NYRB on Hamas.

The New York Review of Books on Hamas. It begins with Hamas officials:

The burly interior minister, Fathi Hamad, whose predecessor was killed by an Israeli bomb, defiantly shuns security precautions at his makeshift office in Gaza City’s main police station. “Claims that we are trying to establish an Islamic state are false,” says the minister, who says his preference would be pursuing a degree in media studies. “Hamas is not the Taliban. It is not al-Qaeda. It is an enlightened, moderate Islamic movement.”

But then, there’s the ideologues who write for NYRB:

Such events reflect one side of the ongoing conflict inside Hamas between the pragmatists who put Gazans’ needs first, and have sought to lighten their lives after years of punishing blockade and intermittent war, and the ideologues who give priority to “the rule of the sharia of God on earth.”

Note how it’s okay to blame Palestinians for their response to the blockade: not Israel. even though it is casually noted: “With all but the most basic goods banned from Gaza”. This isn’t considered something of grave ethical import. Intellectuals are allowed to make factual concessions to reality, provided they don’t draw the wrong moral conclusions. So they can note:

Hamas has, since the end of the Israeli incursion, fired rockets rarely if ever, and restrained Islamist rivals, such as Islamic Jihad, from doing the same. Between March 17 and September 22 Gazans fired some eighteen short-range rockets without loss of life. Israel has responded with incursions and sometimes fatal bombings. In effect, Hamas now acts as Israel’s border guard, preventing further attacks.

They go on to note:

While some Gazans profit from the boom in contraband, most people have seen their savings, salaries, and businesses atrophy. For all the talk about entrepreneurs, nine tenths now live below the poverty line, according to the UN, which estimates that living standards have plummeted to pre-1967 levels. In Israel per capita GDP is $27,450; in Gaza it’s two or three dollars a day. Even merchant families collect UN rations.

Okay, now realise: Israel conquered Gaza in 1967. If Israel wasn’t racist, the Palestinians in Gaza would be enfranchised members of Israel, and socio-economic indicators would show equality with Green Line citizens of Israel. At the very least, the occupation would not have worsened the plight of Gazans (and remember that most Gazans are refugees because they were ethnically cleansed from Palestine in 1948). The authors go on to say: “They have played down the significance of their party’s fiery founding charter, which rejects any recognition of Israel, hinting that they could live with a two-state settlement.” Rodenbeck and Pelham go on to suggest the Muslim Brotherhood is “fiercely anti-imperialist”. This is at best simplistic, and ignores the history of it and CIA connections to it. Similarly, Rodenbeck and Pelham do not discuss the context in which Hamas turned to suicide bombings.

Even as Yasser Arafat’s credit waned among his own people, both Israel and the Clinton administration pushed him to crack down on Hamas. This he did, with some brutality and considerable success, in a campaign that put hundreds of Hamas activists into Palestinian prisons. Yet rather than being rewarded for risking the anger of his own people, Arafat was simply pressured to do more, and told that he would be held to account for any atrocity carried out by Hamas.In effect if not in intention, Israel handed the Islamists veto power over the peace process. It also so weakened Arafat that when Israel floated the possibility of an offer at Camp David in 2000, the Palestinian leader shied from pursuing it, largely because he feared he could not swing his people to support it. When, in the autumn of 2000, the second intifada broke out in the wake of this failure, Arafat felt obliged to ride the violence rather than attempt to contain it, and soon lost control of his movement as local Fatah activists strove to outdo Hamas in fury.

In this rendition, Arafat failed, because he feared he could not force his people to accept the offer at Camp David. Note how he would have “succeeded” if he had forced his people into accepting the offer. The deep-seated contempt for Arab rights is always just below the surface in NYRB et al.

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