The Spectacle Blog

Reinventing Hamas

By on 4.15.08 | 6:13PM

Ezra Klein's ignorance regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is so profound, that I really had to seriously contemplete whether it was even worthwhile to respond to his latest idiotic dispatch, but I couldn't resist, because it's a perfect example of the reinvention of Hamas that is underway on the left.

E. Klein writes:

Late last week, Gershom Gorenberg, an Israeli-based writer, reported that Khaled Meshaal, the head of Hamas, had stated his willingness to accept "a Palestinian state based on the pre-1967 boundaries -- that is, alongside Israel, not in place of it." This statement, a bombshell if there ever was one, received coverage in the Israeli press, some mentions in the Italian press, and virtually no visibility in the English-language press.

He goes on to lament that the American media was overly focused on Barack Obama's position on Hamas: "And so we have the odd spectacle in which Hamas's apparent willingness to resign itself to a Jewish state is ignored, but Obama's promise to ignore cracks in their militancy is greeted."

But there is absolutely nothing shocking about Meshaal's statement to anybody who has followed developments in the region closely.

Hamas has played games with the 1967 border issue for a long time. For instance, in January of 2006, in the wake of the terrorist group's election victory, its co-founder Mahmoud al-Zahar promised a long-term truce to Israel if it withdrew to the pre-1967 borders and met other demands. He stated, "we can accept to establish our independent state on the area occupied (in) '67." I don't see how that's any different than what Meshaal is saying currently.

Of course, Hamas has long been perfectly willing to say that it'll accept a return to the 1967 borders now, but the catch is that it preserves the goal of conquering all of Israel later. As Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh put it more candidly around the same time as al-Zahar, "Hamas supports the establishment of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital in the territories occupied [by Israel] in 1967 - as an interim solution. However, Hamas will continue to maintain its views regarding the boundaries of historical Palestine, and [in terms of] refusing to recognize the legitimacy of the occupation."

And, to be clear, to Hamas, "historical Palestine" encompasses all of Israel, so the entire area is considered "occupied" land.

Even the very article that E. Klein cites from his own magazine, includes this important caveat:

(Meshaal's) interview reflects a political and psychological balancing act, says Israeli analyst Menachem Klein of Bar-Ilan University. Meshaal hasn't abjured Hamas' fundamental beliefs, as expressed in the organization's 1988 charter: All of Palestine, including pre-1967 Israel, is an Islamic waqf, sacred trust, to be liberated solely by jihad. But in the course of entering Palestinian electoral politics, Hamas has taken pragmatic positions that contradict the charter -- including acceptance of a de facto two-state outcome. "It's very hard to totally abandon fundamental beliefs. [Meshaal's] solution is to ... keep the beliefs, but in the private domain, and to act publicly in a different way," Klein says.

So, if Hamas's leadership has undergone any change at all, it's that it may be pursuing the Yasser Arafat strategy of making public statements offering vague concessions, allowing useful idiots in the West to interpret them as "bombshells," milking the "peace process," all the while supporting terrorism and privately maintaining the ultimate desire to destroy all of Israel.

To put it in terms that E. Klein may actually comprehend, it's kind of like when progressives who support a single payer health care system advocate an incremental approach out of political pragmatism.

P.S.: Before anybody asks, I am not related to the two other Kleins mentioned in this post.

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