What does Hamas want?

Most people in the west have been wilfully mis- or dis-informed about Hamas and believe either that it is made up of wild-eyed men of violence who perpetrate violence for its own sake, or that its main goal is the violent expulsion of all Jewish people from Israel/Palestine.
These impressions are quite misleading.Yes, Hamas has used significant amounts of violence against Israelis since it was founded in 1987. But so too has Israel, against Hamas. Indeed, Israel has killed many times more Hamas supporters and leaders than Hamas has ever killed Israelis. Does that mean we understand Israelis to be only “mindless, wild-eyed men of violence”? No. For both sides, we need to try to understand what they seek to achieve with the violence they use; as well as the conditions under which they can be expected to moderate or end it.
Earlier today, I tried to untangle the intentions/hopes of Israel’s leaders when they unleashed the present wave of violence, here.
Now it’s time to try to do the same for Hamas. It is worth noting upfront that the large-scale escalation was the one that was launched by Israel, yesterday. What Hamas had done, prior to that, was not launch any particularly new surges of violence; mainly, it announced it would not be renewing the six-month-long ceasefire (tahdi’eh) it had maintained, by mutual agreement, with Israel since last June. That, after numerous significant Israeli infractions of the ceasefire, especially since November.
So Question 1 here might be: Why, precisely, did Hamas decide it would not renew the ceasefire? That question probably needs more studying. Israel’s violations in the ceasefire’s last weeks are presumably one factor. But if Hamas really wanted the ceasefire renewed, was there more it could have done to try to negotiate that? I don’t know. One thing I do recall, though, is some angry accusations by Hamas spokesmen in recent weeks that the Egyptian government officials who in the first half of the year had worked long and hard to broker the June ceasefire had ceased (in Hamas’s view) to play an “honest broker” role, and were putting pressure on Hamas to continue the ceasefire on terms much more favorable to Israel than during the first ceasefire.
Egypt, we can note, is deeply entangled in the whole Hamas-Israel dynamic in numerous inescapable ways.
At a broader level than Question 1, Question 2 would be, “What broader strategy has the Hamas leadership been pursuing in recent years, anyway, and how might the present war be expected to impact on that?”
I think I have some answers to that, gleaned over the course of many years of watching the organization, and from interviews I conducted with the elected Hamas leaders in Gaza in March 2006 and with overall Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal, in Damascus last January. You can see a portal to these interviews and most of my other writings on Hamas over the past three years, here. Most of that material was summarized and analyzed in this piece published in the May/June 2008 edition of Boston Review. Few other westerners have had the opportunity to talk with with these Hamas leaders as deeply as I have; and almost none of them have ever done so, as I have, on the record.
Bottom line:

    1.The Hamas leaders do not place nearly as high a priority on achieving a “two-state solution” with Israel as the leaders of Fateh and its allies have for the past 35 years. The Hamas leaders would, however, be prepared to “go along with” some form of a two-state situation– in the guise of prolonged “hudna” (truce)– provided the conditions for that two-state situation do not impinge unacceptably on the national rights of the Palestinians regarding key issues such as territory (especially in and around the Holy City of Jerusalem), refugee rights, and the freedom of political action of the Palestinian state or entity.
    2. Until now they have not seen the political dynamics in the region as conducive to the achievement of any acceptable form of hudna, so they have not spent much time trying to explore this option or guide their people toward it. Instead, they have placed their highest priority on the defensive aim of preserving the Islamic and Palestinian presence within the land of Mandate Palestine as strongly as possible. That includes the Islamic/Palestinian presence inside Israel as well as in Gaza and the West Bank.
    3. Because of the movement’s historic roots and continuing strong presence in Gaza, they have been very concerned indeed with trying to preserve and strengthen the Islamic and Palestinian presence and institutions in that tiny Strip, which is densely packed with a population, 80% of whom are refugees from lands and properties that are now within Israel . The Hamas leaders saw Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from the Strip in 2005 and their own win in the Palestinian legislative elections of January 2006 as significant victories for their path of armed steadfastness, as opposed to Fateh’s path of relying only on negotiations.
    4. To help preserve their gains in Gaza– as well as to win some non-trivial strategic-political depth for the Palestinian movement everywhere– they have placed a high priority on opening the border between Gaza and Egypt for the passage of people and goods, thereby ending Israel’s effectively total encirclement of Gaza, part of which Israel has sub-contracted to Egypt.
    5. Hamas anyway has close links at a number of different levels with the political situation in Egypt. Egypt, remember, was the administrative power in Gaza between 1949 and 1967; and prior to 1949 it had many other centuries-old ties with Gaza, too. Also, at the political level, Hamas was the creation of the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood, an offshoot of the broader MB movement which was started in Egypt and retains deep roots there.
    6. The Hamas leaders have stressed the importance of opening the Gaza-Egypt border since at least 2006; and that stress continues till today. See, for example, this news release from Hamas, earlier today. This demand assumed high visibility when hundreds of thousands Gazawis bust down the fence between Gaza and Egypt earlier this year. But for Hosni Mubarak’s ossified but US-supported regime in Egypt, this demand is extremely problematic. Mubarak is bound by the terms of the 1979 Israel-Egypt treaty not to support any forces hostile to Israel. (The same treaty also severely limits the number of security personnel of any kind that he can deploy anywhere near his border with Gaza or Israel.) Plus, the main supporters within Egypt of closer Egyptian ties with Gaza are the Egyptian MB, who pose a significant domestic threat to the legitimacy– or perhaps even the survival– of Mubarak’s regime…

So now, given the ferocity of Israel’s assault against Gaza, it is a time of tough reckoning for all pro-American bodies within the region, and first in line among them are Fateh and their associates in the leadership of the Ramallah-based Palestinian Administration– and the Government of Egypt.
Tomorrow (Monday), the Muslim Brotherhood has called for big demonstrations in Cairo and other Egyptian cities. Let’s see how the regional dynamics of the coming weeks unfold…
One final question: How might the new situation of the that Israel has launched on Gaza be expected to impact on Hamas’s attainment of its political-strategic goals?
In response to that I’d say, first, that the Israelis do seem to have achieved quite a degree of tactical surprise in the timing of their attack against Gaza. The Palestinian casualties were quite a lot higher than would have been the case if Hamas had been expecting it at that time, and had been able to evacuate installations like the police stations.
On the other hand, Gaza doesn’t have a whole lot of deep, well-protected underground shelters for its people to go hide in, such as are found in all Israel’s population centers. Most of Gaza’s 1.5 million people have to play the role of sitting ducks whenever Israel’s US-supplies warplanes roar in. They have no alternative.
The casualty rate is tragic, tragic– for Palestinians and for all of humanity. How many potential Einsteins or Baryshnikovs are among the children and young people whose lives are snuffed out or forever blighted by these terrorizing air-raids??
But at a cynical, Realpolitik level, these casualty levels are not, actually, all that bad for Hamas and its attainment of its political goals. They severely undermine Abu Mazen, Hosni Mubarak, and all the other cast of corrupt and US-supported leaders in the region.
These raids will also not succeed in snuffing out Hamas, a movement which is as much an idea of religiously-buttressed resistance, as it is an actual political party. You can’t snuff out such a movement simply by killing even hundreds of its members or supporters, or scores of its leaders. Israel pursued the leadership-decapitation strategy through much of the 1990s and early 2000s. It killed three or four successive generations of Hamas leaders with its broad strategy of assassinations– but the movement as a whole only dug in deeper.
So what, at the end of the day, do the Hamas leaders want? They want, firstly, what all other other people in the world want: the ability to nurture and build their national community in their own national homeland free of the threat of violence, encirclement, and siege from any outside powers. They want their land and resources to be free of the threat of being expropriated by any outside power. They want free access to their holy places and the ability to exercise control over them. They want satisfactory redress or restitution for the injustices of the past.
These aims are not so different from what most Israelis want for themselves, too. Are the national goals of Israelis completely incompatible with those of the pro-Hamas Palestinians? I don’t think so. In an environment in which the equal humanity and the basic needs of all people are respected, people of good will could certainly see a way in which the claims of Hamas’s Palestinian supporters and those of Israelis could all be met to a degree sufficient to allow the continued peaceful coexistence between the two peoples within the land that to which both are deeply attached.
Today, we might still seem to be far away from such an environment. But the notion that the claims of Jewish Israelis should everywhere and always be completely privileged over those of Palestinians is an anachronism in today’s world. It is an anachronism, true, that has been upheld for many decades now by the US, which has been the predominant power in the international system since at least the 1970s. But it’s an anachronism that can’t be given continued credence in the international system for very much longer.
The United Nations has a fine set of guiding principles– including the principles of human equality and of the need to solve conflicts through means other than violence– that are needed in the interconnected world of the 21st century more than ever before. It is time those principles were brought to bear on the long-stormy relationship between Israelis and Palestinians. If that happens, then creative ways can be found to include Hamas in the urgently-needed task of finding a workable political solution to this conflict.
In this deeply tragic relationship as all others, war can most certainly not today provide any satisfactory answer.

32 thoughts on “What does Hamas want?”

  1. The New York Times public editor had quite a rational take on the modern witchhunt.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/14/opinion/14pubed.html?pagewanted=1&sq=public%20editor&st=cse&scp=7
    To the consternation of many, The Times does not call Hamas a terrorist organization, though it sponsors acts of terror against Israel. Hamas was elected to govern Gaza. It provides social services and operates charities, hospitals and clinics. Corbett said: “You get to the question: Somebody works in a Hamas clinic — is that person a terrorist? We don’t want to go there.” I think that is right
    ……
    My own broad guideline: If it looks as if it was intended to sow terror and it shocks the conscience, whether it is planes flying into the World Trade Center, gunmen shooting up Mumbai, or a political killer in a little girl’s bedroom, I’d call it terrorism — by terrorists.

  2. dis-informed about Hamas and believe either that it is made up of wild-eyed men of violence who perpetrate violence for its own sake, or that its main goal is the violent expulsion of all Jewish people from Israel/Palestine.
    Ben Gurion Himself had no difficulty disentangling the rhetoric of self-defence from the reality of conquest in 1938:

    When we say that Arabs are the aggressors and we defend ourselves- that is only half the truth. As regards our security and life we defend ourselves…..But the fighting is only one aspect of the conflict which is in its essence a political one. And politically we are the aggressors and they defend themselves

  3. The New York Times public editor had quite a rational take on the modern witchhunt.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/14/opinion/14pubed.html?pagewanted=1&sq=public%20editor&st=cse&scp=7
    To the consternation of many, The Times does not call Hamas a terrorist organization, though it sponsors acts of terror against Israel. Hamas was elected to govern Gaza. It provides social services and operates charities, hospitals and clinics. Corbett said: “You get to the question: Somebody works in a Hamas clinic — is that person a terrorist? We don’t want to go there.” I think that is right
    ……
    My own broad guideline: If it looks as if it was intended to sow terror and it shocks the conscience, whether it is planes flying into the World Trade Center, gunmen shooting up Mumbai, or a political killer in a little girl’s bedroom, I’d call it terrorism — by terrorists.

  4. Oh for God’ssake.
    Apologies for the multiple postings. The amchine has been giving error messages and storing the comments up.
    Helena can we have a delete and a corrction facility for new year like Josh Landid blog?

  5. The Israelis should be reminded of what Ben Gurion stated as a reality that they have been and are facing:
    ” Why should the Arabs make peace? If I was an Arab leader I would never make terms with Israel. THAT IS NATURAL WE HAVE TAKEN THEIR COUNTRY” –
    David Ben Gurion, 1956, quoted by Nahum Goldmann in The Jewish Paradox, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1978, p.99.
    ITS WORTH REPEATING
    (ITS) WE HAVE TAKEN THERI COUNTRY…………

  6. It seems the gremlins (?) are in out-to-get jwn. (the difficulty getting up discussion comments and now the underling of everything)
    Let’s see if I can get this up, the most outrageous quote of the day:
    Israel is trying to avoid civilian casualties, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni told reporters Monday, while “Hamas is looking for children to kill.”
    “Hamas is targeting deliberately kindergartens and schools and citizens and civilians because this is according to their values. Our values are completely different. We are trying to target Hamas, which hides among civilians,” Livni said.
    Great propaganda for the US media, and Faux News in particular…. One problem, if you think about it, Hamas IS the civilians.
    This is but a short step away from admitting that in the Marty Peretz mindset, that they all deserve to die…..

  7. Helena,
    I believe it is the United Arab Council that sponsors a full page ad in the New York Times in the last few weeks. Given the euphemisms even you had to put in quotations when quoting the Hamas position, it appears that Hamas will not accept the positions represented by the 20 -30 Muslim Nation endorsing this (Palestinian Authority included).
    Is it possible for Hamas to accept these terms (emphasis on the recognition of Israel’s right to exist, not just an implicit but explicit expression followed by the appropriate actions?)?
    What do you think of this ad campaign? Does it have substance?

  8. I hardly think Hamas could ever accept Israel’s ‘right to exist’ as no such right has ever existed in international law, for any country, ever.
    Besides, in accepting such a ‘right’, Hamas would basically be saying “Not only did you, Israel, take our land, kill and displace our people, and try toobliberate centuries of our history, but it is RIGHT and just that you should have done so.” Bit of a non-starter, I should think. “United Arab Council” sound likes a bit of joke to me.
    On another note, I can’t help but be struck by the naivete of Hamas vis a vis Egypt. Even a casual outside observer like me could see that the Egyptians were up to no good a long time ago. Surely they can’t be that stupid? Or can they?

  9. What Hamas wants (in their words, not yours:)
    Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it
    Our struggle against the Jews is very great and very serious.
    death for the sake of Allah is the loftiest of [HAMAS’] wishes.
    The Islamic Resistance Movement believes that the land of Palestine [ie including Israel] is an Islamic Waqf consecrated for future Moslem generations until Judgement Day. It, or any part of it, should not be squandered: it, or any part of it, should not be given up
    Nothing in nationalism is more significant or deeper than in the case when an enemy should tread Moslem land.
    Initiatives, and so-called peaceful solutions and international conferences, are in contradiction to the principles of the Islamic Resistance Movement…These conferences are only ways of setting the infidels in the land of the Moslems as arbitraters.
    we are unable to exchange the present or future Islamic Palestine with the secular idea. The Islamic nature of Palestine is part of our religion and whoever takes his religion lightly is a loser.

    Israel, Judaism and Jews challenge Islam and the Moslem people.
    “The Day of Judgement will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him. Only the Gharkad tree, (evidently a certain kind of tree) would not do that because it is one of the trees of the Jews.” (related by al-Bukhari and Moslem).
    You have to admit that these passages – taken verbatim from the HAMAS covenant, its literal declaration of purpose – fly in the face of your conclusions. As far as I know no HAMAS leader has renounced any part of this document.
    So why should we privilege your inferences over HAMAS’ own public stance? Wouldn’t ‘a decent respect for the opinions of mankind’ ask that HAMAS renounce this racist screed in its entirety?
    http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/hamas.asp

  10. Please, oh please.
    First, here is what both sides want, as per the NY Times:
    “Opening the routes to commerce was Hamas’s main goal in its cease-fire with Israel, just as ending the rocket fire was Israel’s central aim. But while rocket fire did go down drastically in the fall to 15 to 20 a month from hundreds a month, Israel said it would not permit trade to begin again because the rocket fire had not completely stopped and because Hamas continued to smuggle weapons from Egypt through desert tunnels. Hamas said this was a violation of the agreement, a sign of Israel’s real intentions and cause for further rocket fire. On Wednesday [12/24/08], some 70 rockets hit Israel over 24 hours, in a distinct increase in intensity.”
    Dear Hamas:
    STOP THE ROCKET FIRE!!!!!!!
    That simple…and your blog is completely biased towards Hamas. Their stated goal is to get rid of Israel. Israel stated goal to be able to exist. All the corruption you accuse anyone who does not side with Hamas of, that only those “in the know” (i.e. not Westerners, who are stupid victims of “Bush’s lies” according to you) are privy to, are meaningless when, out in the open, your main goal is the elimination of the other side. Why people downplay that is anyone’s guess, but THAT is the reason for the violence.

  11. Please, oh please.
    First, here is what both sides want, as per the NY Times:
    “Opening the routes to commerce was Hamas’s main goal in its cease-fire with Israel, just as ending the rocket fire was Israel’s central aim. But while rocket fire did go down drastically in the fall to 15 to 20 a month from hundreds a month, Israel said it would not permit trade to begin again because the rocket fire had not completely stopped and because Hamas continued to smuggle weapons from Egypt through desert tunnels. Hamas said this was a violation of the agreement, a sign of Israel’s real intentions and cause for further rocket fire. On Wednesday [12/24/08], some 70 rockets hit Israel over 24 hours, in a distinct increase in intensity.”
    Dear Hamas:
    STOP THE ROCKET FIRE!!!!!!!
    That simple…and your blog is completely biased towards Hamas. Their stated goal is to get rid of Israel. Israel stated goal to be able to exist. All the corruption you accuse anyone who does not side with Hamas of, that only those “in the know” (i.e. not Westerners, who are stupid victims of “Bush’s lies” according to you) are privy to, are meaningless when, out in the open, your main goal is the elimination of the other side. Why people downplay that is anyone’s guess, but THAT is the reason for the violence.

  12. Vadim,
    Ironic you quote the American declaration of independence, throwing off the chains of its colonial master, when making the comparison to the Hamas covenant. An Islamic scholar, studied at the University of Florida and currently employed at the US institution in Beirut, describes the covenant of Muslims to their faith, accepting their plurality with Christians and Jews, as the equivalent of any national oath forbidding acts of treason against the state.
    Zionism in the land of Palestine has hardened these religious sentiments, thus it is not surprising that the original people of Palestine are adopting strong oaths and covenants to shake off the Zionist colonizer. I thought back in the 1990s that Israelis were sacrificing the last opportunity to reach a negotiated peace deal with Palestinians when the secularized Fateh leadership offered its commitment to a land for peace settlement. Instead Israel’s leadership sought to hold on to as much post-1967 land as it possibly could, with the expected disastrous results. Israelis should have jumped at the opportunity to return West Bank settlements for the use of returning Palestinian refugees from Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan. That was the only fair deal on the table.
    Instead the hubris, chutzpah, and sheer ignorance of Israeli leaders scuttled the prospect for peace. I think it is true now that Palestinians will fight until the bloody end, and America will likely sink with Israel pulled down by the passionate ties that so corruptly bind the two. During the era of land for peace talks, when it became clear that Israelis were offering only partial land, the Palestinian people were under no obligation to offer more than a token peace in return. Now the battle is engaged.
    During the American revolutionary war, British military commanders often referred to irregular US militia as terrorist and bandits because of the way they violated the established rules of war: not standing in lines for engagement in open fields of combat; creating ambushes where British commanders were targeted for assassination; in some cases, adopting the fighting tactics of native American indians.
    On many of my trips to Israel, one of the greatest mythologies I found among Israeli citizens was their belief that they themselves were the native people of Palestine who fought off British colonizers, not the Palestinian Muslim and Christian and Jewish citizens who lived on the land for centuries. The mythology of modern Zionism is so twisted that it knows not what its own ignorance and stubbornness and sheer blindness will bring.

  13. Zionism in the land of Palestine has hardened these religious sentiments, thus it is not surprising that the original people of Palestine are adopting strong oaths and covenants to shake off the Zionist colonizer.
    Sd, the topic of this post is “what HAMAS wants” — not Zionism or colonialism. Plenty of Palestinians have suffered alongside members of HAMAS without adopting their racist and retrograde political agenda. & no counselor, a charter calling for the wholesale slaughter of Jews, Freemasons and Rotarians isn’t a “strong oath” just like the pledge of allegiance. Quite obviously it does nothing to “shake off the colonizer” since it’s done more than any hasbarasa piece in the NYT to harden US sympathies (unfairly) against Palestinians, who by and large seem NOT accept this ridiculousness.

  14. “Why, precisely, did Hamas decide it would not renew the ceasefire?”
    Why indeed, Helena? Even more to the point, having UNILATERALLY decided NOT to renew the ceasefire why did Hamas then proceed to immediately launch scores of mortars and rockets against Israeli civilian areas?
    Why did Hamas make the choice to give Israel both a spurious higher moral gound and the pretext for retaliation?
    Could it be that the Hamas testosterone fuelled-military wing prevailed ONCE AGAIN over a more pragmatic political wing? Is this why Egypt suddenly had to abandon the well publicised negotiations that were supposed to be taking place with the PA before the ceasefire expired? Could this be the reason Egypt and other Arab countries have washed their hands of Hamas and appear to be privately quite delighted with the Israeli action?
    Hubris and arrogance have clearly overtaken the Hamas military wing — fuelled by the kind of adulation that its fans in the west like Helena have bestowed on it for the last four years. Like Hezbollah in 2006 Hamas obviously did not anticipate the scale and ferocity of the Israeli response.
    The only way now for Hamas to save face is to remount a wave of suicide bombings and/or kill Galid Shalit. Either action will only give Irsael greater pretext and President Billary-Obama more reason to leave the fate of the Gaza Palestinians to Hamas’s increasingly insane military rule and the next Israeli admin.

  15. So Hamas should have a charter that kisses izzy’s hand and praises him for murdering their families, for stealing their land and their homes, for deporting them to Gaza refugee camps, where it has continued to starve and bomb them for decades? So Hamas should not want their patrimony returned and dignity for their people?
    I suggest you read “The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine” by Ilan Pappe. No Nazi or Stalinist could have done it better.
    I suggest you read the statements of your great religious leaders, take the first Rabbi of Israel. Hamas is mild compared to your rabbis.
    Israel would never have come into existence without the help and support of the Soviet Union. Not only did it receive armaments from them, it copied the Soviet Union’s policies and methods in deporting its own Palestinian population. Jabotinsky’s words of praise for the Soviet methods are on record.
    And the Russian jews are all over Israel. The Russians have a history of racism towards the peoples from the Caucasus, the Chechens, the Tatars. It was easy to transfer that racism to the Palestinians, witness Lieberman and his followers, the vast majority of whom are Russian jews. Read some of their pronouncements. Those same Russian jews seem to especially be prominent in the Border Guard, the ones who directly vent their enhanced feelings of superiority upon the Palestinians.
    I live in an Eastern Euopean country that was occupied by the Soviet Union and where it was Soviet policy to dilute the native population by sending in masses of Russians. And where they were ‘primus inter pares’ for 50 years. I have also been to Palestine. And the similiarities are striking.
    Just one more observation. Read the real estate section of the Jerusalem Post. So-called ‘Arab’ houses, those that were expropriated from the Palestinians, are the desired housing among the colonists, and fetch far, far higher prices than what the colonists have built themselves. Just like in my country. When the Russians came, they expropriated the houses built before the Russian invasion, not the crap they built themselves.
    Vadim, you sound like a typical, run of the mill, whiny Russian that can’t reconcile himself to the collapse of the Soviet Union. And you’ve found a replacement in the racist, we-are-the-chosen-ones Israel.

  16. bb, Malnutrition causes many physical defects, among them an inability to reason well. Perfect material for future suicide bombers.
    And by refusing the Gazans fuel to run their sewage system, you’ve caused raw sewage to be pumped into the Med, which is polluting the pristine jews-only beaches of Israel.
    Doesn’t there seem to be a defect in the übermech way of reasoning here? And it doesn’t stop with deliberately starving children.
    Israel has been planning this invasion of Gaza for a year. The rockets have nothing to do with it. The izzy’s would have found another reason, for example, THE TUNNELS, THE TUNNELS!
    This invasion may well bring about a change of government policies in Egypt, among other benefits. The Muslim Brotherhood is waiting. You may even see some spill-over from Lebanon. Read Nasrallah’s speech. There has been talk about the ‘foreign fighters’ from Iraq looking for new battlefields and infiltrating into the Palestinian territories. No doubt there are willing candidates in Iran also.
    All these emerging forces realize the US is weak and has no taste for more foreign adventures. And it ain’t got no mo’ money to keep bailing the shitty little country out. And in closing, a BIG thank you to Bernie Madoff.

  17. So Hamas should not want their patrimony returned and dignity for their people?
    How exactly is HAMAS racist & genocidal charter dignified? It seems pretty undignified to me, almost as undignified as the spectacle of “peace advocates” brushing it under the carpet.
    Sorry to hear you hate Russians as much as Jews. But since I’m neither Russian nor Jewish maybe you can spare me any more of your bigoted vitriol.
    Even more to the point, having UNILATERALLY decided NOT to renew the ceasefire why did Hamas then proceed to immediately launch scores of mortars and rockets against Israeli civilian areas?
    Against the will of large majorities of Palestinians, in a transparent effort to juice their lagging popular support.
    http://www.earthtimes.org/articles/show/245732,poll-fatah-more-popular-than-hamas-but-hamas-decline-stops.html
    74 per cent of the respondents support renewal of the ceasefire between Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, and Israel…Hamas would get 28 per cent of the Palestinian votes if elections were held today while Fatah would get a comfortable lead of 42 per cent.

  18. “Why did Hamas make the choice to give Israel both a spurious higher moral gound and the pretext for retaliation?”
    Again, the very nature of their organization and their stated goals according to their charter virtually guarantee Israel’s high moral ground.
    Until the language of Hamas changes, Israel will always have the sympathy of the west. Can you imagine a Palestinian people without the radical tough talk and suicide bombers? Try. People would be bending over backwards to help them reclaim their land, their diginity and their pride.

  19. Vadim-
    That poll of Palestinian public opinion was taken before Israel’s bombing of civilian centers in Gaza and the massacre of more than 300 people. I suspect that Palestinian opinion is shifting dramatically in the other direction, and it is likely happening in the West Bank as well as Gaza, not to mention Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Syria, and Iraq.
    The effect of Israeli actions is bound to create a new merger of Islamist sentiments across the region. I just heard Bernie Made-offs good friend Mort Zuckerman droning on-and-on about Hamas being the creation of Shia Ayatollahs in Iran and Sunnis of Egypt and Syria and Jordan being grateful to the Israelis for getting rid of a Shia menace in Gaza. It is amazing how such imbeciles are given airtime on US tv, not to mention their acquiring ownership of major newspapers and magazines.
    The only one present on this US tv show making anything close to a rational analysis was Pat Buchanan, Richard Nixon’s former speech writer. What does that say about the current predicament of American foreign policy? The “special relationship” with ISrael which perpetuates such terrible warfare and fighting in the Middle East must come to a stop, and the only way for that to happen is to forego the perpetual Zionist myth-making and reckon with certain truths that Zionism sought to bury since 1947.
    This means an Obama administration needs to push Israeli leaders toward some form of “Truth and Reconciliation” process with Palestinians, necessitating the abandonment of illegal settlements and the restoration of rights for Palestinian refugees either through repatriation or full financial compensation.

  20. That poll of Palestinian public opinion was taken before Israel’s bombing of civilian centers in Gaza
    HAMAS ‘security forces’ aren’t civilians. And yes the poll was taken before HAMAS resumed firing its rockets (on whose behalf?)

  21. Vadim, the “Hamas security forces” Israel has been bombing are police officers – civil servants – and the security facilities are police stations. And by the way, those police officers are the very same police officers who had among their responsibilities enforcing observance of the ceasefire among militant groups outside of Hamas. And how do I know this? Well, a long-time and very dear friend of mine lives very near the first “Hamas security” facility that was hit. He lives so close, in fact, that some of his neighbors had their windows blown out by the blasts. And others have confirmed what he told me – not that I needed that, because he would not lie to me about something like that, and in any case he has never been a Hamas supporter.
    Among other “Hamas security” facilities targeted are a university, a women’s dorm at the university, a kindergarten (one that I know of), a hospital (one that I know of), five mosques (that I know of), and hundreds of houses and apartment buildings.
    An estimated 10% of the “Hamas security forces” that the Israelis have killed so far are children, but that, of course, does not count those who are buried, perhaps forever, in the rubble of whatever building was blown up over their heads.
    And please do not make the standard nauseating speech about how it is always a tragedy when children are caught in the crossfire blahblahblah, but anyway it is really the Palestinians who are to blame blahblahblah but you really regret the deaths of innocent civilians, whom of course Israel is doing everything it its power to avoid harming blahblahblah. When you bomb densely populated residential areas, when you time your first, and therefore most unexpected attack right when schools are letting out, when you bomb kindergartens and family homes at times that you know the occupants will be there, it is not crossfire that is killing the children.

  22. PS Hamas did not resume rocket fire until after Israel had killed 25-30 Palestinians in Gaza within a three week period.
    But, of course, we know that Hamas was wrong to do that because Palestinians do not have the right to defend themselves or retaliate. That right is reserved for Israelis.

  23. Vadim, Hardly matters that you are neither Russian or jewish. It hardly matters whether one is a Nazi or a Stalinist. It’s the truths that you hold self-evident that categorize you.
    Just how many vocational schools, universities, mosques, do the izzys have to bomb before it has “destroyed” Hamas? I hope America, who furnishes the wherewithal for Israel, is getting its money’s worth. It’s nice to see that you are more concerned about what the Hamas Charter says than about the facts on the ground. Just remember the Black Swan. It shows up when least expected.

  24. an Obama administration needs to push Israeli leaders toward some form of “Truth and Reconciliation” process with Palestinians, necessitating the abandonment of illegal settlements and the restoration of rights for Palestinian refugees either through repatriation or full financial compensation.
    I hope you are not holding your breath waiting for that to happen.

  25. From the Palestinian Election Day onward, Israel has followed a policy of wiping Hamas off the face of the Earth, using the idea that doing everything in one’s power to stop rocket attacks justifies behaving like wild-eyed men of violence raining massive destruction on Gaza. I’m revolted by the 1988 covenant, I’m disgusted by Hamas TV shows like that Fahfour show, I’m angered that Hamas’s defensive aim does not include preserving the Christian presence alongside the Islamic presence in Point #2. All out war that kills dozens a day is not the solution to these objections.
    If after the election, Israel had taken a defensive posture, Hamas would’ve then had the opportunity to openly adapt the stance of going along with the fair version of the two state solution outlined in Point #1. Hamas would then be following a path parallel to the PLO’s path in the early 90’s. But as evidenced by its action, recent Israeli governments refuse to renounce the illegal settlements or confront the right to return. Israel has of yet to make serious peace negotiations.

  26. Palestinians do not have the right to defend themselves or retaliate.
    I’m sorry but firing rockets at random locations in southern Israel doesn’t defend a single Palestinian from anything – and judging from recent events HAMAS is powerless to defend Gazans against Israel, just as Hezbollah was powerless to defend Lebanon after instigating its war in the exact same manner. other than inviting counterattacks which endanger Gaza’s hostage civilian population, these attacks achieve nothing.
    PS Hamas did not resume rocket fire until after Israel had killed 25-30 Palestinians in Gaza within a three week period.

    PPS Shirin, at this exact time 74 percent of Gazans advocated a renewal of the cease fire despite Israel’s actions. What right has HAMAS to retaliate for anything on their behalf, against their explicit wishes and best interests?
    PPPS Even if there were a clear line between police and non-police in HAMAS murky security structure, you have yourself argued fiercely with me that “”police are NOT civilians” in the context of Iraq (on a thread where you were struggling to rationalize their mass murder by car bomb!! How soon we forget!!! Which is why archives are so very helpful… http://justworldnews.org/archives/001312.html.)
    So are they or aren’t they, or does it depend on your mood, or on who’s doing the bombing? Please clarify. Police: ok to kill in Iraq, not-ok in Gaza? You “peace activist” types really confuse me sometimes.
    PPPPS I love it that you’ve done an about-face on the police question, even if its only water carrying for HAMAS. Bombing police stations is definitely wrong, and I have no problem condemning Israel if what they’re doing is killing harmless civil servants. But neither of us knows enough about HAMAS or its clandestine command structure to tell the difference between police and militia — assuming any difference exists at all — from what I’ve read eg http://english.peopledaily.com.cn/90001/90777/6430253.html this piece on how they receive explosives training there’s certainly some kind of overlap.

  27. Shirin-
    I am breathing fine, just being realistic about what is required to achieve real peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
    Peace will never happen if people do not express the essentials, so it is always important to talk about them and write about them.
    What good does it do to refer to the person expressing these essentials as an individual so unrealistic that he or she holds his/her breath waiting for positive change?

  28. “the topic of this post is “what HAMAS wants” — not Zionism or colonialism.”
    Vadim, your naive understanding of Israel-Palestine politics is revealed in that statement.
    One can not rationally discuss the goals of Hamas without referring to Zionist colonization of Palestine. Hamas, as a political party and the current ruling authority in Gaza, originated as a resistance movement to the ongoing Zionist colonization of Palestinian lands. This includes the colonization that took place after the 1967 war as well as the colonization during and after the 1948-49 war.
    Hamas stands against the entire system of foreign colonization which began in Palestine prior to the 1947 UN partition resolution. It is no accident that Hamas’s military wing takes its name from the martyred Palestinian leader of the first revolt against colonization in 1936.

  29. One can not rationally discuss the goals of Hamas
    Sure one can, as colonization is mentioned in their statement of purpose but once and in passing , whereas the need to kill Jews and replace the state of Israel from the river to the sea with an Islamic theocracy is reiterated again and again. Maybe you consider the authors of this document naive? And yes, the reason I keep returning to this document is because it was written by actual members of HAMAS, not sympathetic Westerners like you struggling to sugarcoat their message, desparately trying to recast a movement of religious fanatics as some kind of ally in the global struggle against imperialism. If anyone’s naive here, frankly it’s you. Haven’t you read the thing?

  30. I am neither sympathetic with Hamas nor do I think its supporters are naive. I just think that if one is to understand events in Israel-Palestine, then it is important to keep the analysis real. Frankly, it is the apologists for Israel and Israeli policies who appear as fantasists in the world today.
    Either Israeli leaders will accept certain political realities of the Middle East, and of 20th century Middle East history, in order to reach a true reconciliation with Palestinians, or Israeli leaders will lose all integrity, along with any sympathy of global citizens, while trying unsuccessfully to convince the world about the merits of Israeli policy to imprison human beings inside geographic encampments, starve them, and then kill them as if shooting at fish in a bucket.
    Recently in the midst of Israel’s bombardment of Gaza’s civilian facilities, police stations, hospitals, universities, etc., there was a group of international physicians and concerned citizens who attempted to deliver health supplies and services to Gaza via boat from Cyprus. However, Israeli ships obstructed the journey of this supply boat, intercepting it in international waters, and then rammed the boat three times, causing enough damage to the craft to force an emergency landing at a port in Lebanon.
    When Israeli government spokesman, Mark Regev, was asked to comment on this Israeli violation of international law on open seas, he described the international relief mention to Gaza as a publicity stunt. “Israel would never have done anything against international law, that is inconceivable,” Regev said. “These people (on the mission) just want a headline, they don’t really want to help the people of Gaza, if they wanted to help the people of Gaza they would be asking Hamas why they initiated the violence.” While Israelis may take Regev’s words seriously, his words and the words of countless Israeli government officials appear to nearly everyone in the world as a sheer fantasy.
    In terms of the US ability to defend policies and political positions taken by Israel in the Middle East, it is increasingly apparent to American strategists and policy makers just how indefensible the Israel-centric perspective has become. This is true because of the high levels of violence and crude tactics employed by the state of Israel as a means of securing territory under its control, particularly the territories Israel seized in the 1967 war. As long as the present policies of the government of Israel continue to appear indefensible, the entire legitimacy of Israel is undermined. And whether you are capable of comprehending this or not, the legitimacy of Hamas rises.
    I do not support Hamas. But this is the reality that Israel faces because of the the stupidity of its own leaders. You need to stop finding fault in the motives of everyone you encounter, and start taking a hard look at the realities surrounding Israel.

  31. I have been observing this struggle for many years. If you study the history, its not very difficult to determine what has transpired. The people that lived in Palestine have had their land taken from them by a people from another part of the world. Now there is a struggle for that land. It is indefensible, yet that is the political reality. It is probably unsolvable. I am an American. I care about the fate of other people, but as this new administration ;comes into power,I’m hoping that we will extricate ourselves from being the only enabler of Israel to continue this land grab. It does not serve our national interest and it is immoral.
    I am also a Christian, and I know what scripture says about the jews and the land of Israel. Remember , the old covenant promise of God to the jews was always a conditonal tenancy of the land, based on their keeping the law, which they have ceased to do. Todays Israel is not a covenant people, that time came for a season and a particular reason and has now passed. This is the excuse of many zionist Christians use to justify our countrys stance toward Israel. However, most of the population of Israel of today are cultural jews and are deists, agnostics or atheists. They do have a percentage of their population that is orthodox, but it is small. Still, their are no temple sacrifices etc.
    I believe that this struggle is the single most destabilizing crisis in the world today. I pray that it can be resolved in a way that is just and eqitable for both the Israelis and Palestinians.

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