10 July 2007

10 July 2007 - Deconstructing Hamas propaganda

I don’t usually write more than one post per day, but today’s Ha’aretz features an article by Hamas spokesman Ahmed Yousef that I felt I had to respond to. Yousef is one of the more clever and sophisticated spin doctors that Hamas has been arming itself with in recent months. (Another is Mohammed Nazzal, who convinced the South African government Hamas has “no quarrel with the Jewish people.”)

Sadly, Western newspapers have been falling all over each other in their attempts to print Yousef’s op-ed articles and publicize his terror organization’s views. (And unlike the Unabomber, Hamas didn’t even have to threaten anyone.)

Unfortunately, Ha’aretz has decided to do the same, even describing Hamas leader Ismail Haniyah as the “deposed” prime minister—as if Hamas was the victim of the coup, and not the other way around. The article reads like classic Soviet propaganda, with politically-correct jargon and obtuse rationalizations thinly disguising the regime’s intents and beliefs, appealing to potential Western dupes.

I felt a quick deconstruction was necessary. The original article is here; my comments and line-by-line responses are below.

The Abbas leadership has poorly calculated its political strategy, choosing to align itself with the Israeli regime and its Washington patrons in a bid to retain its hold on power. (This accusation obscures the fact that Hamas is based in Syria, funded and armed by Iran, and assisted by criminal syndicates throughout the region. Also, Fatah has not actually aligned itself with Israel and the U.S.—if only that were so.)

Yet it has compromised its legitimacy in the eyes of a large swath of the Palestinian public, (Perhaps, but Hamas has compromised its legitimacy even further. New survey data suggest that if new Presidential elections were held today, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh would lose to Fatah’s Mahmoud Abbas by a small margin and to the jailed Marwan Barghouti by a wide margin, in Gaza and the West Bank.)

and it has fallen into Israel's Machiavellian trap of sowing discord among Palestinians
(The discord is self-generated, and Hamas is its main engine.)

to avoid dealing with the real issue: ending the occupation, fairly and justly. (Of what? The reader is meant to infer that Hamas means the West Bank and East Jerusalem—it has Gaza already—but in fact it considers all of Israel “occupied.”)

Voters in the occupied territories are under no illusions about who planted the seeds of the current strife, particularly as Hamas made offers - but was repeatedly rebuffed - to form a unity government as soon as it won the elections in 2006. (The alternative to a unity government is not civil war, but democratic opposition. Neither side accepted this; both continued fighting even after a unity government.)

Despite increasing intransigence by hard-line Fatah activists, Hamas even adhered to a unilateral cease-fire for 18 months in a bid to neutralize tensions. (This is bogus, given the repeated terror attacks and rocket strikes carried out by or encouraged by Hamas. To the extent that violence slowed down, that was largely the result of effective Israeli deterrence measures such as the security barrier.)

For over a year, the Islamic movement's leadership has tried to avoid conflict with Fatah, (Never mind the weapons-smuggling, the assassinations, et cetera.)

yet confrontation was inevitable because American neoconservatives,
(Here Yousef cleverly manipulates the sympathies of his left-leaning audience)

the Israelis and even some Arab officials are determined to undermine a Palestinian government with an Islamic hue. (Not true, of course—the isolation of Hamas has nothing to do with its religious bent, but support for terror and rejection of Israel.)

The economic blockade was the first blow. Then American neoconservative officials, led by Deputy National Security Advisor Elliott Abrams, machinated against the Hamas government. (Every good propagandist needs a Jewish conspiracy theory.)

Finally, Fatah tried, illegally, to call for premature elections in January; (The call for elections was fully legal under the Palestinian Elections Law No. 9 of 2005.)

when this failed, it initiated plans to strengthen its hold on security forces in preparation for a coup, receiving arms and training from both Israel and foreign governments. (That may have been unwise—it was certainly ineffective—but Hamas and Fatah were already fighting, and with Hamas getting foreign military aid—again cleverly omitted here—foreign governments chose intervened.)

The combined economic blockade and militarization of Fatah forced Hamas to undertake preemptive measures aimed at preserving the integrity of Palestine's fledgling democracy. (Almost very dictator justifies a coup in such terms.) 

Abbas' current moves to unilaterally declare an emergency government in the West Bank is a political gamble doomed to fail. First, Parliament will not approve deposing Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh. Therefore the only options Abbas has are to amend the constitution without a parliamentary vote, (This might convince some willing believers, but Palestine does not have a final, justiciable constitution.)

or to stage a military coup bolstered by Israeli arms and secret-service support in a move reminiscent of Algeria's FLN negating moderate Islamist victories at the ballot box in 1991. (Another clever ploy to win Western sympathies, re-casting the Algerian Islamists as moderates and the Israelis as Arab autocrats.)

The rational choice would be to engage with Hamas - as it has been trying to do since coming to power - within the framework of the law, (Hamas’s mode of engagement has been to routinely and violently break the law.)

and jointly to work toward ending economic terrorism and irredentist occupation. (“Economic terrorism”—but not actual terrorism, of course, which Hamas likes.)

Western powers would do more for the cause of stability by releasing their chokehold on the Palestinian economy and finding more plausible representation than Tony Blair to act as an envoy in the interests of peace.
(The Palestinian economy is in fact being choked from within, by Hamas’s failure to meet international demands; rejection of the envoy tells you where Hamas really stands.)

Hamas itself has proven its ability to enforce and preserve peace when left unhindered to do so, by securing the release of BBC correspondent Alan Johnston. (He neglects to say: after months of captivity in which Hamas refused to do anything at all. Seizing or permitting the seizure of hostages and then eventually releasing them shows both the weakness and mendacity of the Hamas regime.)

The entire apparatus of the legitimate Palestinian government focused its energies on Mr. Johnston's release for humanitarian and practical reasons. Journalists like Alan are brave, honorable people who have risked much to alleviate our suffering or report the truth. (Hamas supports the BBC! Actually, anti-Israel bias aside, the BBC has revealed the real truth about Hamas, as in this 2004 Hardtalk interview.)

Hamas was limited in its ability to exercise security controls until recently; however, now that the security apparatus is genuinely geared toward the safety and well-being of the general population, Hamas will pursue all avenues to ensure that thugs and hoodlums, regardless of purported ideology, are neutralized.
(The old “law and order” defense, beloved of totalitarian despots around the world.)

Our efforts must remain focused on rectifying the misguided actions of our colleagues in the unity government and refocusing our political energies exclusively on ending the occupation. We have learned from the experiences of Turkey,
(Another clever ploy—except the Islamic party in Turkey does not have a terrorist wing, and honors Turkey’s alliance with Israel and the United States.)

and will conduct ourselves in a manner that reflects the national interest without compromising our principles. (This is impossible, since Hamas’s principles of hate and terror are directly contrary to the Palestinian national interest.)

The alternative is open, internecine conflict - something abhorrent to Hamas, yet a necessary evil if the peaceful alternative is not pursued. (So Hamas remains committed to violence against Palestinians as well as Israelis.)

Civil war is tragic, permanently affecting a nation's psyche if not its geography. (Though this civil war has already severed Gaza from the West Bank.)

Yet when there are forces that reflect the majority's will, their victory can lead to national reconciliation and prosperity, as demonstrated in the decades following the French Revolution and U.S. Civil War. (Perhaps Hamas sees the Terror or the Napoleonic empire as its ideal political model. And the Civil War? The secessionist rebels were defeated; reconciliation and prosperity waited more than a century.)

Hamas would, by any measure, be justified in defending itself given the assassinations of Hamas officials and supporters, attempts on the life of the elected prime minister, and kidnappings and bombings by some members of Chairman Mahmoud Abbas' paramilitary groups. And defend itself it shall.
(Hamas has committed similar crimes itself, of course

Ahmed Yousef is the political adviser to deposed Palestinian premier Ismail Haniyeh. (Hang on a minute—who deposed who? “Former,” not “deposed.”)

There is only one point on which Hamas might be correct: there might be no alternative except deposing it by force. But for now, ignoring it seems to be the best option for both Abbas and for Israel. Perhaps that is what Hamas is most desperate to avoid. There is the possibility that, armed with Iranian weapons, Hamas could soon project a greater threat—but until then, its raving demands for “engagement” should be dismissed, not only by regional leaders but by newspapers as well.


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