gaza Strip have also been lobbing home-made rockets over the wall at Israel for months now…in what can only be described as an effort to screw themselves even more.
And screw themselves they have. After repeated warnings to Gaza and Hamas to stop the rockets, Israel decided to put the smack-down on the entire population. That is why Israel sealed up all the borders and started the trade embargo over three years ago….and you may have read stories in summer of 2010 about how strained international relations have become in this area due a bunch of ‘embargo-breaker’ ships that tried to get supplies into Gaza, and were repelled by the Israeli navy…but not before some Turkish citizens were killed in the process. That pissed off Turkey and others, who have condemned Israel harshly for those acts, and the embargo in general…which is generally condemned by the international community as whole as well.
In other words, that is why it is important to understand who these Hamas guys are: their control of the Gaza Strip, the embargo that their control caused, and the subsequent humanitarian disaster which has ensued, have made them a major player in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the events of the entire region as a whole.
Whew. Enough of the Hamas for now. I’m going out for some hummus. I think I’ll drive my Hummer.
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