Tuesday, October 28, 2003

I guess I have to respond

I was going to leave this one alone, but the tone of the last post forces me to respond. I apologize. As Joe correctly guesses, I base my views of Hamas on much more than their charter. For example, government wiretaps of the Hamas leadership meeting in Philadelphia in 1993 discussing their strategy post-Oslo and specifically agreeing on each of the "conspiracy theory" elements. I'm not sure if the transcripts are public records yet, but they are part of the report prepared by FBI counterterrorism director Dale Watson on U.S. organizations' funding of Hamas. The report is part of the administrative record in the HLF v. Ashcroft case. I will find out if it is public record, and if it is I will share it. Also, every year at least until Hamas was designated a Specially Designated Global Terrorist Organization by the U.S. government in 1995, Hamas-supporting organizations held a convention in different cities in the U.S. in which various speakers including actual veiled terrorists spoke in front of a banner reading "Islamic Palestine from the river to the sea" and demanded the blood of the Jews. One such charming gathering, I believe in 1993, featured children singing on this topic and punctuating their song with choreographed knife thrusts.

A good source for an overview of evidence on Hamas, which I know isn't priveleged, is the Hamas chapter of Steven Emerson's book "Jihad in America." Suffice it to say, from everything that I have seen, there is ample evidence that Hamas is no more than an intractable fundamentalist terrorist organization which believes that it can eradicate Israel through drive-by shootings and suicide bombings. I realize that I'm sounding like Bush when I say, "I've seen the information. You can't. Trust me," but this case I'm working on really did change my views on the topic. I used to agree with you.

I gather from your tone that you really feel strongly about this one and think that anyone who doesn't agree is an idiot. However, I want you to consider for a minute the possibility that the weaker force isn't always in the right. I can give you my response to your incredulous questions, but I fear that this is one on which we may have to agree to disagree as so many people before us have. Anyway, here goes:

1. How do you explain that Yassin, despite ample excuses to back out provided courtesy of the IDF during his negotiations with Abbas, agreed to the truce? Another ploy?

Hamas is all about the PR. They wanted to look like they were being super cooperative to gain support from people like you who are watching internationally. They know a truce is meaningless, as they have never kept one, so what was the harm of staying in (especially since the IDF actions would provide cover for breaking the truce at any point). Essentially, your question is: why would Hamas take a free public relations opportunity in which they had to concede nothing meaningful to them and had the opportunity to gain world support? I never said they were stupid, just evil.

2. Like convincing the Palestinian people that Arafat is corrupt (which I have never heard a whiff of, and which your own analysis of Arafat's actions in regard to Oslo contradicts)?

This is one of the strategies explicitly agreed upon in Philadelphia in 1993. It's actually pretty logical. They needed to discredit Arafat before he completed a lasting peace agreement, but could not oppose the process directly because the world was unanimously behind it (except Syria, whose sole importance in the Middle East is the fact that it can, and routinely does stir up Palestinian attacks on Israel--also discussed in the meeting). Thus, just attack the messenger, and don't do it directly. Instead, turn the vast influence you have over the Palestinian people to discrediting Arafat. Do I have direct proof of this? Like a leafletting campaign? Or a witness who says that a Hamas guy showed up at his door and talked down Arafat? No. What I do know is this: The PLO and Hamas have always been rivals. The Oslo accords threatened both Hamas' goals and political power. The leadership of Hamas met to discuss how to deal with them. They decided to discredit Arafat as corrupt with the Palestinian people. Arafat has been to some degree discredited as corrupt by the Palestinian people--although the current situation has resurrected him somewhat.

I simply don't understand what the second part of your question means. Arafat probably signed the accords for a variety of reasons: he wanted peace, he wanted to be an international hero (maybe even win a nobel prize), and he wanted to consolidate his own power. Whether that makes him corrupt and/or whether Hamas subsequently embarked on a campaign to discredit him are neither here nor there. I don't understand the claimed contradiction.

3. Or slyly convincing the West that Israel is in the wrong (something, again I have seen no evidence for)?

Again, a strategy agreed upon. It seems to me to be a successful one; you, for one, are convinced.

4. Or putting Sharon in power?

This alone among my claims was a stretch. There is no explicit call for getting Israeli hardliners into power--just a desire to derail the peace process and force a conflict. I took that in conjunction with the calculated attacks on the eve of the election to infer that that was the strategy.

5. And if you believe them to be so supremely shrewd as to be able to pull off all of the things you claim them responsible for, how does this jive with your belief that they are so monumentally stupid as to believe all the bogus crap in their charter?

This one is where the true problem comes out. You are so anxious to see Hamas as a rational Western-style actor that you automatically dismiss the charter as "monumentally stupid" and just assume that anyone intelligent can't believe it. Therefore, Hamas must either be unintelligent or they don't believe it. This is a dangerously naive view, and one that ignores history. Was Hitler monumentally stupid? How about Stalin? Tojo? History is filled with intelligent, capable people who have subscribed to an ideology committed to the inferiority of one group of people compared to another--and a desire to eliminate the undesirables. Often, these people subscribe to dogma filled with "ridiculous tripe."

In fact, Hamas' leadership are both intelligent and fanatical. They believe their charter because it is part of their religion. There are countless references to religious dogma in it, and the things in it have been ratified by religious scholars through fatwas.
I think at the end of the day, you either have to believe that Hamas is capable of compromise, or it isn't. That they would make a deal with Israel or they wouldn't. Anyone's individual evaluations of these two questions determines whether they see Hamas as part of the problem or part of the solution. We clearly come down on opposite sides of that question.

However, I think that we do agree that a peace agreement creating a Palestinian state should happen and that each side bears some degree of the blame for the fact that it has not gotten accomplished in the past 36 years.

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