Sunday, January 31, 2010

Suckered by Hamas and Hizballah: How the Media Interprets Radical Documents as "Proof" of Moderation

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By Barry Rubin

After writing my article on the new Fatah Charter (click on the link for a more detailed report and analysis of the charter), I saw that JTA has published a story positively glowing about Fatah's "moderation," under the title, "New Fatah charter omits language on Israel’s demise." As did the Secrecy Monitor which originally made available the text, it claims:

"The charter focuses on democratizing the movement, a reflection of last summer's political struggle between the young guard and the more established leadership. Whereas the Central Committee for years had been an ad hoc collection of acolytes of the leadership, 18 of its 23 members must now be elected by the entire membership."

Well, not exactly. Most important, as I pointed out, the charter clearly and prominently says that the old charter is still in force and nothing in the new one contradicts it. So nothing has changed in fact. All the old language still stands. Why isn't it repeated? Because this document is only about Fatah's internal structure, not its policies or goals. Pretty obvious, right?

Moreover, while the charter has some language that sounds superficially democratic--and will never be implemented--it endorses the old Communist party system of "democratic centralism" and shows how totally the Central Committee rules by choosing most candidates for parliament, cabinet ministers, and large portions of most other Palestinian institutions. Moreover, while 18 members of the Central Committee were "elected," the leadership packed the delegates to ensure that its candidates all won!

And guess what? Precisely the same thing has just happened with Hizballah's new charter. According to AFP: "It's much more moderate and they've dropped their demands for an Islamist state in Lebanon based upon [the Iranian system]. On the basis of such nonsense, President Barack Obama fails to mention Hizballah's involvement in murdering Americans, his terrorism advisor announces that Hizballah isn't terrorist (because some of its members are lawyers) while the British government is edging toward direct contacts.

This is despite the fact that the charter states:

"The history of the Arab-Israeli conflict proves that armed struggle and military resistance is the best way of ending the occupation....We categorically reject any compromise with Israel or recognizing its legitimacy." In addition, Hizballah daily publicizes the Islamization of the areas it controls and the organization's loyalty to Tehran.

My favorite example is when a high-ranking Hizballah leader denied the group was originally founded in coordination with the Iranian regime, tossing a big Arabic-language book written by one of the founders at a journalist as proof. In fact, as Lebanon expert Tony Badran pointed out citing the page number, that book confirms the claim. Another example is that Hizballah's spiritual guide is the official representative in Lebanon of Iran's spiritual guide, the actual ruler of the Islamist regime there.

To make the situation more ridiculous, the Fatah charter is available in English and Hizballah has been bragging publicly about the hardline provisions in its own new charter.

It is amazing how easy it is for various radical Arab and Islamist groups to fool Western journalists. It always helps to read a document before describing it as a breakthrough for moderation.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). To read and subscribe to MERIA, GLORIA articles, or to order books. To see or subscribe to his blog, Rubin Reports.

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