We must adjust our distorted image of Hamas

‘Gaza is a secular society where people listen to pop music, watch TV and many women walk the streets unveiled’ writes William Sieghart of Forward Thinking. A bit old, but well worth reading. (thanks Olfa)

Last week I was in Gaza. While I was there I met a group of 20 or so police officers who were undergoing a course in conflict management. They were eager to know whether foreigners felt safer since Hamas had taken over the Government? Indeed we did, we told them. Without doubt the past 18 months had seen a comparative calm on the streets of Gaza; no gunmen on the streets, no more kidnappings. They smiled with great pride and waved us goodbye.

Less than a week later all of these men were dead, killed by an Israeli rocket at a graduation ceremony. Were they “dangerous Hamas militant gunmen”? No, they were unarmed police officers, public servants killed not in a “militant training camp” but in the same police station in the middle of Gaza City that had been used by the British, the Israelis and Fatah during their periods of rule there.

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LRB contributors react to events in Gaza

Contributors to the London Review of Books — the best publication out there — react to events in Gaza.

Tariq Ali

A few weeks before the assault on Gaza, the Strategic Studies Institute of the US Army published alevelheaded document on ‘Hamas and Israel’, which argued that ‘Israel’s stance towards the democratically-elected Palestinian government headed by Hamas in 2006, and towards Palestinian national coherence – legal, territorial, political and economic – has been a major obstacle to substantive peacemaking.’ Whatever their reservations about the organisation, the authors of the paper detected signs that Hamas was considering a shift of position even before the blockade:

It is frequently stated that Israel or the United States cannot ‘meet’ with Hamas (although meeting is not illegal; materially aiding terrorism is, if proven) because the latter will not ‘recognise Israel’. In contrast, the PLO has ‘recognised’ Israel’s right to exist and agreed in principle to bargain for significantly less land than the entire West Bank and Gaza Strip, and it is not clear that Israel has ever agreed to accept a Palestinian state. The recognition of Israel did not bring an end to violence, as wings of various factions of the PLO did fight Israelis, especially at the height of the Second (al- Aqsa) Intifada. Recognition of Israel by Hamas, in the way that it is described in the Western media, cannot serve as a formula for peace. Hamas moderates have, however, signaled that it implicitly recognises Israel, and that even a tahdiya (calming, minor truce) or a hudna, a longer-term truce, obviously implies recognition. Khalid Mish’al states: ‘We are realists,’ and there is ‘an entity called Israel,’ but ‘realism does not mean that you have to recognise the legitimacy of the occupation.’ Continue reading “LRB contributors react to events in Gaza”

IDF troops posing as Hamas men

Earlier on January 11 Haaretz published a report by Amira Hass headlined ‘Gaza residents: IDF troops posing as Hamas men‘. The report has curiously disappeared since, replaced by something completely unrelated. However, the readers comments at the bottom are still responding to the Hass’s original report. Following is a cached copy of the original:

The testimonies of Gaza Strip residents are revealing new details about the Israel Defense Forces’ mode of operation there. In the past two days, Beit Lahia residents forced from their homes said soldiers were posing as members of Hamas’ armed wing while advancing on the ground.

The daily pauses in bombing allow Gazans to meet with the displaced – most of whom are housed in an UNRWA school – and hear their stories.

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Another Chorister for Israel

Electronic Intifada, 6 January 2009; Counterpunch, 7 January 2009; Adbusters, January 2009; Arab Media Watch, 6 January 2009

Nidal El-Khairy

On February 29 last year the BBC’s website reported that Israel’s deputy defense minister Matan Vilnai had threated a ‘holocaust’ on Gaza.  The story would undergo nine revisions in the next twelve hours with the original headline —  “Israel warns of Gaza ‘holocaust'”– replaced by “Gaza militants ‘risking disaster’“. (The story has been revised again since then with an exculpatory note added to soft-pedal Vilnai’s comments). One can see why an Israeli threatening a ‘holocaust’ might be unpalatable to those who routinely invoke its spectre to deflect criticism from the Jewish state’s criminal behaviour. In a deft move, not only had the BBC redacted the reference to a ‘holocaust’, it also shifted culpability into the hands of the ‘Gaza militants’.

One could argue that the BBC’s radical alteration of the story reflects its susceptibility to the kind of inordinate pressure routinely brought to bear by the Israel Lobby. But, as subsequent examples reveal, this story is exceptional only for its initial candor. The norm is reflexive self-censorship. Continue reading “Another Chorister for Israel”