The anti-Muslim Brotherhood wave that took down Egyptian President Morsi is heading towards the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip and Tunisia and is holding its momentum in Egypt and Libya.
In Gaza, a group called Gaza Tamarod, inspired by the Egyptian Tamarod that led the anti-Morsi protests, has emerged on the scene. Its Facebook page has over 55,000 supporters.
The Hamas regime is terrified enough to declare a state of emergency because of upcoming protests on November 11 that are explicitly aimed at overthrowing the terrorist group. Hamas has investigated five writers for merely mentioning the movement, and one says he received an anonymous phone call where he was warned that his fingers could be cut off.
“You won’t rule after November 11 even if you finish us off,” Gaza Tamarod leaders said in a videotaped statement.
“Unlike you, we don’t use weapons against our brothers. Unlike you, we don’t kill children, the elderly, women and youths. Unlike you, we don’t destroy mosques.”
The demonstrations will coincide with the anniversary of Yasser Arafat’s death, but the Gaza Tamarod emphasizes that it also opposes Fatah (the Palestinian terrorist organization that controls the Palestinian Authority) and does not recognize any Palestinian government.
The serious internal challenge to Hamas is quite the change in fortunes for the group. It won the elections in Gaza in 2006 with 44% of the vote, a preview of the Islamist electoral victories that would later come to the region in the name of “democracy.” Its main rival, Fatah, took 41% and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine earned 4%.
In March, Hamas’ support in Gaza fell to just 20%, while Fatah’s is at 42%. This is before the overthrow of Morsi in Egypt and the full arrival of the Gaza Tamarod campaign. Interestingly, Hamas’ support has not transferred to Fatah, whose poll numbers have not climbed as a result of Hamas’ misfortunes.
That means that there is increasing support for a third alternative. But don’t get too excited—Gaza Tamarod isn’t the expression of anti-Islamism that its Egyptian counterpart is. In fact, it might be thriving off of increased support for Salafists who think Hamas is not jihadist enough.
“We want Hamas to return to its senses, to its true path of resistance against the occupation,” a Gaza Tamarod spokesman said.
“We are not against HAMAS as a political movement as it is part of this people and a partner in the homeland. We are against those who practiced injustice and oppression.”
Gaza Tamarod, like other anti-Brotherhood movements, is furious at the U.S. It recommends that Palestinians boycott the U.S., Qatar and Turkey for their pro-Brotherhood foreign policies.
Tunisia is the birthplace of the “Arab Spring” and Islamists were overjoyed when the Ennahda Party, the Brotherhood’s affiliate, won the elections in what was said to be among the most moderate, secular and Westernized Arab countries.
The implication was frightening: If the Islamists could win easily in Tunisia, they could win anywhere. But in July, we learned a similar lesson when the Morsi was overthrown in Egypt. And if the Islamists can lose in Egypt, they can lose anywhere.
Ennahda won Tunisia’s elections with 41% of the vote, about the same amount as Hamas in Gaza. Since then, protests have erupted on a scale comparable to Egypt as Ennahda’s support sank. In May, an Arab paper reported on a poll that showed a "political earthquake" was happening: over 70% disapproved of the government and if elections were held, the bloc of three secular parties would win 90 of 199 seats, while Ennahda would only win 68, a decrease of 21.
Since then, things have only gotten worse for Ennahda. The secular parties are uniting more and more, and a dozen-strong coalition is demanding immediate elections.
See related report: Tunisian Islamist Gov't Agrees to Negotiate With Secularists
Elections are scheduled to be held by December 17 and, if they are fair and free, Ennahda will follow in Morsi’s footsteps.
After Qaddafi was overthrow, it was expected that Libya would fall to the hands of the Islamists. In a surprise upset, the secular parties defeated the Brotherhood by a landslide. The anti-Islamist sentiment increased sharply after Al-Qaeda-linked terrorists killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, sparking anti-militia and pro-American protests.
The Brotherhood has made some gains since then, but the ruling Libyan government has embraced the Egyptian military, enraging its Islamist opponents. As the Clarion Project reported on September 8, the Democratic Party in Libya has declared its support for the dissolution of the Brotherhood.
When the Brotherhood’s Libyan wing, the Justice and Construction Party, slammed Prime Minister Zidan for meeting with Egypt’s new leaders, he dismissed it.
“When I ran for election, the most individuals who fought me were the Muslim Brotherhood group and the Justice and Construction, and when I declared my candidacy to the Prime Minister office, they did whatever they could to prevent me from getting the post,” Zidan said.
Libyan Foreign Minister Mohamed Abdel Aziz says he intends to sue the Muslim Brotherhood for falsely accusing him of corruption.
The Egyptian military’s heavy-handed respond to the Muslim Brotherhood’s protests has done nothing to earn sympathy for the Islamists. A recent poll shows that 93% of Egyptians still express confidence in the military as an institution.
The Brotherhood’s unpopularity is so severe that its Freedom and Justice Party published an editorial on its website apologizing for its performance.
“We must apologize for the poor functioning of the Muslim Brotherhood-led government and for the tendency to remain exclusively in power,” the Brotherhood official wrote.
Another poll finds that a strong majority of Egyptians don’t think the Brotherhood should even be given a chance at returning to power. A stunning 69% oppose Brotherhood involvement in politics. About 13% feel that the Brotherhood should be allowed to exist, but only as a religious group and not a political party. Only 6% support Brotherhood involvement in politics in the future and 12% are undecided on the issue.
The perception that the U.S. is on the side of the Brotherhood has had a disastrous effect on Egyptian sentiment.
A Pew poll from May found that only 16% of Egyptians have a positive opinion of the U.S. To put this in perspective, under President Bush, it was 22%. Once President Obama came into office and delivered his widely-praised speech in Cairo, it increased to 27%. Between then and May 2013, it fell 11 percentage points.
A Zogby poll in July found that these numbers had fallen even further after the U.S. criticized the overthrow of Morsi. The level of confidence in the U.S. fell to literally 1% and President Obama’s approval rating was at 3%.
This change in opinion is directly tied to U.S. policy towards the Muslim Brotherhood. Over 80% of Egyptians feel U.S. policy supporting Morsi hurt the country and over two-thirds said that the U.S. is too supportive of Morsi.
The anti-Brotherhood wave that is sweeping the Middle East is a momentous event in the evolution of the region. The U.S. needs to be on the right side of history.
Ryan Mauro is the ClarionProject.org’s National Security Analyst, a fellow with the Clarion Project and is frequently interviewed on Fox News.
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