Abbas should fire Habbash immediately

By Khalid Amayreh in Occupied Palestine
Palestinian Information Center

Mahmoud Habbash

Mahmoud Habbash

Mahmoud Habbash, the outspoken aid of Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, has always been a divisive voice at the Palestinian political arena ever since he fled Gaza seven years ago.

Almost every Friday, he gives a virulent sermon at the small mosque at the PA headquarters in Ramallah, during which he emits all his bile and vindictiveness on Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Resistance group.

Needless to say, this is not how the dignified Friday pulpit should be used. The Friday sermon should be an occasion for fostering hope and unity among Muslims. It shouldn’t be used as a divisive tool to spread disunity, tumult and hatred.

The PA itself had issued stiff rules barring Mosque imams (Friday speakers) from indulging in divisive politics.

However, it has been repeatedly noted that Habbash, who was PA Minister of Religious Affairs for years, was the one who violated these rules.

This is really symptomatic of a deep dichotomy between what the PA says and what it does.

Bomb Gaza!!!

From examining his sermons in Ramallah and elsewhere, it is clear that the man is either ignorant in religious knowledge or hypocrite or both. He also seems to be a sycophantic hanger-on revolving in Mahmoud Abbas’s orbit, often sacrificing honesty and truth for the sake of pleasing his master.

For example, in his sermon on 20 March at the Tashrifat mosque in Ramallah, he compared Abbas’s political opponents with the hypocrites of Quraysh in the time of the Prophet Muhammad.

This is a cheap manipulation of the Friday sermon. Indeed, comparing a secular leader with virtually no Islamic credentials to the greatest man ever to walk on the face of earth goes beyond the pale. At the end of the day, ignorant and hypocritical speakers must not be allowed to corrupt the Islamic religious discourse.

The latest scandal coming out of this man’s mouth was a call on Arab states to send their warplanes to bomb Gaza, effectively to destroy what was not destroyed in the Israeli blitzkrieg against the coastal enclave in summer.

“Arab states have a duty to strike those who have violated legitimacy with an iron fist, regardless of the place, time or circumstances, beginning with Palestine,” Habbash was quoted as saying during the Friday sermon he delivered in Ramallah.

He added, “What happened in Gaza was a coup, not a division, and it must be addressed with firmness. There can be no dialogue with coup-makers; they must be hit with an iron fist”.

Habbash is absolutely wrong

We may not agree with Hamas on everything it says and does. But the claim that Hamas carried out a coup against the PA is exactly the antithesis of truth. The well documented reality is that Hamas acted preemptively against a coup attempt by forces loyal to Mahmoud Abbas after the Islamist group unexpectedly won legislative elections the previous year.

That coup, led by former Fatah strongman in Gaza, Muhammad Dahlan, was secretly coordinated with Israel and the Bush administration. The full story of that conspiracy was revealed several years ago by the American magazine Vanity Fair.

Living in the West Bank, I know it is politically incorrect to say the truth in this regard. The PA, we all know, doesn’t tolerate serious dissent, which explains the recent sweeping arrests of political opponents.

But honesty must always come first. And if one is to be truly faithful to his or her conscience, one must dismiss Habbash’s ranting as totally worthless and mendacious.

I have spoken to several Palestinian pundits who unanimously denounced Habbash’s remarks.

I am not going to name anyone lest they be harmed by the PA security agencies.

However, there are many other honest people, intellectuals and otherwise, who have come strongly against this venomous incitement by this irresponsible sheikh-turned-propagandist who obviously doesn’t mind lying in order to malign political opponents and besmirch their image.

According to the Electronic Intifada, Dr. Rami Abdu, Chairperson of the independent group Euro-Mid Observer for Human Rights (, suggested that Habbash was trying to perpetuate the Gaza problem for personal gains.

“I believe that Habbash is part of a group that tries to perpetuate Gaza’s suffering and which have no problem letting fellow Palestinians suffer for their own benefit.”

In fact, Abdu’s words may well be a huge understatement of Habbash’s role, which could be much worse than we think.

In the final analysis, it is an expression of treason for a Palestinian leader to ask foreigners to bomb his fellow Palestinians. Were Habbash a loyal son of Palestine, he would have called on Arabs to bomb the occupiers of his country, tormentors of his people and usurpers of al-Masjidul Aqsa, the Muslim’s first Qibla (direction which Muslims face in prayers) and Third of most sacred mosques in Islam.

Israel hates Hamas and seeks its annihilation. Habbash apparently wants the same. The conclusion is clear. I rest my case.

Khalid Amayreh is a veteran Palestinian journalist living in occupied Palestine.