Dr. Issam Adwan, chairman of Hamas’s Division of Refugee Affairs (Photo: website of Hamas’s Division of Refugee Affairs, June 15, 2017)
1. On June 7, 2017, Hamas’s newspaper Filastin published an article by Dr. Issam Adwan, entitled “The controlled confrontation is essential.” The article analyzes at length the advantages of a scenario, in which Hamas will initiate a “controlled confrontation” against Israel in response to the “intensification of the siege” on the Gaza Strip. Under such a confrontation, Hamas and the other organizations will be givencarte blanche to inflict “very limited blows” on Israel (Adwan does not specify the nature of such blows). Adwan believes that Israel will respond vigorously. However, in such a case, Hamas and other organizations should not respond in a like manner, but their response must be controlled and minimalist. The author of the article believes that a scenario of a “controlled confrontation” against Israel may put Gaza and its needs on the agenda of global media and cause all the relevant parties to act towards finding solutions for the new situation created by the “resistance” (i.e., terrorist organizations). Dr. Issam Adwan advises Hamas and the other organizations to consider this alternative.
2. Dr. Issam Adwan is a resident of Gaza City, born in 1967. He has a Ph.D. in history from the Institute of Arab Research and Studies in Cairo, 2004 (he earned his undergraduate and graduate degrees in history from Yarmouk University in Jordan and the Islamic University of Gaza). In recent years, he has headed Hamas’s Division of Refugee Affairs. In addition, he has been a lecturer on Modern History at the Islamic University in Gaza and Al-Quds Open University. He has written books and published studies on the issue of refugees and is often interviewed on local and Arab television channels. On his two Facebook pages and in Hamas-affiliated media, he usually publishes articles and posts on the Palestinian refugees’ “right of return.” In the past, he uploaded militant posts against Israel.
3. It is unclear whether the call for the initiation of a “controlled confrontation,” published in Hamas’s newspaper by Dr. Issam Adwan, an outstanding medium-level activist, reflects a prevailing line of thought among the Hamas leadership; or whether this is his personal opinion, which he has already expressed in the past (a similar article was written by him after Operation Protective Edge and also published in the newspaper Filastin, on May 17, 2015).In the ITIC's assessment, the publication of the article at the current time, with the pressure mounting on Hamas and Hamas’s public threats of escalation, may indicate Hamas’s internal discourse about the strategic alternatives regarding the nature of its response to the hard situation that it incurred.
Summary of Dr. Issam Adwan's article
The article written by Dr. Issam Adwan in Hamas’s organ, entitled “The controlled confrontation is essential” (Filastin, June 7, 2017)
4. Following are the main topics of the article:
A. Dr. Issam Adwan opens the article with the assertion that Hamas is coping with the intensification of the siege on the Gaza Strip, which has become the preferred policy of local, regional and international forces. The intensification of the siege on the Gaza Strip was intended to cause the Gaza Strip residents to oppose the “resistance” (i.e., Hamas and the other terrorist organizations).
B. Subsequently, Adwan analyzes three alternatives which, according to him, Hamas faces while attempting to cope with this complex situation. Dr. Issam Adwan raises two possible alternatives, which he rules out:
1) “Unarmed confrontation” along the borders of the Gaza Strip: a confrontation that is carried out by hundreds of young Palestinians along the borders of the Gaza Strip, which brings only a limited benefit (reference is made here to demonstrations held near the border, the likes of which are held recently upon the Hamas initiative).According to Adwan, until the number of young Palestinians involved in the confrontations near the border reaches tens of thousands, their impact is liable to be very small.
2) Renewal of the extensive confrontation with Israel “will bring hellfire” on the Gaza Strip, in the current circumstances. The author believes that under the prevailing conditions, Hamas and the other organizations (“the resistance”) will not be able to curb Israel, “and therefore everyone avoids raising the subject as a possible alternative.”
C. At this point, Dr. Issam Adwan mentions the third alternative, which is the preferred one, in his opinion. The gist of it is a prolonged confrontation controlled by Hamas. As part of this alternative, Hamas and the other organizations will be given carte blanche to inflict very limited blows on Israel. This alternative, in his opinion, will be “an appropriate solution” for the current situation and will be totally different from the alternative of renewing the extensive confrontation with Israel. The limited confrontation will allow the forces in the Gaza Strip which are angry because of the “continued siege” “to let off steam” against Israel, and at the same time, it will make clear to the international community the consequences of “the continuation of the siege” on the Gaza Strip.
D. The author is aware that Israel will retaliate vigorously in response to the controlled blows. However, he advises the “resistance” (the terrorist organizations) to refrain from a similar reaction (in response to the Israeli reaction). According to Adwan, the reaction of the “resistance” should be “fully controlled and minimalist.” The meaning of the above is firing rockets at open areas in Israel, diversifying the targets of the rockets, and firing rockets over a relatively long period. All this should be carried out while ignoring the scope of “savage response” expected from Israel (“the enemy”) towards Gaza and its “resistance” (i.e., the terrorist organizations).
E. Such tactics, Dr. Issam Adwan believes, will cause Israel to reduce its attacks within a few days, based on the understanding of “the nature of confrontation desired by the resistance.”His opinion that Israel will respond in the same manner (i.e., by limited attacks on the terrorist organizations) is based on his assessment that Israel is interested in avoiding escalation, which could bring about widespread objection in Israel’s home front. The Israeli home front, according to Dr. Issam Adwan, is capable of accepting a (small) number of rockets fired every day, but not an extensive war lasting for several months.
F. Dr. Issam Adwan believes that the alternative that he suggests is in line with the historic experience of other “liberation movements” in the world, which have used tactics of a war of attrition and guerrilla warfare to achieve victory over the enemy, or at least to score points in the long campaign for the liberation. The resistance in the Gaza Strip must take advantage of the fact that the residents of the enemy are within the range of its fire, unlike most of the countries that were under occupation. Israel’s desire for security will allow the “resistance” to achieve (in return) its “legitimate demands,” even in return for (granting) temporary security to Israel (as opposed to recognizing it).
5. At the end of the article the author points out two gains which are expected, in his opinion, from the “controlled confrontation”: It will place “Gaza and its needs at the top of global media’s agenda”; It will also cause all the international, regional and local forces to act towards finding a solution to the new situation created by the “resistance.”Therefore, the author advises the decision makers among “all the forces of the Palestinian resistance” (i.e., Hamas and the other terrorist organizations) to consider this alternative, which the author believes to be “the only useful alternative in the current complex circumstances.”
The term used in Arabic for “controlled confrontation” is al-Muwajaha al-Mundabita.
Dr. Issam Adwan finds advantages with the scenario of “controlled confrontation.” However, he refrains from analyzing the disadvantages of this scenario, which is based on the assumption that Israel will be dragged into the “rules of the game” dictated by Hamas.
Hamas’s Division of Refugee Affairs was established in 2001 by a decision of the movement leadership as a professional division charged with the issue of the refugees in Hamas. The division is currently headed by Dr. Issam Adwan. The purpose of the division is to safeguard the rights of the refugees, act towards the improvement of their situation, support and coordinate local, regional and international efforts to protect their rights (website of Hamas’s Division of Refugee Affairs, June 15, 2017). As part of his activity, Dr. Issam Adwan is in touch with UNRWA. In 2016, he called for the removal of UNRWA Commissioner Pierre Krähenbühl due to the reduction in the volume of UNRWA’s activities (Issam Adwan's Twitter account, October 10, 2016).
In 2014 and on April 26, 2017, Dr. Issam Adwan uploaded the following post to his Facebook pages: “The enemy (i.e., Israel) should be faced with a tough equation: the demolition of an Arab house in Israel should mean a rocket falling in Tel Aviv; and an attack against the Al-Aqsa Mosque should mean no red lines for the resistance” (Dr. Issam Adwan's Facebook page, April 26, 2017).
The mounting pressure includes the exacerbation of the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip; the economic pressure exerted by Abu Mazen on Hamas; the removal of Hamas officials from Qatar; the killing of Mazen Fuqaha, who was one of Hamas’s military wing senior commanders; and the decision of the Israeli government to assent to Abu Mazen’s request, which means a reduction of the electricity supply to the Gaza Strip. Following all these developments, Hamas’s senior officials threatened several times to resort to escalating the situation; however, so far, we haven’t encountered a public discussion on how to put these threats into action.
In Arabic, Muwajaha Maftuha, i.e., an open, borderless confrontation. Reference is made here to an extensive confrontation which lasts a long period of time, such as Operation Protective Edge or Operation Cast Lead.