Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Four Interpretations of Hamas

I've organized them by seriousness, stating with the fourth best.

Basim Naim is the Hamas minister of health in Gaza. Since our troops are arguing right now with the thugs of his side, I don't feel the need to argue with him nor to point out the various factual, chronological and logical weak spots of his argument. I'm mentioning it mostly to index for future use that the Guardian hosted him and its readers seem to have welcomed him, and also because youmight want to compare what he says with the next interpretations.

Jonathan Freedland is one of the less worst of the Guardian crop, generally speaking, and today's column fits the pattern. It's fundamentally wrong, it's informed by the man's understanding of the world not the facts, but it's neither as bad as Minister Naim nor as some of his own colleagues at the Guardian. Again, I'm indexing, not engaging. Life is too short to spend it arguing with the Guardian.

So, we move on to the New York Times. Some people I know can't stand them and get all worked up when they don't support Israeli ways of understanding reality; I also argue with them from time to time. But these arguments mostly fall deep within the lines of reasonable differences of opinion. The two columns from today's edition disagree with one another on the basics, but they're both interesting and thoughtful.

Thomas Friedman explains that the war really is (or should be) about the day after the day after the end of the shooting: what each side will have learned, and especially, if Hamas will be detered as Hezbollah has been:

That was the education of Hezbollah. Has Israel seen its last conflict with Hezbollah? I doubt it. But Hezbollah, which has done nothing for Hamas, will think three times next time. That is probably all Israel can achieve with a nonstate actor.

In Gaza, I still can’t tell if Israel is trying to eradicate Hamas or trying to “educate” Hamas, by inflicting a heavy death toll on Hamas militants and heavy pain on the Gaza population. If it is out to destroy Hamas, casualties will be horrific and the aftermath could be Somalia-like chaos. If it is out to educate Hamas, Israel may have achieved its aims. Now its focus, and the Obama team’s focus, should be on creating a clear choice for Hamas for the world to see: Are you about destroying Israel or building Gaza?

Finally, we've got Jeffrey Goldberg. I admit that for the moment I'm precariously close to becoming a Goldberg Fan, which would be bad: I've managed to get through decades of adulthood without long-term membership in anyone's fan club. So next week I'll have to make sure I find something he writes that really aggravates me. But that's next week.

Goldberg speaks Arabic, unlike Freedland and Friedman. Unlike Freedamn, he takes Hamas seriously, and probably unlike Freidman, he really wants to understand them by their own terms. That's why you need to read his findings:

There is a fixed idea among some Israeli leaders that Hamas can be bombed into moderation. This is a false and dangerous notion. It is true that Hamas can be deterred militarily for a time, but tanks cannot defeat deeply felt belief.

The reverse is also true: Hamas cannot be cajoled into moderation. Neither position credits Hamas with sincerity, or seriousness.

The only small chance for peace today is the same chance that existed before the Gaza invasion: The moderate Arab states, Europe, the United States and, mainly, Israel, must help Hamas’s enemy, Fatah, prepare the West Bank for real freedom, and then hope that the people of Gaza, vast numbers of whom are unsympathetic to Hamas, see the West Bank as an alternative to the squalid vision of Hassan Nasrallah and Nizar Rayyan.



Anonymous said...


You've got 4 facts. And, I've got one. Hamas is losing. By how much? Soon they will go from "ham" to "dumb."

Anonymous said...


Breaking News on FOX in the USA: Hamas agrees to an UNconditional "cease fire." Of course, it's only a matter of time ... as the diplomats disengage; and "something or other" puts "STILLNESS INTO THE GAZAN NIGHT SKIES."

Was this what Israel was waiting for? Is this why Iran went on the TV mode of "offensive play" yesterday?

Were there any target rich environments left in gaza? Or was what was coming up next, where reservists went into crowded areas for hand-to-hand combat ... just not worth it? (I don't think it's worth it.)

And, at least "unconditional" means NO MORE ROCKETS & MISSILES to "annoy" Southern Israel.

Whose gonna have the "monitoring eye4s?"

Funny, how the Turks have been vying to return to their old Ottoman Empire days.

As to the "4 things" about Hamas? Well, now. UNCONDITIONAL "CEASEFIRE" wasn't coming from the Guardian's lips, was it?

Will the media now go into "let's shut our eyes and ignore the whole thing" mode?

American weather on the East Coast is brutal! Five Days away to Obama's inauguraton. When he gives his speech, is this gonna be included?

GOOD FOR ISRAEL! Just don't expect anyone funded by the saud's, or by iran, to tell.

Anonymous said...


That was a wonderfully insightful article by Jeffrey Goldberg. However, I have trouble with his conclusion. Fatah might be more pragmatic on the surface, less religiously dogmatic in its day-to-day outlook and more patient in going about achieving its aims, but doesn't the Oslo process teach us that Fatah is equally committed to Israel's destruction and willing to sacrifice Arab lives and economic well-being to continue pursuing the goal of destroying Israel? Does't Fatah's TV programs, newspapers, school books and celebration of suicide bombers reveal its true vision?

By speaking of peace or compromise in English, Fatah gains money, weapons and military training from Israel and the West. Yet even Abbas admits that "peace is a strategic choice" and that the time for violent "resistance" must wait for another day.

While the leaders of Fatah do not wish to live by a strict interpretation of sharia law in their personal lives, they still share many of the same values and have been impacted by many of the same attitudes. Remember, Arafat was originally a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. Fatah has an anti-Jewish and Islamic supremacist mindset, and its Christian members parrot the Islamic line and carefully choose their words so as not to offend--or show disapproval--of the tactics and beliefs of Hamas, but rather suggest that their cause (of destroying Israel) isn't being helped by the Hamas way of doing things.

Ultimately, the difference between Hamas and Fatah is more about who controls the money and the spoils of government and who gets to impose their will on the majority of the people under their authoritarian grip. Many Palestinians join up with one side or another due to family and clan connections or because of their economic interests are enhanced by their identification with Fatah or Hamas. Others prefer one party or the other based on their vision of a more Islamic Palestine or a somewhat more secular (though still quite Islamic in atmosphere and attitude) society. What proof is there that anyone aligns themselves with Fatah out of a desire to live in peace with Israel?

KingMob said...

...of course, killing civilians to teach them a lesson and by means of this "education" cause them to stop supporting certain actions of their political representation could also be called TERRORISM.

Anonymous said...


Today, MIchael Totten links to Jeffrey Goldberg's article; which concludes if I may paraphrase him; "that the only way ahead is to help fatah become a success on the West bank, so that those in gaza get jealous enough."


I think that the wreckage that will be faced North and South, in gaza; when there's a stoppage and the civilians can come up for air. Will be the surprise at the extent of the destruction.

Lebanon, truth be known, was NOT badly bombarded, back in 2006. It was just the media that over-played it's hand. And, then? The Internet broadcast THE GREEN HELMET MAN. Usurping power from the ancient media. And, delivering news to people, around this globe, electronically. Through computer networks.

That was 2006.

Today, even YouTube is a player, now. And, while I don't know the traffice Charles Johnson's LITTLE GREEN FOOTBALLS gets, I'm sure it's a higher number, sometimes, than even those who tune in CNN.

There was a pretty good comment up about Time magazine. When a posting arrived that "Time wants Israel to lose." And, one person wrote, to say that he had recently seen an issue. And, it was "thin." It was thinner than a closed laptop. And, very light. (In other words? Advertisers aren't paying the kinds of dollars they used to pay in order to advertise.) An important component to mainstream media AND hollywood, by the way, is the money they generate in sales.

Right now, leading the box office is Clint Eastwood's GRAN TORINO. Clint Eastwood is not liked by hollywood. He won't win an oscar. But he will make money.

Or, as Liberace used to say, "he will cry all the way to the bank."

Personally, I think the current Gaza War will end up as a video game! Money for some. But not for people who think inside of any PC organization.

Now, sometimes, I read that Obama is gonna bend over backwards for Hamas. He doesn't have enough powers, however, to do this, successfully.

And, while lies fly in the media, I don't even think Condi Rice saved her skin, by going all out against Olmert. I just think she opened the door to those who are curious. And, she'll be gone when the truth begins to get written. She actually provides a great opening. Since most reporting, when its good, goes after bad organizations. Wall Street isn't alone, here! The State Department stinks to the high heavens!

And, Obama? Well, if you read Drudge, you'll know he went to George Will's house, last night, for a "power dinner" with the Righties. (And, there's a hint Rush Limbaugh was there.) True? Or not true?

The dinner at George Wills house is true. And, Kristol was there as well. You think antissemtism will fly well, here?

Why do lies precede the truth? Why are we told Hamas is ahead, when they're obviously not.

And, even IF there are people counting on europe; let me tell ya. Europe bought a shovel, back in 1932, that dug such a deep hole, FDR did his best to ignore them. Why? Americans are isolationists.

If today's environment is any different, I'd add there are fewer communists in America as well. And, those that are here? Are much less influential.

Because back in 1932 (before TV), the print media owned all the cards! Now? How many people know you can still read H.L. Mencken, and get a good laugh?

Time makes a lot of dust out of losers.

adam d. said...

> Fatah is equally committed
> to Israel's destruction

Even if that were not the case, it's impossible to imagine circumstances under which Fatah could honor any peace agreement.

An idealized truly peace seeking Fatah, if it existed, would require a full generation, at least, to plant the seeds of peace in the Palestinian population.

Since there's no evidence they're doing anything of the sort, all talk of solutions is moot. There are no solutions available. Israel's only option is to manage risks and wait for the world to change.