Friday, January 12, 2007

Jan 11 Media Critique: "Hamas Unreality Check."

And an HonestReporting reality check over the recent interview with Hamas leader, Khaled Meshaal.

Has Hamas moderated its views or has the media jumped to conclusions?

Strangely, HR almost get this right. That is, it’s true that the latest statements from Hamas are not in themselves evidence that it has “moderated its views”. But HR are mistaken in that the flaws in reporting this are of a very different type than HR suggest.

Most bizarrely HR claims that,

Why does the media rush to portray Hamas as "moderate" despite the organization's own declarations to the contrary?

Typically, despite the use of quotation marks (implying a quote, one might think), HR provides not a single quote or link to demonstrate any media describing Hamas as “moderate", as HR claim they do.

And straw-man arguments come in handy,

The bottom line - despite the Reuters interview and some resulting media reports, Hamas has not fulfilled the three basic criteria of the international community for lifting financial sanctions on the Palestinian government - recognition of Israel's right to exist, forswearing terrorism, and accepting previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements.

Of course none of the media reports HR links to claim that Hamas has done so.

HR could criticize The Independent for claiming that “yesterday [Hamas] appeared to soften its long-standing refusal to recognize Israel”, as if nothing similar had preceded it. But Hamas has been making accommodating noises similar to this, for the past 12 months. So the valid criticism that can be made is not that the newspapers have "jumped to conclusions" to describe Hamas as “moderate” (which they haven’t), but that they describe Meshaal’s statements as new, when they aren't.

For example, almost a year ago Meshaal wrote in the Guardian,

We shall never recognize the legitimacy of a Zionist state created on our soil in order to atone for somebody else's sins or solve somebody else's problem. But if you are willing to accept the principle of a long-term truce, we are prepared to negotiate the terms.

And the Hamas spokesman for the PA said in Feb. 2006,

Hamas is not against a political compromise. It is not against a state on the 1967 borders. Israel, it is often said, is a de facto reality.

The thought of a Hamas prepared to accept Israel and curtail its aspirations to a Palestine within the ’67 borders is a frightening prospect – for Israel. ‘Huh’, you ask? That’s because a negotiated solution is the end to Israelis’ creeping annexation and confiscation of Palestinian land. If there really is a peaceful settlement, how can Israel possibly continue to steal land from a Palestinian state to build settlements? Simple – it couldn’t. The ‘peace process’ minus the peace has always been a perfectly acceptable situation.

The truth is that the extremism of Hamas has always been played up in the media. That’s not to say it doesn’t exist – it clearly does. But what we have now is a situation where their indications of a willingness to accept a two-state solution is becoming hard to avoid, and sections of the media who have ignored (or are ignorant of) that, rush to hail a sudden change in Hamas’ position.

We’ve seen this before. A similar process played out with the PLO, with the PLO’s obvious acceptance of a 2 state-solution during the 1970’s generally ignored for failing to produce the exact formulation of words required, until it could be suddenly hailed for a dramatic turn-around in 1988.

There have been several key events that have pointed to the changes in the position of Hamas. One of the most significant was its announcement, now over 18 months ago that it would not conduct suicide missions inside Israel. Hamas was prioritizing politics over militancy as it prepared for the Palestinian elections, its first foray into national elections and a clear sign of the pragmatism of a developing political party. The policies and positions it produced in the lead up to the elections, and after wards, also demonstrated this aspect of Hamas’ development.

Hamas’ proposed National Unity Government Program called for,

Cooperating with the international community for the purpose of ending the occupation and achieving a complete withdrawal from the lands occupied in 1967, including Jerusalem ,so that the region enjoys calm and stability during this phase.

And its Cabinet Platform released on March 27, 2006, again made oblique references to the 2-state solution,

the need to link the two halves (West Bank and Gaza) of the homeland politically, economically, socially, and culturally.

Israel could deal constructively with Hamas if it chose to do so, but like with the PLO 30 years ago, what Israel fears is not a militant organisation, but an increasingly pragmatic one that is moving towards a negotiated diplomatic solution. Being faithful commissars, HR adhere to the party line.

Get Carter

And they're still banging on about Jimmy Carters' book. While there have been the usual range of nobodies (Kenneth Stein) and reflexive defenders of Israel (Dershowitz, Ross) attacking Carter, here’s a perspective that HR wouldn’t want it’s readers to see. Former Israeli Minister of Education Shulamit Aloni, has her say on the subject.