The death of over 100 Palestinians in the Hamas-organized Return March protests, in which thousands of Gazans marched on the Israeli border with the aim of crossing it, evoked many expressions of support for the Palestinians and condemnation of Israel – but at the same time also triggered a wave of criticism against Hamas. The criticism reached its height following the events of May 14, 2018, the day of the opening of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, which saw mass protests on the Gaza border in which over 60 Palestinians were killed.
The Palestinian Authority (PA) finds itself in a difficult position vis-à-vis the Return March events. On the one hand, in light of the deep crisis in its relations with Hamas, it does not wish to legitimize this movement's actions. But at the same time it does not wish to oppose the Return March, which expresses the Palestinian consensus regarding the legitimacy of the right of return. As a result, its position on the events has been ambiguous and inconsistent, as was manifest in the PA press, which published articles supporting the march alongside articles sharply critical of Hamas.
For example, an editorial in the PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida condemned Hamas for backing the Return March protests that resulted in numerous victims. Similarly, an advisor to the PA president claimed that Hamas is trading on the blood of Gazans and sending children to their deaths.
Criticism of Hamas was also voiced by Arab writers and intellectuals known for their opposition of the pro-Iranian camp, to which Hamas belongs. These writers claimed that Hamas was capitulating to Iranian dictates instead of improving the standard of living in Gaza, and that it was using the fatalities to gain political advantage. They also accused Hamas of using terror against the Gazans and sending children to their deaths while its own leaders were living in luxury. Another claim was that Hamas strives to perpetuate the siege and misses every opportunity to turn Gaza into the nucleus of a Palestinian state, and that advancing the peace process therefore requires removing Hamas from power.
The following are excerpts from some of the articles by Palestinian and Arab writers criticizing Hamas in the context of the Return March events.
Riots on the Gaza border (image: english.alarabiya.com, April 13, 2018)
Al-Hayat Al-Jadida Editorial: Hamas Is Peddling Illusions; It Must Explain The Fatalities And Victims
In its May 17 editorial, the Palestinian Authority (PA) daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida wrote: "[Hamas] is not hearing at all the complaint of the Gaza wound, [nor] the burning questions [that it is raising]. Worse yet, it is insisting on making outlandish claims vis-à-vis reality and facts, insisting on lying and distorting, insisting on selling illusions and cementing them in place. Read what [top Hamas official] Mahmoud Al-Zahhar said: 'Without the resistance's backing for the demonstrations, the number of victims would have been much greater... The blood spilled last night [May 16, 2018] in Gaza achieved the longed-for aim, and racked up an additional victory, because the Zionist enemy is hiding its real losses...!' And here we must ask: What is the longed-for aim [to which Al-Zahhar is referring], and how was it achieved[?]!!...
"[Hamas, please tell us] the number of martyrs [you] consider reasonable – so that we will have no questions, no tears and no regrets. How is the resistance backing the demonstrations if the bullets of the occupation strike a child, a young man, a teen, a woman, even a disabled person, and if last Monday [May 14] it turned the arena into the scene of a massacre, with all that this entails – that is, body parts and victims [everywhere]? Hamas must answer these questions..."
Mahmoud 'Abbas Advisor: Hamas Is Sending Children To Their Deaths While Its Leaders Live In Luxury
Mahmoud Al-Habbash, an advisor to PA President Mahmoud Abbas, said in two Friday sermons (on April 6 and April 27), referring to the Return March, that Hamas was peddling illusions to the Palestinians and trading in their blood, and that it was sending children to their death while its leaders were living in luxury.
For MEMRI TV clips of excerpts from these sermons, click below:
In his column in the PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Muwaffaq Matar, a member of Fatah's Revolutionary Council, wrote that Hamas is cynically using the Gazans' deaths for its own purposes, and called for a peaceful struggle for independence and for regaining Jerusalem: "Anyone who [ignores] the pain of the mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, wives, brothers, and friends of the martyrs and does not ask for the light of their souls to guide him on the path of national unity is not only an barbarian living in his own world, but also a traitor...
"The factions [i.e. Hamas and its allies] leverage these historic moments and circumstances to infiltrate [the Palestinian] cultural heritage and to falsify and distort the essence of the people... For them, the meaning of resistance and martyrdom is measured by the factional gain [that it brings them] – even if this harms the homeland and the [Palestinian] cause.
Muwaffaq Matar (Source: Wafa.ps, May 25, 2018)
"We all know and understand that the leaders of the occupation and the Israeli imperialists, politicians and military members are criminals... Why, then, are we sending our sons to be prey for the wild beasts? We will not allow death to deeply infiltrate our ranks, or to declare itself as an alternative to life in our homeland. We will strike at those who trade in shrouds and graves [i.e. Hamas] at the expense of our children, our young people, and our sons; we will struggle and we will live, and we will allow no organization to gather us together like matches in a box and light us whenever it wishes so that it can enjoy actualizing its aspirations, or so it can light fires among us for the good of those who feed [that organization] caviar [i.e., Iran]...
"We will struggle, but we will not fall, and we will not slide into the valley of death, which is what the sons of malice want for us. We struggle peacefully to gain life, freedom, honor, independence, and peace, and to regain Jerusalem, whose walls await the triumphant generation."
Palestinian Journalist: There Was No Need For The Protesters To Approach The Fence; They Died For Nothing
In the London-based Al-Arab daily, Palestinian journalist Suha Al-Jundi criticized the behavior of Hamas, though without calling it by name, and added that protests against the U.S. embassy move need not have involved Gazans coming close to the border. She wrote:
"Gaza is miserable because it has adopted a failed path of struggle: every day, a child or young person dies pointlessly. They could have protested and held a demonstration of millions marching in the streets of Gaza chanting [slogans] against the embassy's move, and there was no need for these young people to come near the fence at the Israeli border in order to die and leave behind relatives to weep over them.
"Don't they know that Israel yearns for them to approach the border so that it can kill them? Don't they know that the Israeli war machine is the strongest in the region, and that it can only be defeated with planning and mobilization, in order to regain the land that it stole by force of weapons? Don't they know that their reliance on the sanctity of the land [as determined by] Islam [only] diminishes the global support they receive? Why don't they leave aside this matter of their religious [right to the land] and demand their historical right [to it]?...
"We have already proven that we are all talk. We push our young people into danger, and when they are killed, we weep over them. Sixty-two were martyred [on May 14] for nothing. I would like for one of those who ordered them to act to answer my question: What have you accomplished? Shouldn't initiatives begin with the setting of their goals? What are your goals?...
"The Palestinians in their current situation cannot liberate a single grain of soil. The Arabs in their current situation cannot defend themselves – they are in a state of clinical death. Thus, Iran and Turkey aspire to conquer them, because they are inactive...
"There is no escape from replacing the Palestinian leadership, and there is [likewise] no escape from [carrying out] long-term planning and setting definite goals, and for striving to achieve them wisely, rationally, and within the realm of the possible."
Suha Al-Jundi (Source: Al-Arab, London, May 16, 2018)
Saudi Writer: Life In Gaza Under The Occupation Was Better Than Life Under Hamas; The First Step Towards Peace Is Toppling Hamas
As noted, criticism of Hamas was voiced not only by Palestinians but also by other Arab writers and intellectuals. Saudi journalist Muhammad Aal Al-Sheikh, known for his criticism of Hamas and Iran, wrote in his column in the Saudi daily Al-Jazirah that Hamas is a tool of Iran and Qatar, and is channeling its revenues into the conflict with Israel instead of into developing Gaza, harming the Gazans' situation. He also called for replacing the Hamas regime. He wrote:
"In order to clarify the extent of the Gazans' misery and suffering under the rule of Hamas, whose members pretend to be pious Muslims, you must compare the standard of living in Gaza under the Israeli occupation, from 1967 to its withdrawal [in 2005], to the standard [of living in Gaza] today. The findings will clearly show that the rabble that pretends to be pious Muslims [i.e. Hamas] has turned Gaza into a den of suffering, where hunger, poverty, disease, and shortages prevail – while they and their factional cadre enjoy the good things in life. This is what was told to me by an elderly Palestinian, interpreting [a situation] in which those insisting on ruling the Gazans by force are acting not for the good of Palestine and its residents, but for the good of the Persian imperialist plan...
"Hamas is taking orders from Iran. The ayatollahs' regime in Iran is deliberately not providing [Hamas] with funds but rather with missiles and [additional] means of killing and destruction, while Hamas takes the money from the helpless Gazan people, by force of weapons in [various] ways: protection money, fees and taxes. Likewise, since it began ruling Gaza, Hamas has not built a single hospital or school; it has [paved] no roads, and it has not [invested in] a single development project. [Hamas] has channeled its revenues into the hostilities with Israel, which pours out its wrath on the Gazans, while the Hamas leaders and their families are not included in the statistics of killing and assassination...
"Hamas [members] are mercenaries pretending to be pious Muslims whose aim is [grabbing] control and capital. For this reason, they are implementing the dictates of those who pay for their services, whether they are in Tehran or in Doha. The Palestinian cause and the Palestinian individual is the last thing that interests them.
"I am convinced that there is no solution for the Palestinian problem except peace... For this reason, it can be said that the first step that the Palestinians take for peace must be to rid themselves of the swindlers who pretend to be pious Muslims."
Muhammad Aal Al-Sheikh (Source: Al-marsd.com, May 27, 2018)
Saudi Intellectuals On Twitter: Free Gaza's Children From Hamas, Iran
Saudi intellectual Abd Al-Hamid Al-Hakim, who was until recently director of the Middle East Center for Strategic and Legal Studies in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, tweeted that the demonstrations in Gaza were an Iranian message to the U.S., and called for liberating Gaza from Hamas: "History will not forgive Hamas for its trade in the children of Gaza and for its restricting of their future [to becoming] potential terrorists who will kill innocent people or to orphanhood, poverty, and suffering, with [Hamas's] frightening sword against their necks. There is no option but to liberate the children of Gaza from Hamas's terrorism and oppression, so as to revive the innocence in their souls [and to free them] from the graveyards of the manufacturers of death and terrorism."
One week earlier he tweeted: "The demonstrations in Gaza broke out on orders from Tehran, as a message to the U.S., after [the latter] decided to leave the nuclear deal. [Turkish President] Erdogan continues to carry out acts [he] imagines are heroic among defeated societies – from the Freedom Flotilla [to Gaza] to the destruction of societies in the Arab Spring, and including the trading in blood in Gaza. Turkey and Iran are two sides of the same coin; together with Hamas, they bear the responsibility for every drop of blood spilled in Gaza."
Al-Hakim's tweets (Source: Twitter.com/hakeem970 , May 15 and 23, 2018.)
Liberal Saudi journalist and author Turki Al-Hamad also posted anti-Hamas and anti-Iran tweets: "If this were a real resistance to occupation, no one would hesitate to stand alongside those with rights, wherever they be. But this is an Iranian maneuver carried out by Hamas at the expense of Gaza's children, and therefore it is disgraceful..."
Al-Hamad's tweet (Source: Twitter.com/TurkiHAlhamad1, May 14, 2018)
Lebanese Journalist: Hamas Has Done Everything To Perpetuate Gaza Siege, Has Never Cared About The Fate Of The Palestinians
In an article published in the UAE-owned London daily Al-Arab, Lebanese journalist Khayrallah Khayrallah was also very critical of Hamas, blaming it for the death of Palestinians and accusing it of serving Iran's interests. Hamas, he said, must apologize to the Palestinian people and step off the political stage. He wrote:
"Great, Hamas has sent over 1,000 Palestinians [sic] into Israel's [gun]fire. These Palestinians were killed in a single day, in a miscalculation originating in [Hamas's] notion that the sacrificing of the lives of dozens of Palestinians and the wounding of hundreds [more] would start an earthquake in the region. Moreover, as Hams saw it, this earthquake would bring about the lifting of the Gaza siege that has continued for over a decade...
"What pushed [Hamas] into these absurd calculations was the U.S. [move of] opening its new embassy in Jerusalem on the eve of Nakba Day. Seventy years have passed since the Nakba, and 70 more years will pass without anything new happening, in the absence of any Palestinian ability to understand reality as it is and to deal with it as it is.
"The blood of those killed in vain will not help Hamas, which aspires to lift the Gaza siege. [Also] not helping it is Iran's eagerness to create centers of tension in the region, in order to give the impression that it is the one holding many cards, including the Palestinian card. Hamas has not realized that all Iran wants today is to show that it is capable of bringing about an explosion here or there in order to let the American administration know that there is a price for its withdrawal from the Iranian nuclear deal. [Also] not helping Hamas is the Turkish rush to express solidarity with the Gaza fallen. Had Turkey been able to do something for Gaza, it would have [already] managed to lift the siege to which the [Gaza] Strip has been subjected since 2010...
"The worst thing in this entire matter is that Hamas has done everything so that the Israeli siege on Gaza continues. It has never been concerned with the fate of Gaza's Palestinian residents, who are in dire straits. All it wants is to change the nature of Palestinian society and the Palestinians' way of life. Thanks to its weapons, which have never served anyone but Israel, Hamas has established a Taliban-style Islamic Emirate in Gaza...
"If Hamas had one single member with true leadership ability, [this man] would apologize to the Palestinian people, and thank it by ending the entire Hamas project once and for all. Hamas has in effect missed every one of its many opportunities to turn the Gaza Strip into the nucleus of a Palestinian state that could serve as a successful model for how an independent Palestinian state 'worth living in' should look – [a state] that includes both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Khayrallah Khayrallah (Source: Al-Mustaqbal , Lebanon, May 28, 2018)
"Israel withdrew completely from Gaza in August 2005. Instead of Hamas helping build [Palestinian] state institutions, it has spread chaos... It has not settled for the mid-June 2007 coup that ended in its complete takeover of Gaza, but has waged a number of wars with Israel while ignoring the balance of power with it. Entire families have been destroyed, and people whose homes have been ruined have for years been sleeping under the open sky, thanks to the heroic deeds of Hamas and its daring fighters.
"The only thing left for Hamas to do is to apologize and to step off the political stage. Anything else will serve Israel – which, with its complete withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, sought to show that the Palestinians do not deserve a state..."
Senior Egyptian Journalist: Hamas Must Relinquish Power, Allow New Elections In Order To End Palestinian Schism
Makram Muhammad Ahmad, chairman of Egypt's Supreme Council of Media Regulation, wrote in his column in the government daily Al-Ahram: "If Hamas had truly wanted to resolve the present crisis, it would have acknowledged that it has not managed to achieve even one of its goals in the [Gaza] Strip, despite being in power for over ten years, during which it ruled with an iron fist and waged three rounds of fighting with Israel... All these [wars only] brought more destruction to the Strip, caused more victims and worsened the situation to the point of catastrophe, without liberating a single inch of occupied land or returning a single Palestinian refugee to the village he left 70 years ago...
"Having exacerbated the situation, Hamas must relinquish power completely and allow the holding of new elections that will reunite the Palestinian ranks and enable them to overcome the ideological, political and geographical schism between Gaza and the West Bank. For without unity, no just settlement will be possible, and the fate of the Palestinians cause will continue to depend on power struggles among the Palestinians and will not make any progress at all... What exacerbates the distress of Hamas and Islamic Jihad is the fact that the objectives of these organizations in launching the Return Marches on the Gaza border have been largely obscured by the number of Palestinian victims...
"Despite the willingness of the Palestinians youths to protest and even risk their lives in order to escape an existence of unbearable humiliation, Hamas bears the responsibility for the outcomes of this action, whose benefit is not proportional to the huge number of youths who have fallen – especially considering that [even] the Palestinian people in the West Bank refuse to absolve Hamas and Islamic Jihad of responsibility, because they encouraged the demonstrations every Friday and extended logistic assistance to the protesters, helping them to reach the border area."
Editor Of Egyptian Daily: Hamas Fighters Are Not Confronting The Israeli Army – While Innocent Palestinians Go Out To Confront It With Chests Bared
Dandrawi Al-Harawi, acting editor of the Egyptian daily Al-Yawm Al-Sabi', which is close to the Egyptian regime, also harshly criticized Hamas. He argued that while the Hamas military wing, the 'Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades, had operated against the regimes of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad and Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, it was not confronting the Israeli army. He wrote:
"Every pan-Arab and free patriot asks: Where is Hamas and its military arm the Al-Qassam Brigades with regard to the events unfolding in Jerusalem [i.e. the U.S. embassy move]? This movement, and its armed men, participated in force in destroying Syria, and in the coup against Bashar Al-Assad... and it was they who provided all the support to the Muslim Brotherhood terror organization in order to destroy Egypt on January 28, 2011 – they invaded the prisons, brought out the prisoners, burned the [prison] wings, and killed innocent Egyptians at Al-Tahrir Square [in Cairo] in order to sow hostility against the state institutions and eliminate the Mubarak regime.
"The Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas's military arm, flexes its muscles only against the Egyptian army, waves the rabiya sign, and chants slogans of support for the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood. They carried out several depraved terror operations against [Egyptian] troops, and they support, in all possible ways, the terror organizations in the Sinai!
"We have not seen a single gunman from these brigades showing up to flex his muscles against the Israel army's soldiers and officers – as they kill innocent Palestinians who came out to meet gunfire with chests bared, in order to protest against the U.S. embassy's move to Jerusalem..." 
Dandrawi Al-Harawi (Source: Al-Yawm Al-Saba', April 11, 2018.
 See MEMRI reports: Special Dispatch No. 7476, The 'Great Return March' Campaign: An Initiative Sponsored By Hamas, Whose Goal Was To Breach The Border Fence, Penetrate Israeli Territory. May 18, 2018; Special Dispatch No. 7421, Hamas Pays Families Of Gazans Killed Or Wounded In 'Return March', April 9, 2018; Special Dispatch No. 7476, The 'Great Return March' Campaign: An Initiative Sponsored By Hamas, Whose Goal Was To Breach The Border Fence, Penetrate Israeli Territory, May 18, 2018.
 Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (Palestinian Authority), May 17, 2018.
 Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (Palestinian Authority), May 17, 2018.
 Al-Arab (London), May 17, 2018.
 See for example MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 7440, Saudi Journalist: 'Deal Of The Century' May Be Yet Another Opportunity Missed By The Palestinians; An Unjust Peace Agreement Is Better Than Nothing, April 23, 2018; Special Dispatch No. 6757, Saudi Journalist: The Palestinians' Reliance On Armed Resistance Is Political Suicide; The Palestinian Cause Is No Longer The Arabs' Primary Concern, January 26, 2017.
 Al-Jazirah (Saudi Arabia), May 25, 2018.
 See MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis Series No.1399, Shift In Saudi Media's Attitude To Israel – Part II: Saudi Writer Who Visited Israel: We Want An Israeli Embassy In Riyadh; We Should Make Peace With Israel, Uproot Culture Of Hatred For Jews, May 29, 2018.
 Twitter.com/hakeem970, May 23, 2018.
 Twitter.com/hakeem970, May 15, 2018.
 Twitter.com/TurkiHAlhamad1, May 14, 2018.
 Al-Arab (London), May 21, 2018.
 Al-Ahram (Egypt), June 3, 2018.
 A reference to the four-fingered hand sign, identified with the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters.
 Al-Yawm Al-Sabi' (Egypt), May 16, 2018.