5 September 2014
By Emily Gian
Yesterday’s Australian featured an article by its Middle East Correspondent John Lyons entitled “Hamas proposal for Israel peace plan”.
The story came entirely out of the blue and must surely be a journalistic coup for Lyons and the Australian Newspaper because hitherto there were no announcements of any meetings of the Hamas political leadership which is known to be spread among various parts of the Palestinian Territories and indeed the rest of the world from bunkers under Gazan hospitals to luxury hotels in Qatar. Not a single word about a meeting of all those minds to radically alter the group’s policies at a time when Hamas was basking in the glory of a defeat snatched from the jaws of defeat in its recent 50 day war with Israel.
Lyons’ article was the product of an interview in Gaza City with a senior Hamas “advisor”, Ahmed Yousef, who made some remarkable pronouncements which, on the face of it, mark a 180 degree turn in Hamas policy at a time when questions are being asked about whether there is any comparison between it and other Palestinian jihadi groups and the even more notorious Islamic terrorists (or if you’re that way inclined “militants”) such as al-Qa’ida and the apparently, the even nastier ISIS (or IS) which is making a name for itself as the most outrageously genocidal bunch of killers of the moment.
Lyons’ piece comes conveniently at a time when Hamas desperately needs a public relations overhaul as evidence emerges thick and fast corroborating Israeli claims that Hamas did in fact set up the recent war, that it was responsible for the killings of the Israeli teenagers and the increase in rocket fire at Israeli civilian targets, that it squandered millions of dollars of foreign humanitarian aid on weaponry and the creation of an infrastructure of terror tunnels, that it used its own population as human shields, that it slaughtered political opponents and suspected collaborators in the streets, that through its members working in UN agencies it manipulated casualty figures to suggest that Israel deliberately targeted only civilians and that it intimidated many journalists into not reporting the whole truth about its conduct during what Israel termed “Operation Protective Edge”.
Conveniently for Hamas, along came John Lyons to put his own touch on this remarkable about turn on a movement whose (still unchanged) Covenant mandates the destruction of Israel and the killing of Jews everywhere.
Lyons quotes Yousef’s declaration that “we do not enjoy fighting or killing. We are not al-Qa’ida, we are not ISIS”. This is strange because the executions of Palestinians accused of collaborating, look very similar to those carried out by al-Qa’ida or ISIS, perhaps without the lopping of heads but they are equally public and brutal but we shouldn’t expect someone like Lyons who is no doubt somewhat squeamish and probably values his life to take issue about this.
Yousef claims that if only Israel pulled back to 1967 borders and Palestinians were no longer living under occupation, then Hamas would renounce violence. If only Israel accepted the Oslo Accords, the whole conflict could be done and dusted and the only reason Hamas resorts to firing rockets at civilians (each and every one of them a war crime) is because –
“We are under occupation and we have a legitimate right to defend ourselves. Palestinians began our struggle against Israeli occupation by throwing stones but the world ignored us… We then took up Kalashnikovs and Katushas, and still nobody listened. We are the people who, in war after war with Israel, have lost thousands of people. We are trying to defend ourselves and make Israelis understand that we cannot accept the occupation.”
An inquisitive (and more courageous) journalist would surely not let all of this go unchallenged. After all, does Yousef’s explanation justify the commission of war crimes by indiscriminately attacking civilians in their homes, schools and kindergartens? And what part of Gaza is occupied following Israel’s disengagement in 2005? Why was a blockade imposed not in 2005 when Israel withdrew from Gaza, but in 2007 when Hamas took over Gaza in a bloody coup which saw over 100 Fatah people killed and when Hamas intensified its murderous cross border rocket attacks?
This is the narrative that Hamas wants to get across through its willing and helpful interlocutor; a Hamas that wants peace and coexistence that can be secured only by firing rockets and building tunnels into Israel in order to kidnap and kill men, women and children.
Yousef’s tale has been told before. It has been accepted and told by spin doctors willing to promote that notion that Hamas has turned the corner and wants to make “nice”.
The idea might be a step forward if only it was half true but experience tells us that when these stories coming from lower level officials are broadcast in the western media, the Palestinians are usually told something entirely different at home in their own language and in bellicose terms by their leadership that Hamas policy was unchanged and that its aim would always be the destruction of Israel.
To their everlasting shame, journalists like Lyons and Fairfax’s Ruth Pollard seem more intent these days on helping build up the status of Hamas in the west that on reporting less convenient facts like apprising their readership of what the IDF has to say about this war against Hamas.
In a recent briefing at its headquarters, the IDF laid out evidence such as “details of the ranges and numbers of rockets fired by Hamas and Islamic Jihad, photographs showing how rockets launchers were hidden in graveyards and a school playground, and how tunnels were used to carry out and escape from the site of attacks”.
Pollard saw a report on this, and even tweeted it yesterday but still did not see it as an important enough story to file for her readers. As one person on social media put it, “Even when confronted with the evidence she won’t accept it. Centuries ago she would have written with authority that the earth is flat.”
These journalists are well aware, as history has shown time and again, that in Hamas circles, dissembling is permissible if it helps the cause. So thanks to John Lyons for laying out a lovely picture of this Hamas fantasy and please be sure not to look the other way but come back to tell the other side of the story when a higher ranking Hamas leader such as Khaled Meshaal inevitably denies every point that Yousef made in the article.
To Lyons’ credit, he did file a story today with a response from Israel to his initial report. Mark Regev, a spokesman for Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu said, “Hamas agrees to accept a Palestinian state on any part of ‘liberated’ territory only in order to use it as a base to continue its armed struggle for the final destruction of Israel. That is hardly encouraging… Hamas remains an extremist Islamist terrorist organisation. It belongs to a family of ruthless and violent movements that includes ISIS, Hezbollah and the Nusra Front. Its leaders are on record as praising Osama Bin Laden. Its fanatical ideology is openly anti-Semitic, as well as being misogynist and homophobic. Anyone who doubts this should read Hamas’ charter. Some Hamas leaders masquerade as moderates, but to be taken seriously they must begin by renouncing their charter’s racism and sanctification of mass murder.”
Meanwhile, Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas last week criticised Hamas for accepting a ceasefire that they had previously rejected back on 15 July. He said that there was no difference “other than the losses and suffering we went through”. The first ceasefire proposal, which Israel accepted and Hamas rejected, was almost exactly the same as the one Hamas eventually accepted, eleven ceasefires and a lot of suffering later. How they emerged from their holes underneath hospitals and could claim victory is beyond me.
In other news, as you will recall, the United Nations has set up a panel to investigate if either Israel or Hamas committed war crimes during the conflict. William Schabas, one of the judges on the panel, has already been exposed as biased, but now it has been revealed that as early as July, before he had been appointed as a judge, he had already presumed Israel’s guilty. In an interview with the BBC he said that, “prima facie, there is evidence of disproportionality”. The interviewed had asked him what is disproportionate. Stumbling over his own words he said that “disproportionality is disproportionality”, it is up to the judges when they are appointed to decide. He then cited the death count as an example. The number of deaths has nothing to do with the concept of “disproportionality” under international laws. This is an unfortunate error coming from a man now placed in a role ostensibly of upholding laws but about which he seems to know nothing and in which there is no place for his involvement under any measure of fairness and justice.
So the UN will continue being the UN, Hamas will continue to lie and stand in the way of peace and some in the media will continue to act as its willing and useful accomplices …