Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Thought Processes of a Hamas Apologist

Paul McGeough of the Sydney Morning Herald, a popular Australian Guardian-lite newspaper, has an op-ed up at the New York Times. I have the impression that since the NYT bureau chief in Israel is the reasonable Ethan Bronner, the editors back in New York are trying to balance him with ever more foolish commentators.

I don't normally fisk people, but this one cries out for it, starting with his title, "Hamas Comes Out of Hiding", where it has busily been killing Palestinians and doing its best to kill Israelis.
JUST a year and a half ago, visiting Khalid Mishal, the supreme leader of Hamas, was a cloak-and-dagger affair. In September 2007, I climbed into the back of a curtained Mercedes to make the dash from central Damascus to the southern suburbs, where the Palestinian group operated from a high-security enclave reserved for senior officials of the Syrian government...

So Mishal doesn't only reside in Damascus, he lives in the top security area where the apparatchiks are protected from their people. Nice regime, the Syrian one.

As I was subjected to a thorough physical search, one of Mr. Mishal’s aides told me that there was a battery of antiaircraft guns buried deep in a nearby hillside. All my possessions were confiscated, and I gained access to Mr. Mishal’s grand reception room through an airport-style security scanner.

Actually, I rather doubt the antiaircraft batter is deep underground, where it wouldn't do much good, would it. But Mishal obviously lives in style, with his grand reception room.

Today the mood has become much lighter in the Hamas hideout. Mr. Mishal’s calendar is so full that he might soon need a parking lot for the vehicles bringing foreign delegations to visit. My most recent appointment with him, on March 18, was pushed far into the night because Mr. Mishal was busy greeting a group of Greek lawmakers, who were then followed by an Italian delegation. In the preceding days, visitors had come from the British and European Parliaments.
Of course, none of those many European delegations is even remotely connected with any past present or future negotiations between Israel and Palestinians. They're not American officials, after all, or Egyptians. They're malicious fools, probably of the Left, who que up on pilgrimage to the top Jew-killer they can find, so as to express their adoration. So long as we're clear about they dynamics here.

In our discussion last month, Mr. Mishal spoke for the first time of the challenges confronting Hamas in the post-Bush era: Barack Obama’s presidential victory; Mr. Netanyahu’s return; the Gaza war; and Washington’s new drive for “dialogue” with Hamas’s regional sponsors — Syria and Iran.

Mr. Mishal rejected the notion that Hamas could get squeezed in any nascent power plays in the region. He interpreted Washington’s pitch to Syria and Iran as an admission of past errors, an acceptance that the United States had to deal with “parties that have proved themselves.”

Proved themselves as what, exactly? As brutal thugs eager to kill whoever's in their way, and to set up their own civilians to be killed when they manage to provoke Israel? Mr. McGeough, clearly enamored of Mishal, never does get around to mentioning any of this nor explaining.

“Hamas is not a card in anyone’s hand,” he insisted. But at the same time, he warned that Washington should not seek to “isolate certain parties at the expense of other parties."
So now he's threatening America, unchallenged by his fawning interviewer.
Pressed on policy changes that Hamas might make as a gesture to any new order, Mr. Mishal argued that the organization has already shifted on several key points: “Hamas has already changed — we accepted the national accords for a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders, and we took part in the 2006 Palestinian elections.”
That's change, for sure: rather than sulk in the corner, Hamas is willing to participate in Palestinian elections. Whether they'll ever allow future elections to remove them from power is not a question this interviewer might ask. As for the matter of recognizing Israel, McGeough engages in some clumsy acrobatics:
On the crucial question of rewriting the Hamas charter, which calls for the destruction of Israel, he was unbending: “Not a chance.” Khalid Mishal is not Yasir Arafat — he is not looking for a Nobel Peace Prize. Among the Hamas articles of faith is a belief that in renouncing violence and in recognizing Israel’s right to exist in 1993, Mr. Arafat sinned against his people. (Nonetheless, others to whom he speaks have told me that Mr. Mishal has said that “when the time comes,” Hamas will make some of the moves demanded of it by the West.)
Let's see: the charter calls for the death of all Jews. Removing Israel is merely a sub-set of that. Still, the interviewer couldn't say Mishal will agree to Israel's existence since Mishal told him the opposite and he want's to maintain his access to the man; so he admits Mishal told him Hamas would never recognize Israel, but then turns around and reassures us that other people told him the opposite, or at any rate, the told him Mishal has allowed them to have the impression that he might perhaps do something demanded by the West, so long as it doesn't impinge upon his fundamental antisemitism and determination to destroy Israel. Which of course raises the question why travel from Syndey all the way to Damascus, if you're going to believe unidentified people anyway. Those, you can invent in the comfort of your kitchen.

Curiously, amid rising calls from politicians and policy makers around the world for Hamas to be given a seat at the Middle East negotiating table, Mr. Mishal made clear that he was willing to bide his time. His message is, “Watch what we do, not what we say.”

I suppose there's a connection between the beginning of the paragraph and its end, a full sentence later, but I can't see what it might be.

While it is impossible for many in the West to grasp the calculus in the Hamas strategy of war and terror, the movement has demonstrated that it is disciplined in holding its fire, as it did in the summer and fall of 2008. Likewise, it has proved itself capable of negotiating with Israel — albeit through third parties.

Yes, it's quite inscrutable, isn't it. Hamas can't possibly really mean they want a Judenrein world, yet they keep on saying they do, and insist on killing Jews - ah, but then, when it suits them they refrain... it's so complicated.

Over the long term, Hamas accepts the concept of two states in the Levant, which arguably puts Mr. Mishal’s terrorist movement closer to Washington than Netanyahu is — he now proposes only “economic peace” between Jews and Palestinians.
Did you see that? While there's literally no evidence whatsoever for the idea Hamas accepts Israel's existence, and if there were rest assured McGeough would be trumpeting it, at the end of the day it's enough to say they have (long term, mind you), and then turn on Netanyahu as the greater evil, the one whose positions are more war-like and conflicting with American policies than those of Hamas. Hey, I met the man, in Damascus, right after those Italian folks; trust me on this one, otherwise I wouldn't be a journalist.

As for finding himself at center stage with the man who ordered him killed, Mr. Mishal insisted that in the broad scheme of things, Mr. Netanyahu is just one more in a succession of prime ministers. “It’s fate, God’s destiny, but we can’t set policy on the basis of personal grudges,” he told me.

True. Were Israel to elect Gideon Levy its prime minister, with Amira Hass as minister of defense, Mishal still wouldn't change his mind about the need for an end to Israel and the Jews. It's nothing personal.

Perhaps. But not since the personal bitterness between Mr. Arafat and the former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon have Palestinians and Israelis faced such a leadership dynamic. Once again, personal enmity could swamp the more pressing complexities of the Middle East crisis.

Remember those two, Arafat and Sharon? They really really disliked each other, which is why they refused to make peace at Camp David that time in 2000 when (Bill) Clinton almost thought he might salvage his mediocre reputation and land a Nobel peace prize. Why do Israelis keep on electing folks for whom authentic Palestinian leaders have personal grudges, what with all the pressing complexities in that area?


Anonymous said...

leaving the disgusting behaviour of my European countryWoMen aside I object most to how the writer three times talks about Mossad.
If I understand this example correctly Hamas' "success" is the Mossad's responsibility and then at the end you find, he has an upcoming book to promote
Will he lecture us in that book that had the Mossad succeeded Hamas would have become irrelevant i.e. Khalid the great leader?

...thanks in no small part to the Mossad’s bungling of the attempt to eliminate Mr. Mishal ...

Fabián said...

Sharon wasn't in office in the year 2000. Ehud Barak was. In all other respects and excellent article. If you change the last part I will promote it on Facebook.

Yaacov said...

Fabian - Of course Barak was the one at Camp David. That was the point!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this piece. I saw the McGeough op-ed and couldn't figure out what he was trying to say. Now I know why it made no sense. Because it makes no sense.


Fabián said...