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December 07, 2011

Custer ≠ Sitting Bull

By: John Caruso

This article by Glenn Greenwald is generally good, with one glaring exception:

What we find here is that the extremes on both sides of every conflict eventually come to mirror one another perfectly. Israelis settlers and Hamas have an equal desire to prevent a peace agreement and for the same reasons.

The notion that Hamas wants to prevent a peace agreement is certainly received wisdom in the U.S., but it's also completely false.  Here's Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh:

In a rare public appearance, the leader of the Hamas authority in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, said the organisation was willing to accept a Palestinian state within the borders that existed before the 1967 war. [...] "If there is a real plan to resolve the Palestinian question on the basis of the creation of a Palestinian state within the borders of June 4, 1967, and with full sovereignty, we are in favour of it."

Haniyeh said this 6 months after the Israeli attack on Gaza, and he was repeating the same things he'd said well before the attack as well.  And here's Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal:

"There is a position and program that all Palestinians share," he tells NEWSWEEK. "To accept a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with Jerusalem as the capital. With the right of return. And this state would have real sovereignty, on the land and on the borders. And with no settlements."

So Hamas's position is exactly in line with the rest of the civilized world, and the opposition to a peace agreement based on the 1967 borders comes—as it always has—from Israel and the United States.

But the notion that Hamas wants to prevent peace "for the same reasons" as Israeli settlers isn't just factually wrong but fundamentally misguided as well.  Israeli settlers (and the Israeli political establishment generally) want to prevent peace because they know any real peace agreement will mean they'll have to stop stealing Palestinian land, whereas Hamas and other Palestinian resistance groups want to keep them from stealing any more of it.  Even if we were to ignore the facts and accept for the sake of argument that Hamas wants to prevent peace, it's not as though Hamas members are flying from Gaza to establish settlements and set up military checkpoints in Brooklyn.

So not only is there no parity between these two positions, it's impossible for there to be parity between them.  Even the most strident and rejectionist member of Hamas would have a more coherent moral justification for his position than an Israeli settler, and you can no more reasonably equate their motivations than you can compare the Sioux to the European colonists who drove them from the land.

AND ALSO: No discussion of Hamas and peace would be complete without this background:

[B]eginning in the late 1970s, Tel Aviv gave direct and indirect financial aid to Hamas over a period of years. Israel "aided Hamas directly -- the Israelis wanted to use it as a counterbalance to the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization)," said Tony Cordesman, Middle East analyst for the Center for Strategic Studies. [...] "The thinking on the part of some of the right-wing Israeli establishment was that Hamas and the others, if they gained control, would refuse to have any part of the peace process and would torpedo any agreements put in place," said a U.S. government official who asked not to be named.

So whenever you hear an Israeli official bemoaning the lack of a "partner for peace" or claiming that Hamas can't be bargained with, never forget the unspoken clause: exactly as we intended.  In fact the Israeli assault on Gaza in December of 2008 was in large part an attempt to reverse Hamas's acceptance of peace and willingness to pursue change through elections rather than force, but—as the quotes from Haniyeh and Meshaal show—it failed in this way just as it failed in so many others.

— John Caruso

Posted at December 7, 2011 12:04 PM

Isn't military checkpoints how WE stole Brooklyn from The UNTAXABLE INDIANS?

Posted by: Mike Meyer at December 8, 2011 12:55 AM

Isn't "aided Hamas directly" a slight fudge? The Likud government of the day wanted to wedge the PLO by succouring the Islamic Religious Right in the form of Ahmed Yassin's Islamic Association but this was before said organisation founded Hamas itself (after which the Israelis went cool on Yassin and took him out with an air-to-wheelchair missile). But, yes, the Islamic Association were the local branch of the shock! horror! Muslim Brotherhood; y'know, the guys the Brits and Eisenhower tried to help overthrow Nasser.

Just sayin'.

Posted by: weaver at December 8, 2011 05:26 AM

"you can no more reasonably equate their motivations than you can compare the Sioux to the European colonists who drove them from the land."

Well actually, to the Indians who lived in the Black Hills and surrounding areas before the Lakota came in and took over, which is thought by historians to have happened in the late 18th century, the Lakota were probably hated about as much as European colonists, and for pretty much the same general reason. Many of those other Indians--Pawnee, Crow, Arikara, Mandan to name some--hated the "Sioux" as much or more as they hated anybody.

Posted by: N E at December 8, 2011 10:21 AM

No, no, no darling. You are using the l-word in the wrong context. It's only supposed to be typed if it has the word "home" in front of it. That recalls the only good purpose of said area/province/plot.

The word you are looking for is "border."

Posted by: Lewis T at December 8, 2011 01:11 PM

weaver: ...but this was before said organisation founded Hamas itself...

According to Sale's article the funding continued even after Hamas began violently resisting the occupation:

But with the triumph of the Khomeini revolution in Iran, with the birth of Iranian-backed Hezbollah terrorism in Lebanon, Hamas began to gain in strength in Gaza and then in the West Bank, relying on terror to resist the Israeli occupation.

Israel was certainly funding the group at that time. One U.S. intelligence source who asked not to be named said that not only was Hamas being funded as a "counterweight" to the PLO, Israeli aid had another purpose: "To help identify and channel towards Israeli agents Hamas members who were dangerous terrorists."

...(after which the Israelis went cool on Yassin and took him out with an air-to-wheelchair missile).

Yes, if by "after which" you mean 17 years--Yassin wasn't assassinated by Israel until 2004.

Posted by: John Caruso at December 8, 2011 08:39 PM

I would like to add to the discussion, that even by the mid-nineteen nineties, there had been over fifteen moderate groups, some that sprang forth from the Palestinian side of the equation, some from the Israelis, who were moderate groups intent on spreading peace.

And these groups were always decimated - and usually the blame was laid at the feet of the Palestinians. Often the violent end of a moderate group would come just as whatever Zionist candidate was about to see himself re-elected.

Posted by: Elise Mattu at December 8, 2011 09:14 PM

Yes, if by "after which" you mean 17 years--Yassin wasn't assassinated by Israel until 2004.

Well, he was an favourite bad guy for the Israelis for a long time before nthey whacked him.

The interesting thing is how neatly the Likud plan paralleled the efforts of Wetsern imperialists to succour religious right Muslim groups and leaders as a counter to third world leftism and nationalism - Zia and the Afghan mujahideen being the most famous examples. It seems like these people always have the same dumbass idea.

Posted by: weaver at December 10, 2011 05:08 AM