Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Hamas Says `Kill`; Media Perceives Moderation

Nothing is funnier than when someone wants to avoid an obvious conclusion.

Nothing is sadder than people being borne away on waves of wishful thinking.

Following up on rewriting the clearly extremist words of Iran's leader on the basis of wishful thinking and reinterpreting the equally extremist words of Syria's leader based on wishful thinking, it is now Hamas's turn to benefit from Western credulity.

Right after giving op-ed space to the shadowy Alistair Cooke—whose group even dared to publish on the Internet its plan to fool the West into thinking that radical Islamism is no threat—the New York Times has an interview with newly reelected Hamas leader Khalid Mashal on May 4.

What wisdom does he and the interviewers have for us?

First, this in the avoiding obvious conclusions’ department:

“In April, only six rockets and mortar rounds were fired at Israel from Gaza, which is run by Hamas, a marked change from the previous three months, when dozens were shot, according to the Israeli military….Mr. Mashal made an effort to show that Hamas was in control of its militants as well as those of other groups, saying, `Not firing the rockets currently is part of an evaluation from the movement which serves the Palestinians’ interest.’”

Note that the reporters, Taghreed el-Khodary and Ethan Bronner, interpreted this as showing Hamas deserved praise for its restraint and respect for its ability to control its militants and others.

Here’s my interpretation: Hamas got badly beaten up by Israel during the December-January fighting and wants a break. As soon as it rebuilds, though, it will start attacking again. (See below for more on this point).

The Times interpretation: Hamas works.

My interpretation: Force works, up to a point. This idea—so basic in international affairs—is impermissible to make under current thinking for which only concessions (mine and yours) can solve problems

But there’s much more here. Note how the interviewers define the war:

“In late December, Israel began a three-week invasion of Gaza, saying that it sought to stop the rockets, which land on its southern communities. About 1,300 Palestinians were killed in the invasion.”

While nominally balanced—Israel is responding to rocket attacks—these two sentences are both misleading and slanted.

Most obviously, the mention of Palestinian casualties tells readers that the poor Palestinians suffered a lot and that they aren’t much of a military threat to Israel. The article isn’t extreme—the word “civilian” isn’t thrown in—but Israeli civilian and military casualties aren’t mentioned, nor is the fact that most of the Palestinians killed were soldiers (or militants or terrorists) and that the casualties were higher because Hamas hid behind Palestinian civilians and used getting its own people killed as a strategy.

If you don't know how Hamas behaves toward its own people, how do you know its nature, methods, and goals?

Equally unmentioned is the fact that Israel didn’t want the war but the fighting began not just because of rockets being fired—Israel had generally ignored those attacks for months—but that Hamas announced it was ending the ceasefire and began firing a lot more rockets. In effect, Hamas declared war and Israel defended itself.

My main point here is not that Israel was acting in self-defense—though that’s important—but that Hamas started a war when it wanted to do so, and it will start another war when it’s ready to do so.

Don’t take my word for it. Listen to what Mashal himself said in the interview:

“Not firing the rockets currently is part of an evaluation from the movement which serves the Palestinians’ interest. After all, the firing is a method, not a goal. Resistance is a legitimate right, but practicing such a right comes under an evaluation by the movement’s leaders.”

What’s he saying? We have to eliminate this Israel-Egypt blockade and international sanctions so we can fix up our economy and get more military equipment in order to prepare for the next round. Meanwhile, we can try to pretend to be moderate to the West so it will stop boycotting us and perhaps even help us destroy Israel.

Firing, he says, is a method, not a goal. And what is the goal? Wiping Israel off the map.

Resistance is legitimate, he says, but the leaders have to decide precisely how to do it. In other words, shooting at Israel is not useful for us right now so let’s rearm, indoctrinate Gaza’s young people into being suicide bombers and terrorists (or militants, if you prefer that word), and we will attack again when the movement’s leaders decide that suits our interests.

And remember, too, when Mashal talks about "resistance" (the code word for the strategy of the Iran-Syria bloc to which Hamas belongs), he means resistance to the existence of Israel, to the survival of less radical Arab regimes, and to Western influence in the region.

Is it really so hard to see this? Mashal isn’t trying all that hard to conceal his views, ideology, and strategy. In part, that’s because he thinks the people he’s trying to fool are really stupid. In part, it’s because he will have to defend anything he says to his colleagues. In part, too, it is because he is a real true believer (called fanatics in a "less enlightened" age).

But perhaps the most shocking statement is made by the interviewers themselves. It is so astonishing that one might well say that it constitutes a new low for the newspaper's coverage of the region:

"Apart from the time restriction and the refusal to accept Israel’s existence, Mr. Meshal’s terms approximate the Arab League peace plan and what the Palestinian Authority of President Mahmoud Abbas says it is seeking. Israel rejects a full return to the 1967 borders, as well as a Palestinian right of return to Israel itself."

Where does one begin? The Arab League peace plan and the Palestinian Authority position offers Israel peace in exchange for a Palestinian state and the 1967 borders (along with that little detail about Israel having to admit several million hostile Palestinian Arabs who would simultaneously cause daily violence and seek to vote the country out of existence).

You may not believe the Arab state and Palestinian Authority promises but at least they are pretending to make them.

In contrast, Hamas openly says: if you give us lots of concessions all we will do in exchange is to give you ten years to live before starting up Phase 2 and wiping you out. Of course, we will use that time to build up our forces to ensure your total extinction. And of course the concessions you would have made make it far more likely that your country will be destroyed and its people put to the sword.

And that's about the same thing? How could anyone write such a paragraph about Hamas and ever expect to be taken seriously again?

But why is Hamas offering a ten-year truce, why not nine or eleven? The answer is simple and the interviewers should have known it. In the Koran it is written:

"If Muslims are weak, a truce may be made for ten years if necessary, for the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) made a truce with the Quraysh for that long, as is related by Abu Dawud" ('Umdat al-Salik, o9.16).

After ten years of course, Muhammad conquered the Quraysh tribe and converted them to Islam. Might this be what Mashal has in mind? Of course, it is and every Hamas member, Palestinian, and Muslim knows precisely what he means. Unfortunately, "highly educated" Western journalists don't. And their readers aren't informed that what Mashal is really saying is:  Any concession you make will be used to wipe you out. Or, in the words of the wolf in the fairy tale, "All the better to eat you with."

f course, there's another way to look at it: If what Hamas is offering is about the same thing as the Palestinian Authority and the Arab initiative, then clearly the last two are equally tricks to get rid of Israel altogether.

Finally, in this interview Mashal made this statement supposedly intended to profess moderation: “I promise the American administration and the international community that we will be part of the solution, period.”

Unfortunately, the solution he was referring to is Hamas’s final solution for the Jews and Israel.

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