Paul McGeough on Hamas

February 12, 2009

The Sydney Morning Herald’s Middle East correspondent, Paul McGeough, is interviewed by Katia Bachko in the latest issue of Columbia Journalism Review.  McGeough is working on a book that explores Hamas’ 20-year history, and so in this interview he reflects on what it means to represent key players in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in the face of the kinds of gross simplifications that often circulate in the media, but he also looks at what Hamas is, what the organization means to Palestinians, and what it means to Israelis.  Here’s an excerpt:

To simply state that somebody is a moderate or somebody is a militant, and expect the reader to use that as the sole description or descriptor of an individual or an organization, doesn’t deliver all that could be delivered. You’re talking about Hamas? Hamas are militants, yes, they are militants who appealed to Palestinians at an election that was supervised by Western observers and deemed to be fair, and Palestinians chose the militants not necessarily because of their militancy, but because of their belief in them on a whole range of issues. And then you have to ask, “if they’re militants, if they are terrorists, how did they get to be allowed to contest an election? Who let them contest an election?” Israelis allowed them to contest the election, Americans allowed them to contest the election, Fatah allowed them to contest the election.Right up until that first election that Hamas contested in 2006, Hamas had been saying, “We represent about fifty percent of Palestinian public opinion, therefore we should be accorded that level of representation in various Palestinian forums.” And everyone laughed, and said no, that’s not true, that’s not right, and so they allowed them to contest the election. Even though they had refused to renounce violence. There’s not too many militant or nationalist or liberation groups that have been allowed to contest elections without renouncing violence. They were allowed to do so, and they won the election. That has to count for something in your assessment in where Hamas stands in Palestinian affairs, and in the region.

He also asks: what is Fatah, that Hamas could beat them in this election?  He does a good job of showing us the complexities behind easy words like “moderate” and “terrorist,” what makes Hamas as an organization that uses terror different from a terrorist organization like al-Qaeda, and how deeply hated corrupt Fatah had become by the time it was elected out of power.

–L.L. Wynn

Israel admits: NO Hamas rockets during ceasefire

January 15, 2009


For 18 days the Israeli Government has justified to the world that their decision to unleash a massive military campaign against the people of Gaza was as a direct result of Hamas’ breach of the ceasefire brokered by the Egyptian Government.

Hamas has always stated that between June 2008 and November 2008 they did not fire a single rocket into Israel.

In a recent interview given to Channel 4 News, the Israeli Government’s official spokesman Mark Ragev finally admitted that Hamas did not break the ceasefire.

So by their own admission the Israeli Government broke the terms of the ceasefire first and in doing so have slaughtered almost 1000 people and injured over 3000, not to mention wantonly destroying the infrastructure of Gaza.

Who ends ceasefires, Israel or Hamas?

January 14, 2009

Some interesting research from a group at MIT, led by Nancy Kanwisher, Nancy the Ellen Swallow Richards Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at MIT.  The team plots out and graphs who it is that breaks the peace when there has been a lull in killing between Israel and Palestine.  A quote:

We decided to tally the data to find out. We analyzed the entire timeline of killings of Palestinians by Israelis, and killings of Israelis by Palestinians, in the Second Intifada, based on the data from the widely-respected Israeli Human Rights group B’Tselem (including all the data from September 2000 to October 2008).

The answer?

Thus, a systematic pattern does exist: it is overwhelmingly Israel, not Palestine, that kills first following a lull. Indeed, it is virtually always Israel that kills first after a lull lasting more than a week.

The lessons from these data are clear:

First, Hamas can indeed control the rockets, when it is in their interest. The data shows that ceasefires can work, reducing the violence to nearly zero for months at a time.

Second, if Israel wants to reduce rocket fire from Gaza, it should cherish and preserve the peace when it starts to break out, not be the first to kill.

Check out the original argument for the graphs.  Also, check out this discouraging news report that makes it look like Bush is Olmert’s marionette, with Israel pulling the strings of American foreign policy…

Inter-Palestinian reconciliation proposal

October 22, 2008

Below is an English-language translation of the full text of Egypt’s draft proposal for inter-Palestinian reconciliation, which was published today in the Lebanese daily, al-Akhbar. The translation is taken from Mideast Mirror’s Arab World section for October 21, 2008. The proposal specifies the date for a comprehensive inter-Palestinian dialogue, before moving on to the clauses of the agreement that the Palestinian factions are meant to sign on November 29th. Read the rest of this entry »

Palestine coverage through 17 July 08

July 17, 2008

Today’s selection of articles largely skips over the coverage of the Israeli prisoner swap with Hezbollah while searching elsewhere for news of Israel’s continued practice of abducting Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza and using them as bargaining chips of various kinds to pressure the PA, or Hamas, or to appease its own right-wing public. These abductions and kidnappings happen day-in, day-out, week after week, month after month, year after year, and are never called by their proper name: hostage-taking. So today, a day when the news is dominated by the Israel-Hezbollah hostage-exchange, let’s think about these everyday Israeli practices in the Palestinian Territories. We know the international outrage that ensues when a single Israeli is captured by Palestinians — imagine if we lived in a world where Palestinian forces engaged in routine raids in Israeli cities and towns and detained Israeli civilians, politicians, family members of suspected Israeli militants. We will have to consign that scenario to science-fiction, but the outrage it would provoke is not hard to conjure. Now see how much outrage can be conjured by the 2 stories compiled below (that are so below the radar, they do not even get reported in the mainstream western press) of this week’s abductions.

The first article in the selection and the last are on the same subject — the last (#12 below) by Gideon Levy captures all of the astonishing cruelty that the inert language of the first article (about the targeting of philanthropic endeavors) misses while reporting the same facts. Other pieces cover Israeli raids and abductions of Palestinians from their towns, the disparate impact of the Gaza siege on women, Blair’s decision to skip a visit to Gaza on the grounds of security concerns, various ways in which Israel has downgraded consideration of a Hamas prisoner exchange for Gilad Shalit, and EU criticism of Israeli settlements in the recent Mediterranean summit. Many of you might not realize it, but a delegation of Palestinian officials is currently visiting DC about the “peace process.” Coverage of their visit highlights the low low expectations for any head way on peace.

Finally, on a slightly more upbeat note one article speaks of Ramallah’s preparations for Obama’s impending visit, while another traces the Palestinian-Israeli conflict through Facebook. Read the rest of this entry »

Vanity Fair on U.S. politics and Gaza

March 4, 2008

As US warships gather on the coast of Lebanon and Israel conducts a bloody killing operation in Gaza, how timely that Vanity Fair has just published a long article describing how U.S. meddling in Gaza politics has “[left] Hamas stronger than ever.” Abstract and link below:

By David Rose
Vanity Fair Magazine
April 2008

After failing to anticipate Hamas’s victory over Fatah in the 2006 Palestinian election, the White House cooked up yet another scandalously covert and self-defeating Middle East debacle: part Iran-contra, part Bay of Pigs. With confidential documents, corroborated by outraged former and current U.S. officials, David Rose reveals how President Bush, Condoleezza Rice, and Deputy National-Security Adviser Elliott Abrams backed an armed force under Fatah strongman Muhammad Dahlan, touching off a bloody civil war in Gaza and leaving Hamas stronger than ever.

Palestine coverage through 23 Feb 08

February 24, 2008

Today’s news roundup begins with the grim tally of Palestinians killed and injured by the most recent rounds of Israeli strikes within their territories. The story of the Japanese translator shot in the eye by the IDF as he observed a nonviolent protest of the Wall at Bilin is especially typical of the senseless brutality of life day-in, day-out under Israeli occupation. It is also representative of the stories that are never picked up from the wires in the mainstream press because they might suggest to English-speaking audiences that Palestinians are engaging in nonviolent resistance.

Additional pieces that reflect the daily struggle to survive under occupation include news of the extension of the Israeli closure of all Palestinian representation in East Jerusalem as well as the denial of 94% of all requested permits to build in the West Bank and East Jerusalem submitted by Palestinians even as settlement activity to create Israeli facts on the ground in occupied Jerusalem and the West Bank goes forward. Read the rest of this entry »