Saturday, December 31, 2011

31-Dec-11: Wishful thinking, self-delusion and the Hamas threat

Haniya of Hamas and Gazan soldier in training: His message of
hatred and jihad is so straight-forward, even children
understand it. Sophisticated editors, political analysts and foreign
leaders, not so much 
Those of us forced to think a good deal about the terrorists around us and among us have noticed an uptick in these last two or three weeks of stories asserting that the Hamas terror organization has somehow sworn off violence (one of many examples: "Hamas calls for ceasefire on Israel").

Thursday's Haaretz, in a story co-penned by Avi Issacharoff and Amos Harel ("Hamas forces ordered to cease attacks on Israeli targets, Palestinian sources say") attributes the embrace of peace to the Damascus-resident Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal "based on understandings between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Meshal during their recent talks in Cairo". Meshal is said to have given this order in "late November".

Yesterday (Friday), an official Hamas spokesperson told UPI the Haaretz piece was trivial and undeserving of a response. But the fact that Haaretz ran with it, and that several other media channels have echoed it, invites some thought as to why so many on the liberal end of the political spectrum keep wanting to have us reconsider the terrorists of Hamas and their real objectives.

We have frequently quoted the Palestinian Arab analyst Khaled Abu Toameh here. He writes well, he avoids adopting what's politically correct, he speaks with all parts of the Arab world and he seems amazingly unafraid to express clearly what he thinks even when this probably places him in personal danger.

Yesterday (Friday), Abu Toameh published a characteristically thoughtful comment on the website of the Hudson NY Institute under the title "Has Hamas Really Changed?":
"Some naïve Israelis and Westerners have misinterpreted Hamas's readiness to accept a cease-fire with Israel as a sign that the Islamist movement has abandoned its desire to destroy Israel...  [The Mashaal declarations publicized by Haaretz] have thus far appeared only in Western media outlets. Mashaal's statements in Arabic, which were published in Hamas media outlets in the past few days, do not talk about accepting a two-state solution, recognizing Israel's right to exist or abandoning the armed struggle. On the contrary, Mashaal and other Hamas leaders have made it clear that the armed struggle remains their most important strategy in the fight against Israel. And they have also made it clear that they will never recognize Israel's right to exist even though they are prepared to accept, for now, a Palestinian state in the pre-1967 lines."
As has happened so often in the past, the Arabic-language versions of statements by Arab leaders who are quoted in the West as being suddenly in favor of peace, brotherhood and laying down arms
"are being ignored by Haaretz and other Western media outlets, which continue to insist that Hamas has changed...  Hamas will change only on the day it abandons its dream of replacing Israel with an Islamist state, and renounces violence. Hamas needs to do this in Arabic, and not in English. This is not the first time that Haaretz and others have misinterpret Hamas's true intentions. In 2006, when Hamas participated in the Palestinian parliamentary elections, some Israelis and Westerners took this cooperation as proof that the movement had changed and was in the process of transforming into a political party. Hamas has perhaps changed its tactics, but definitely not its ideology and aspirations."
Abu Toameh's Hudson article continues here.

And in a report he published in the Jerusalem Post on Thursday, Khaled Abu Toameh says "the rocket and mortar attacks over the past few days could not have happened without the acquiescence of the Hamas leadership". He quotes an unnamed Israeli official saying "Hamas is not a political association that uses terrorism as a tactic. Hamas is terrorist to the core.”

How much has Hamas not changed? This is from Thursday:
Gaza: Palestinian Rights Group Accuses Hamas of Harassing Fatah Members    By REUTERS Published: December 29, 2011
An independent Palestinian rights group said Thursday that the Hamas authorities in Gaza were searching the homes and questioning members of the rival Fatah party. A report from the Palestinian Center for Human Rights said one Fatah activist was held for 15 days, during which Hamas officers placed a plastic bag over his head during interrogation and subjected him to loud noises. On Monday and Tuesday alone, the report said, Hamas summoned about 50 former members of Fatah security forces, questioning them at length.
This is from Friday:
Hamas cracks down on fortune-tellers, mannequins    GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- The Hamas-run government has launched a series of campaigns targeting fortune-tellers, mannequins and cigarette vendors in the Gaza Strip. 142 fortune tellers were forced to sign an agreement at the Ministry of Interior pledging that they would not practice their craft... Another campaign targets boutiques displaying lingerie on mannequins. Police officials told Ma'an that security forces inspected clothes shops across the Gaza Strip and warned owners not to display naked mannequins, lingerie or "indecent advertisements." ...In a crackdown on car and motorcycle theft, police have distributed a database of stolen vehicles to all police stations across the coastal enclave. Meanwhile, owners of taxi firms have been warned not to allow any former security officers to work as drivers.
Leaving wishful thinking aside, there are reasons to think Hamas is being forced by changing circumstances to review where it's going. Avi Isacharoff, again, in Friday's Haaretz offers an overview of changes which we now summarize:
  • "The [forced] move away from longtime patron Syria [whose regime is disintegrating] and toward the new Egypt has pushed Hamas to adopt a more pragmatic line", leading to a "search for an Arab state that will agree to accommodate the Hamas leadership instead of Damascus..."
  • "The huge wave of protest sweeping the Middle East has made it clear to Hamas that it cannot continue to rely solely on its bayonets to maintain control over Gaza".
  • "Hamas' financial situation in recent months has become increasingly dire... Tehran has slashed cash payments to Gaza, and revenues from smuggling activity via the Strip's tunnels have fallen off, due to the lifting of the Israeli siege of Gaza."
  • Hamas said 150 members of its security forces were dismissed because of moral problems but in reality this is due to the terrorist organization's diminished economic situation.
  • Hamas forces recently seized control of several branches of the Palestine Bank and the Palestinian Islamic Bank in Gaza and "withdrew" money by force. It has also recently raised taxes.
  • "More and more senior figures in the movement have become entangled in corruption scandals... rarely reported in the media. The most prominent person involved is Ayman Taha... A few less-senior figures in Hamas - some of whom were suspected of corruption, and others of whom tried to report such affairs - have undergone peculiar accidents. For example, Ahmed al-Mamluk was killed two weeks ago, according to Hamas, "while carrying out a jihad mission." His family says he was supposed to be meeting with a senior Hamas official to discuss a number of corruption cases. A similar "accident" befell Ali Nayef al-Haj, who was killed in an "internal explosion" in November; Mohammed Zaki al-Hams, who died in a road accident in early November; Mohammed al-Mahamoum, who died last June from electrocution in a Hamas outpost; and Ashraf Faraj Abu Hana, who drowned in a swimming pool last March. Hamas says this is a chance series of accidents, but the families have radically different versions."
As plain as the chaos, duplicity and sheer bloodthirstiness of Hamas is, there remain relentlessly-optimistic voices that somehow manage to turn away from what their eyes see and respond instead to some inner calling. The Haaretz editorial board, for instance, this week called on Israel "to listen to Hamas, and take notice" (Haaretz editorial 29th December). The Turks, via their foreign minister Davutoğlu, proudly welcomed the head of the Hamas ruling clique in Gaza to his land saying "We welcome any visit from Gaza in principle. We have no hesitation on this”.

We respect the Turkish determination. But we also want to keep sight of what it is that the head of the Hamas ruling clique said that evidently made him so welcome in Istanbul. Here's an extract of "prime minister" Ismail Haniyah's speech on the 24th anniversary of the founding of Hamas two weeks ago:
We say today, explicitly, so it cannot be explained otherwise, that the armed resistance and the armed struggle are the path and the strategic choice for liberating the Palestinian land, from the [Mediterranean] sea to the [Jordan] river, and for the expulsion of the invaders and usurpers [Israel] from the blessed land of Palestine. The Hamas movement will lead Intifada after Intifada until we liberate Palestine – all of Palestine, Allah willing. Allah Akbar and praise Allah. We say with transparency and in a clear manner, that Palestinian reconciliation – and all sides must know this – cannot come at the expense of [our] principles, at the expense of the resistance. These principles are absolute and cannot be disputed: Palestine – all of Palestine – is from the sea to the river. We won’t relinquish one inch of the land of Palestine. The involvement of Hamas at any stage with the interim objective of liberation of [only] Gaza, the West Bank, or Jerusalem, does not replace its strategic view concerning Palestine and the land of Palestine.”
The arch terrorist is speaking plainly enough. Who's listening?

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