While many Palestinians hold Iran's slain military commander Qassem Soleimani responsible for committing massacres against Palestinians and Arabs, especially in war-torn Syria, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad continue to heap praise on him for supporting their anti-Israel terrorism. Pictured: A billboard in Gaza City honoring the memory of Soleimani, with a caption quoting Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, describing Soleimani as a "martyr of Jerusalem," photographed on December 29, 2020. (Photo by Mohammed Abed/AFP via Getty Images)
While many Palestinians hold Iran's slain military commander Qassem Soleimani responsible for committing massacres against Palestinians and Arabs, especially in war-torn Syria, the Palestinian Islamist groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad are continuing to heap praise on him for supporting their anti-Israel terrorist activities.
Soleimani, former commander of Iran's Quds Force, was killed in a US drone attack in Iraq on January 3, 2020. Many Palestinians and Arabs have denounced Soleimani as the "murderer of hundreds of thousands of women and children" in Syria, Yemen and Iraq.
The Iran-backed Hamas and Islamic Jihad have marked the anniversary of his death by hanging large billboards with Soleimani's picture in some areas of the Gaza Strip. The two terror groups say they miss Soleimani, whom they describe as the "martyr of Jerusalem."
The billboards have provoked many Palestinians, including those living in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, who consider Soleimani a terrorist and mass murderer.
Majdi al-Mughrabi, a Palestinian man from the Gaza Strip who reportedly tore down a poster of Soleimani, was arrested by Hamas's Internal Security Force.
Commenting on the hanging of the Soleimani posters in the Gaza Strip, a prominent Palestinian political analyst, Dr. Ibrahim Hamami, wrote: "There is no justification for hanging the picture of Soleimani in Gaza and glorifying him. He is a criminal who killed innocent people."
Abdel Rahman al-Rashed, a columnist with the Saudi newspaper Asharq al-Awsat, expressed outrage with Hamas for glorifying Soleimani:
"We know that Hamas has only a few remaining followers in the Arab world because of its affiliation with Iran, Syria and Hezbollah. The hands of Soleimani are stained with the blood of tens of thousands of Syrians and Iraqis."
Saudi blogger Munther al-Sheikh Mubarak pointed out that while the Palestinians have long been burning pictures and flags of Arab heads of state and countries, they are now punishing those who tear down the pictures of a murderer. "For years, they have been burning our flags and pictures of our leaders, and Hamas didn't do anything about it," Mubarak remarked.
"Today, after the picture of Soleimani was ripped, the Muslim Brotherhood group (Hamas) has arrested the man who tore down the poster of the murderer. They see the likes of Soleimani, [Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan] Nasrallah, [former Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad and [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan as heroes."
Kassab al-Otaibi, a former Saudi opposition figure, also commented on the arrest of the Palestinian who tore down the picture of Soleimani by posting a video of the Hamas raid on the man's home in the town of Rafah, south of the Gaza Strip. The arrest, he wrote, is similar to the actions of "Iranian gangs and militias in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen, where women and children are terrorized."
Ahmad Rahhal, a Syrian opposition figure, said:
"I am not surprised by the Hamas gang raising the image of Qassem Soleimani on the streets of Gaza because we are used to Hamas's flaws. Rather, I am surprised that our people in Gaza accept the image of a criminal who killed hundreds of thousands of children and women in Syria, Yemen, Iraq and the Palestinian refugee camp Yarmouk [in Syria]. It's even more surprising to see that they call this murderer a 'martyr of Jerusalem.'"
Evidently, Hamas and Islamic Jihad do not care about the hundreds of thousands of women and children who were killed as a result of Iran's military intervention in Syria, Iraq and Yemen. The two groups do not care about the thousands of Palestinians killed, injured and displaced at the Yarmouk refugee camp as a result of Iran's support for the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
For Hamas and Islamic Jihad, what matters is the money and weapons coming from Iran. They see Soleimani as a hero because of his role in providing the Gaza-based terror groups with cash and weapons in order to continue their jihad (holy war) against Israel and Jews.
Recently, Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar revealed that Soleimani had handed him, during their first meeting in 2006, suitcases full of $22 million in cash.
It is worth noting that during the anti-government protests in Iran from 2009 to November 2019, Iranians chanted slogans expressing opposition to the funding of Hamas and Hezbollah at a time when Iran is facing an economic crisis.
A report by the US Department of State noted that Iran continued its terrorist-related activity in 2019, including support for Hezbollah, Palestinian terrorist groups in Gaza, and various terrorist groups in Syria, Iraq, and throughout the Middle East:
"Iran used the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF) to provide support to terrorist organizations, provide cover for associated covert operations, and create instability in the region. Iran has acknowledged the involvement of the IRGC-QF in the Iraq and Syria conflicts, and the IRGC-QF is Iran's primary mechanism for cultivating and supporting terrorists abroad."
The mullahs of Iran, however, do not appear overly worried about the warnings made by the US about Tehran's continued support for terrorist groups.
In a recent interview with Iranian media, Commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Aerospace Force Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh reaffirmed Iran's support for "whoever is fighting against the Zionist regime" and said that Gaza and Lebanon are "at the forefront of the battle and all of their missile capabilities have been supported by the Islamic Republic."
"Instead of providing a fish or teaching how to catch a fish, we taught our allies and friends how to make a hook," Hajizadeh said, adding that Hamas and Hezbollah are now in possession of advanced missile technologies.
Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah and all of Iran's militias throughout the Middle East have a single goal in common: the annihilation of Israel.
Soleimani, the man responsible for the killing of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians and Arabs, is being commemorated as a hero and martyr by these terrorist groups because he supplied them with cash and weapons. His death has not stopped Iran from continuing its support for Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah and other terrorist groups.
During a seminar in the Gaza Strip on the first anniversary of the assassination of Soleimani, representatives of Hamas and Islamic Jihad said that his death was a "big loss for Palestine and its resistance." They further expressed hope that the departure of Soleimani from the scene would not affect Iran's continued support for their efforts to eliminate Israel and kill Jews.
This is why the next US administration must maintain pressure on the mullahs in Iran. An easing of the sanctions will embolden the terrorist groups and facilitate their mission of pursuing their jihad against Israel. Iran's proxies want to see Israel obliterated -- and if that means aligning themselves with mass murderers such as Soleimani, so be it.
Khaled Abu Toameh is an award-winning journalist based in Jerusalem.