By Barry Rubin*
Nothing is funnier than when someone wants to avoid an obvious conclusion.
Nothing is sadder than people being borne away on waves of wishful thinking.
Following up on rewriting the clearly extremist words of Iran’s leader on the basis of wishful thinking and reinterpreting the equally extremist words of Syria’s leader based on wishful thinking ,it is now Hamas’s turn.
Right after giving op-ed space to the shadowy Alistair Cooke—whose group even dared to publish on the Internet its plan to fool the West into thinking that radial Islamism was no threat—the New York Times has an interview with newly reelected Hamas leader Khalid Mashal on May 4.
What wisdom does he and the interviewer have for us?
First this in the avoiding obvious conclusions’ department:
“In April, only six rockets and mortar rounds were fired at Israel from Gaza, which is run by Hamas, a marked change from the previous three months, when dozens were shot, according to the Israeli military….Mr. Mashal made an effort to show that Hamas was in control of its militants as well as those of other groups, saying, `Not firing the rockets currently is part of an evaluation from the movement which serves the Palestinians’ interest.’”
Note that the reporters, Taghreed el-Khodary and Ethan Bronner, interpreted this as showing Hamas deserved praise for its restraint and respect for its ability to control its militants and others.
Here’s my interpretation: Hamas got badly beaten up by Israel during the December-January fighting and wants a break. As soon as it rebuilds, though, it will start attacking again. (See below for more on this point).
The Times interpretation: Hamas works.
My interpretation: Force works, up to a point. This idea—so basic in international affairs—is impermissible under current thinking for which only concessions (mine and yours) can solve problems
But there’s much more here. Note how the interviewers define the war:
“In late December, Israel began a three-week invasion of Gaza, saying that it sought to stop the rockets, which land on its southern communities. About 1,300 Palestinians were killed in the invasion.”
While nominally balanced—Israel is responding to rocket attacks—these two sentences are both misleading and slanted.
Most obviously, the mention of Palestinian casualties tells readers that the poor Palestinians suffered a lot and that they aren’t much of a military threat to Israel. The article isn’t extreme—the word “civilian” isn’t thrown in—but Israeli civilian and military casualties aren’t mentioned, nor is the fact that most of the Palestinians killed soldiers (or militants or terrorists) and that the casualties were higher because Hamas hid behind Palestinian civilians and used getting its own people killed as a strategy.
Equally unmentioned is the fact that Israel didn’t want the war but it began not just because of rockets being fired—Israel generally ignored that for months—but that Hamas openly ended the ceasefire and began firing a lot more rockets. In effect, Hamas declared war and Israel defended itself.
But my main point here is not that Israel was acting in self-defense—though that’s important—but that Hamas started a war when it wanted to do so, and it will start another war when it’s ready to do so.
Don’t take my word for it. Listen to what Mashal himself said in the interview:
“Not firing the rockets currently is part of an evaluation from the movement which serves the Palestinians’ interest. After all, the firing is a method, not a goal. Resistance is a legitimate right, but practicing such a right comes under an evaluation by the movement’s leaders.”
What’s he saying? We have to eliminate this Israel-Egypt blockade and international sanctions so we can not only fix up our economy but also get more military equipment to get ready for the next round. (By the way, the phrases he uses here are very parallel to those employed by the “moderate” (well, it is more moderate but I get sick of this being exaggerated) Fatah.
Firing, he says, is a method, not a goal. And what is the goal? Wiping Israel off the map.