The Plot Against Hamas and Khalid Mishal

Khalid Mishal, leader of Hamas' political wing
Khalid Mishal, leader of Hamas' political wing

Paul McGeough’s Kill Khalid on the rise to prominence of the Hamas leader Mishal is examined in The London Review of Books this month. This astute analysis by Adam Shatz helps to dispel some of the myths propagated towards the Palestinian resistance group and its leader as a mindless Islamist entity hellbent on eradicating world Jewry, instead portraying Mishal as a shrewd realist politician. For instance, it is often circulated by Israel and its western backers that Hamas is “committed to the destruction of Israel”, making reference to its renowned 1988 charter. Much like the misquoted and possibly misinterpreted words attributed to Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad towards Israel, the charter in fact makes calls to ‘raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine’, which certainly falls short of a complete annihilation of Jews in the region that is often suggested. However even if this early manifesto does imply such extreme measures, Shatz notes that its fails to reflect the contemporary thinking of the group, with Mishal reportedly viewing that particular article as an embarrassment. Other important aspects of the group (often absent in the rhetoric of the mainstream western narrative towards Israel-Palestine) is Mishal’s announcement in Mecca in 2007 that the group would be willing to begin negotiation over a peace settlement based on a pre-1967 borders two-state solution (which would not necessarily be the permanent solution). Another is and the offering of a ‘Hudna’, a truce lasting as long as 30 years. Although the Obama administration’s language has softened, the relative isolation towards Hamas remains. While Hamas retains such popular support amongst Palestinians in occupied lands, the legitimacy of any peace talks will be questionable.

In early September 1997, Danny Yatom, the head of Mossad, arranged a special screening for Binyamin Netanyahu, who was then prime minister. The film, shot on the streets of Tel Aviv, presented the plan for the assassination of Khalid Mishal, the head of Hamas’s political bureau in Amman. Twenty-one Israelis had died in Hamas suicide attacks in the previous two months, and Netanyahu was eager for revenge. The peace process might be undermined, but that would be just as well: Netanyahu shared Hamas’s hostility to Oslo, and had compared trading land for peace to appeasement with Hitler. Mishal, Paul McGeough writes in Kill Khalid, his gripping account of the plot, was selected from a list of targets by Netanyahu not only because he was suspected of orchestrating the suicide bomb campaign, but because he made an articulate case for Hamas’s position, in a suit rather than clerical robes: ‘he was too credible as an emerging leader of Hamas, persuasive even. He had to be taken out.’ Continue reading “The Plot Against Hamas and Khalid Mishal”