Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Hamas (once again) clarifies its position on Israel


Actually, no clarification should be necessary—except that Hamas's position on this subject, which is clear and principled and straightforward, is constantly being obscured by distortion, disinformation, and wishful thinking.  Hamas is a militantly theocratic and anti-semitic organization that refuses to accept the existence of Israel (not Israel's policies or its occupation of Palestinian territories captured in 1967, but Israel's existence) and is committed to the destruction of Israel and its replacement by an Islamic state.  Those are simply facts, whether or not one finds them inconvenient, and a willingness to recognize these facts should be the starting-point for any serious discussion. Yet we're always being told that Hamas doesn't really mean it, that it has shifted or modified its position, that it is becoming more "moderate," and similar pseudo-sophisticated clichés.

On December 28 the head of Hamas, Khaled Meshaal, who was domiciled in Damascus until recently, paid his first visit to Gaza.  He was the featured speaker at a massive rally celebrating the 25th anniversary of Hamas's founding as well as the alleged "victory" of Hamas in its recent conflict with Israel. This event provided some useful reality checks.

I'll quote first from the report in the Guardian  (which I pick because the Guardian's bias against Israel is sufficiently well established that no one can plausibly accuse it of peddling Zionist propaganda):
Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal vowed Gaza's rulers would never give up "an inch of the land" to Israel in an uncompromising speech before tens of thousands of cheering supporters at a triumphalist "victory" rally in Gaza City.

"Palestine is ours, from the river to the sea and from the south to the north. There will be no concession on an inch of the land," he told the crowd on his first visit to Gaza. "We will never recognise the legitimacy of the Israeli occupation and therefore there is no legitimacy for Israel, no matter how long it will take."
If you put those last two sentences together it should be clear enough, even for someone determined to pretend otherwise, that ending "the Israeli occupation" of "Palestine" means eliminating Israel.

The New York Times report by Steven Erlanger spells out some further details:
Speaking before tens of thousands of supporters to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the founding of Hamas, Mr. Meshal said the Jewish state would be wiped away through “resistance,” or military action. “The state will come from resistance, not negotiation,” he said. “Liberation first, then statehood." [....]

Mr. Meshal’s harsh words reflected longstanding Hamas principles rather than new, specific threats toward Israel. But they will only reinforce Israel’s belief that Hamas is its enemy and intends to continue to use military force to reach its goals.
Now, why on earth would Israelis be tempted to draw those conclusions? At all events, it's worth noting that Erlanger's allusion to Hamas's use of "military force" is a misleadingly euphemistic formulation. Hamas has consistently declared, and amply confirmed in practice, that it regards the deliberate murder of Israeli civilians as a completely legitimate tool of armed conflict. According to the generally accepted laws of war, that's an unambiguous war crime. But why quibble?

And what about the long-term prospects for Israeli Jews?  The AP/Times of Israel
report added one more interesting tidbit from the rally:
A spokesmen for Hamas’s military wing, Izz ad-Din al-Qassam, warned Israelis to prepare their passports.

“We fought the Zionist entity with limited power,” he said. “What will happen when we fight with all our might?

“Zionists, you should prepare your passports and get ready to disappear,” the spokesman added.
I suppose that could be taken as a sign of "moderation," if one were so inclined.  Israeli Jews won't necessarily be wiped out.  Instead, to borrow a term used in a different context by an American politician, they can practice "self-deportation".

Yes, it's true that Hamas figures sometimes signal that under certain conditions they would be willing to accept a prolonged truce (or hudna) with Israel—which they could use to increase their missile stockpiles and otherwise build up their military capacities to resume armed conflict.  Even if we take these occasional hints at face value, they wouldn't change Hamas's fundamental goals and principles one iota.  A hudna is a military gambit, not a peace offer.

=>  In short, there is no mystery about Hamas's position, which has been quite clear, consistent, and principled.  Hamas is committed to the destruction of Israel, "no matter how long it will take," through armed struggle that includes the terrorist murder of Israeli civilians.  Some might want to argue that Hamas's position in this matter is justified, and although I would describe that assessment as wrong and immoral, at least it would be honest. Or one might want to argue that, in the long run, Hamas will change its position  That's not impossible.  But in the meantime, until that happens, Hamas's actual position is what it is.  Trying to pretend otherwise is either mistaken or dishonest, and any discussion that tries to evade or obscure or whitewash this unpleasant reality is not worth taking seriously.

And we can take that one step further.  Even if you do happen to believe that Israel's existence is unjust and illegitimate, and that Israeli Jews deserve to be driven into the sea, another hard reality is that support or apologetics for Hamas does the Palestinian people no favors.  As Hussein Ibish correctly summed it up in his response to Meshal's Gaza speech, "For the Palestinian national movement, Hamas is a disaster built on a calamity." In my opinion, only people whose hatred for Israel is greater than their sympathy for actual Palestinians could disagree with that.

Yours for reality-based discourse,
Jeff Weintraub