Herbert London: Overcoming Illusions In The Middle East
Illusions in the Middle East die hard. However, with the publication of the Hamas political document, there shouldn’t be any doubt about the motives of this Muslim Brotherhood organization. The western press continues to assert that Hamas is “moderating” its views, but the document itself offers a different picture.
The main points of the new political document are:
- Reliance on Islam as the sole source of authority;
- Denial of the Jewish right to self-determination in the Land of Israel;
- Conferral of a sacred Islamic character on all of Palestine;
- An armed struggle to liberate Palestine is legitimate and must continue.
In the last year, Hamas has altered the wording in many of its public statements to seem accommodating. Presumably naiveté in the West has given it leverage at the U.N. and as a legitimate political actor on the world stage. In fact, the modification in language is an exercise in “taqiyyah” (deception in the cause of Allah). Impression, not substance, is what counts for Hamas officials.
The real goal is to gain control of the PLO, thereby securing legitimate rule over all the Palestinian territories and using that influence on international bodies. To subvert Israel’s power, Hamas deploys diplomatic and propaganda techniques. Hence it is often difficult to distinguish between lies, fabrications and exaggerated claims coming from the leadership.
With the publication of the new political document, Hamas is hoist by its own petard. There is no question it will not recognize the Jewish state. Moreover, any claim about Israel that relies on historical antecedents is deemed inaccurate. For Hamas, Israel is an historic blindspot. Fortunately, there are those in the Trump White House who understand the futility of the Hamas stance.
Should one engage in a serious investigation of Hamas, it will become obvious that the goals have remained unaltered, the purpose of the organization intact and tactics unchanged. There is a good reason to suspect that will be the case decades ahead, for if Hamas had modified its position it could not attract volunteers to its cause.
Netanyahu slammed Hamas as the metamorphosis of an ideology that emerged in 1928. He claims that it does little more than proselytize for radical ideas. Whether Netanyahu is right, is less relevant than how Hamas describes itself. Here the Netanyahu claims and the Hamas document converge. If the land of Palestine is consecrated for future Moslem generations until Judgment Day, every individual sharing the faith has an obligation – as part of his religious duty – to fight for this territory free of Jews. A good Muslim is he who loudly proclaims, “Hail to Jihad!” and struggles continuously for the achievement of liberation.
As is evident, there cannot be a negotiated settlement in the Middle East unless you are considering an Israel engaged in preemptive surrender. In the mind of Hamas, a peace treaty similar to the one negotiated between Israel and Egypt would be a form of high treason. Hamas regards itself as the spearhead in the struggle against world Zionism and will not concede an inch of this designation.
So let’s get over the pollyannish view peace can be negotiated. It will not be negotiated as long as one side at the negotiating table wants to kill those across from them. That is the reality, however difficult it is to accept.
Herbert London is President of the London Center for Policy Research, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and author of the book The Transformational Decade (University Press of America). You can read all of Herb London’s commentaries at www.londoncenter.org
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