A Tale of Three Op-Eds:
"The Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims," proclaimed the Communist Manifesto a century and a half ago. "They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions."
But this was in the old days, before the age of public relations and spin. Here is how it's done today.
Leaders of an organization like Hamas publish op-eds in the leading American newspapers either concealing completely or greatly distorting their group's aims. The newspapers are complicit in this process by accepting articles which they know full well have nothing to do with the real Hamas and understand are full of lies.
While it can be argued that many op-eds contain untruths or that it is not the editors' job to make such judgments, the Hamas pieces go far beyond other op-eds being published. And while these newspapers publish op-eds which criticize Hamas as part of an analysis of U.S. policy, they fail to run op-eds which are allowed to challenge directly Hamas's misstatements or which provide a comprehensive look at the true nature and activities of Hamas.
Recently, the three main city-based newspapers in America-the Washington Post, New York Times, and Los Angeles Times--ran op-eds by Hamas leaders.
The first occurence was on June 27, when the exact same article by Ahmed Yousef, an advisor to the man who had headed the Palestinian Authority, appeared the same day, in the Washington Post and New York Times.
This is an extremely unusual development and it turned out, according to Washington Post editors, that Hamas's public relations' agent fooled them by not informing either newspaper that the other was publishing. It was not the last time that Hamas would fool them.
In the twice-published piece, Yousef actually had the temerity to ask that the United States support Hamas - without any change in Hamas's program or acknowledgement of past error, of course. Hamas was presented as fighting to fulfil the Palestinians "thirst for political freedom." One can only wait with bated breath the future free elections Hamas will hold. Yousef also claimed that Hamas is a moderate group, in contrast to al-Qaida, that it is not anti-American or anti-Western, and that it wants to give Palestinians a modern consumer and democratic society.
The idea behind op-ed article is to let an individual or group express its opinion directly, without the mediation of the newspaper's reporters or editors. In this sense, the Yousef pieces were not op-eds and should not have been published.
Why? Their content had nothing whatsoever to do with the thoughts or actions of Hamas. They were, rather, merely free advertising copy. False advertising.
The next Hamas publication was Mousa Abu Marzook's op-ed in the July 10, 2007 Los Angeles Times. Marzook is the deputy director of the political bureau of Hamas indicted in the United States in 2004 as a co-conspirator on racketeering and money-laundering charges in connection with activities on behalf of Hamas. He was deported to Jordan in 1997.
Marzook's article was a sharp contrast in style to that of Yousef, snarling rather than charming. From his safe haven in Syria he informed us that Hamas rescued pro-Palestinian BBC journalist Alan Johnston as part of its campaign to restore law and order in Gaza.
A description of Hamas being the party of law and order, ending factional violence in Gaza, it reminds me of a scene from Khaled Hosseini's novel, A Thousand Splendid Suns about Afghanistan when one character declares:
"Look around you. What do you see? Corrupt, greedy Mujahideen commanders, armed to the teeth...declaring jihad on one another and killing everyone in between-that's what....The Taliban...will clean up this place. They'll bring peace and order."
But that didn't work out too well either.
Marzook also tells us that Hamas has never supported attacks on Westerners. In fact, Hamas has rejoiced at many attacks on Westerners and regularly incites violence against America and the West. It just has specialized in murdering Israelis and any Westerners who get in the way of accomplishing that mission.
He too complains that the United States and Israel link Hamas and al-Qaida (another untruth) but that a comparison between the two shows that Hamas is relatively moderate. Actually, though, while al-Qaida may be even more horrible than Hamas and its allies, it isn't about to take power anywhere. On a strategic level, Hamas, Hizballah, the Iraqi insurgency, and the Muslim Brotherhoods are far more threatening than Osama bin Ladin and his minions because of their stated ambition to take the reigns of government.
Given the fact that Hamas is so peace-loving and moderate, Marzook seems puzzled as to why the West isn't friendly toward Hamas.
The not-so-minor problems he overlooks, of course (though one would never guess it from these op-eds) is that Hamas is genocidal toward Israel; radical Islamist toward its own people; uses terrorism; is allied with Iran and Syria; and is part of a broad movement trying to seize power in the region (and in its more ambitious moments the whole world).
In somewhat coded language, that is apparent to the serious student of the region-but probably not to most readers-Marzook makes it clear that Hamas rejects Israel right to exist because, in his words, it is based on "murder and ethnic cleansing." He even falsely claims that "the writings of Israel's `founders' - from Herzl to Jabotinsky to Ben Gurion - make repeated calls for the destruction of Palestine's non-Jewish inhabitants: `We must expel the Arabs and take their places.'"
This is of course a lie but in today's crazed atmosphere can readers be expected to know this?
For those who want to grasp at straws, Marzook concludes, "Israel does exist, as any Rafah boy in a hospital bed, with IDF shrapnel in his torso, can tell you."
Yes, he explains, I know Israel exists and that is precisely what I am working so hard to change. As for the boy in the hospital bed, his injuries are generated directly by Hamas-sanctioned or organized attacks on Israel, without which there would be no Israeli incursions and no violence.
Finally, when he concludes that the Palestinians are "an occupied population" he fails to mention that Hamas is in power precisely because the occupation of the Gaza Strip ended.
Or perhaps one should say that now Hamas's occupation of the Gaza Strip has begun.
As the executions begin, the women are forced into Islamist norms, and the children are taught to view Jews as sub-humans and Christians as sworn enemies in the schools, what will the op-eds and the news coverage tell us then?
Barry Rubin is Director of the Global Research in International Affairs Center(GLORIA) Center, at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) in Herzilia, Israel. His latest book, %%AMAZON=1403982732 The Truth About Syria%% was published by Palgrave-Macmillan in May 2007.