Thursday, April 17, 2008

Hamas, Carter, Washington Post and Others

The Washington Post has published an op-ed signed by Mahmoud al-Zahar. Next to it they've published an editorial of their own.

They certainly don't need me to send them readers; I expect this will reverberate quite loudly over the next day or two (you can't ask for more in today's news cycles). One reason I'm linking is simply as a bookmark. Sooner or later I'll have occasion to parse the al-Zahar article, for its clarity of intent alongside its deft use of propagandistic tools.

A "peace process" with Palestinians cannot take even its first tiny step until Israel first withdraws to the borders of 1967; dismantles all settlements; removes all soldiers from Gaza and the West Bank; repudiates its illegal annexation of Jerusalem; releases all prisoners; and ends its blockade of our international borders, our coastline and our airspace permanently. This would provide the starting point for just negotiations and would lay the groundwork for the return of millions of refugees. Given what we have lost, it is the only basis by which we can start to be whole again.

The editorial is interesting for its clear-eyed and and no-nonsense assessment of al-Zahar's words and positions. It's also interesting for the very sharp tone it uses to castigate President Carter for his insistence on meeting with a clutch of high Hamas figures as he wanders around the Mideast, meddling.

Most interesting for the purposes of this post, however, is to note that the editors of the WaPo asked themselves if they should publish the incendiary thoughts of al-Zahar:
We believe Mr. Zahar's words are worth publishing because they provide some clarity about the group he helps to lead, a group that Mr. Carter contends is worthy of being included in the Middle East peace process.
They then leave no room for any subtlety or ambiguity as to how they read the text and Carter's actions.

Then you go and read the comments to the two articles. There are dozens of them, out of what must be at least tens of thousands of readers, and as always you need to wonder what significance to attach to them - never an easy question - but it is striking that most of the responders came to the opposite conclusion from what the editors of the paper intended.


Mark Finkelstein said...

Yaacov, when reading through al-Zhar's op ed, two things occur to me. First, is that there is no doubt that according to al-Zahar, justice is entirely on his side and responsibility is entirely on Israel's side. This is no way to approach a problem that requires a negotiated resolution.

The other thing is that no where does al-Zahar allude to the type of intolerance that characterizes the rhetoric in the Hamas Charter. Th fact that Hamas has neither altered the Charter nor reudiated the Charter, along with the lack of al-Zahar even suggesting any positive outcome to negotiations should give readers pause. Comapared with the statements that have come from Olmert and Livni as to what a Palestinian state can look like and you've got a real contrast in perspectives.

I believe the only positive thing accomplished in al-Zahar's op ed is his willing disclosure that the conflict, as far as Hamas is concerned, is about the need to "redress the material crimes of 1948." That disclosure is not going to sit well with folks who understand its implications. On the other hand, it will resonate with those who are already advocating that Israel be dismantled -- many of whom who couch their arguments using more peaceful vocabulary.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Lozowick - First, I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you for writing "The Right To Exist". It is, I think, up to the present date, one of the most important books for people to read in helping to understand the "situation" in Israel, the Disputed Territories, and the Middle East. Particularly for Jews in North America, it is important, I feel. As a Jewish American, my experience with my peers (ages 35-45) is that they are not only distanced from Israel physically, but distanced in knowledge as well. This in effect lends them to being, unconsciously and involunteerly, their own worst enemy - in that they're not able to, articulately, contibute to the "dialogue" - even if they wanted to. Your book is an option to rectify that should one choose.

Second, I think Al-Zahar might be on to something with regard to his ideas on a basis for negotiations with Israel. I'm all for his requirements, if! If, he can devise a way. A way to: reattach the heads to torsos, the feet to legs, arms to bodies, and heal the flesh ripped of the bodies of those people in Israel who were on their way to the store for a pack of cigarettes, the library, work, school, etc. And then, required also - there would have to be a way - and this is the really difficult part - to bring these people back to life. If he can somehow find a way to do this, then I will be the first to stand with him - although, I doubt we'll be rubbing shoulders anytime soon.
Am Yisrael Chai!
- Michael Wildman
Rochester, New York

Anonymous said...

Coming back to a previous question: Yes, there is some logic in the statements of al-Zahar and his fellows, though it is a quite distorted one.

If the existence of a Jewish state is the great injustice, then reaching a "just and permanent solution" (to use their term) will require the rollback of any achievement that Israel has made since the very beginning. Only then the negotiations about the disappearance of Israel can begin.
It's logic, isn't it. (And by that they feel so generous that they talk about negotiations at all, while there is no need for them to negotiate because the "natural" way to get their right is murder.)

Don't forget the lessons of history.