Prime Minister Erdogan of Turkey has given President Barack Obama a message: “Hamas must be represented at the negotiating table.” Or as the insufferable Roger Cohen puts it, “Hamas is seen throughout the region as a legitimate resistance movement, (my emphasis) a status burnished by its recent inconclusive pounding during Israel’s wretchedly named- and disastrous- ‘Operation Cast Lead’ in Gaza.”
So the growing chorus of anti-Israel intelligentsia from Britain to France is upset because the U.S. still persists in viewing Hamas as a terrorist group, not a resistance movement. This is not a matter of semantics. If one sees a group as a legitimate agency of resistance, terror can then be defined as a tactic regretfully forced on the oppressed by the vile tactics of the oppressor- in this case, the “occupying” power- Israel. And this is precisely what Cohen among others continually does. By not talking to Hamas until they recognize Israel- currently the U.S. position- Cohen asserts that such “marginalization” leads to impasse. After all, Hamas is not only a resistance movement, but an “entrenched Palestinian political and social movement.”
Those who make such arguments forget that the Nazis too were, before the Second World War broke out in earnest, a social movement. Hitler’s government hired people to build popular public works, including the famous Autobahn, gave the people their own car- the Volkswagen- increased the system of social services, and waged a serious war against cancer, with government programs trying to get the people to stop smoking cigarettes. Looking back on history, those we consider the leaders who made accurate judgments about the character of Nazism did not use the fact of Hitler’s social programs as an excuse to engage in negotiation- actually to engage in appeasement.
So here is the new demand of the realists: from Cohen to Scowcroft to Brzezinski and of course, Walt and Mearsheimer- US policy should promote reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas, and urge Mahmoud Abbas to welcome Hamas to the West Bank.
Unfortunately, even the moderates and responsible figures of the Israeli left do not share such hopes and illusions. Hence the important article in Haaretz by the Israeli left-wing intellectual, Shlomo Avineri who is no Likudnik. Titled “What To Speak with Hamas About,” Avineri cuts down the claims of the American so-called realists, revealing them to be anything but realistic.
The only item to talk to Hamas about, and Israel he notes is indeed talking with its representatives about, is freeing the kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit and creating calm instead of violence and rocket attacks. What they are not talking about- and should be- is Hamas’ raison d’etre – its own sacred covenant- which not only calls for the destruction of Israel-but the destruction of the Jews as a people, whom they define as the enemy of Islam.
Hamas holds as gospel that the Jews- not Israel- are the cause of all of the modern world’s problems: the French Revolution, Communism, and scores of fraternal associations like the Rotary, Lyons clubs and B’nai B’rith–whose goal is to take over the world for Jewry through subterfuge and subversion. The Jews, they argue, control the entire media, caused both World Wars, and have as their main goal to destroy Islam. Their version of Islam is not that of a religion of peace and modernity, the supposed Islam supported by the President of Turkey and by Barack Obama and George W. Bush.
The Hamas vision, as Avineri points out, is straight out of the forgery of the last century-“The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” – recently a TV mini-series event in the Arab world. Compared to Hamas’ covenant, he continues, the racist and anti-immigrant words of Austria’s Joerg Haider and France’s Jean-Marie Le Pen are quite moderate. Yet we must recall the outrage and cries of the Western liberals and left about the danger of resurgent fascism from these men, despite their rather marginal status in Europe. The very same people who screamed the loudest about the hidden danger represented by these currents are those who at the same time are busy creating excuses for Hamas.
“It is clear,” Avineri writes, “that if a movement like this were to come out of Europe, no one would even imagine proposing that negotiations be held with it, or that it be asked to join a government.” Germany, for example, is not going to make the mistake it once made in the Weimar years with Hitler. Not only would such a movement be declared illegal, but it would be “denounced by humankind. An abomination like that has no place in any political discourse.”
I suspect even Roger Cohen would cry out were a European government to make such a move of reconciliation with a native fascist party, even though it had a percentage of popular support among those who felt forgotten and dispossessed. But when it comes to Hamas, Cohen and his ilk cast all reason and logic aside—-and blame Israel for and the United States for not embracing a group with declared genocidal goals.
The bottom line is this, Avineri concludes. If Hamas is indeed the key to progress in the Middle East, “it’s difficult to expect that peace can be established in our region.”
Cohen applauds President Obama for embracing “a new realism” that “places improved relations with the Muslim world at its fulcrum.” All well and good, but in this effort the President should tread carefully and be aware of the consequences of his actions. He should stick with one policy at the start: no negotiations with Hamas.