ABC Online: The Drum – 10 May 2011
Professor Amin Saikal’s one sided ode to Hamas, published on The Drum, overlooks one issue – that Hamas is a terrorist organisation which refuse to recognise Israel’s right to exist.
Saikal would have us believe that “Hamas has emerged as a pragmatic Islamist movement” and that therefore Israel and the international community should embrace Hamas as a negotiating partner.
If Hamas is pragmatic, then I would not like to imagine what an extremist group looks like. Perhaps a brief reminder as to Hamas’s raison d’être is in order.
For this purpose, look no further than its charter, which explicitly calls for the destruction of Israel and the creation of an Islamic state in Gaza, the West Bank – and all of Israel. Hamas has repeatedly and unequivocally said it will never recognise, negotiate with, or permanently live side-by-side with the Jewish State.
In the past month alone, Hamas has been responsible for firing at least 200 rockets into civilian targets in Israeli towns, as well as the deliberate firing of an anti-tank missile at a school bus several weeks ago, killing a 16-year-old child.
Is this what Saikal believes is ‘pragmatic’?
Perhaps he is not aware – or more likely, chose to ignore – that no sooner than Fatah and Hamas agreed to the unity deal, Mahmoud al-Zahar, a senior Hamas leader who participated in the talks, said “[o]ur program does not include negotiations with Israel or recognising it.” This was immediately followed by Hamas’s Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh’s demand to Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah to renounce its recognition of Israel.
The question must therefore be asked: how can Israel be expected to make peace with an enemy that denies even its very right to exist and is committed to the elimination of the Jewish state?
Saikal also talks about how Israel “launched a devastating military assault on the Strip to destroy Hamas…albeit in response to the group’s intermittent and largely ineffective rocket attacks”.
What is conveniently omitted, however, is that before Israel was forced to act in the defensive war, it first endured something in the order of 8,000 rockets and mortars were fired by Hamas into civilian targets in the south of Israel. Imagine if even one rocket was fired into Sydney or Melbourne? I would not expect the Australian Government, or any responsible government for that matter, to be quite as patient.
To suggest that the rockets were “intermittent” is therefore simply mind-boggling. Since 2001, at least 13,000 rockets and mortars have now been fired by Hamas into southern Israel. In the year before the war alone, Hamas fired 3,200 rockets. This equates to about 10 rockets a day before the war, albeit on many occasions there were many more.
Similarly, Saikal’s assertion that the rockets were “largely ineffective” is also mind-boggling. Try telling that to the families of the dozens of Israelis who lost their lives. The only reason more Israelis did not die was because Israel was too busy building bomb shelters and emergency alarm systems.
In contrast, Hamas was using its children as human shields while purposely firing from densely populated residential areas in breach of international law.
Saikal also neglects the devastating effect especially on children in the south of Israel, many of whom are now suffering severe forms psychological damage, like depression and post traumatic stress disorder after having to endure a constant barrage of rockets and life in bomb shelters.
Though perhaps Saikal’s most absurd assertion was that, despite recognising Israel, denouncing violence and being a ‘partner in peace’ with Israel, “the PA has achieved little in return”.
Saikal completely downplays Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza – which was subsequently used as a launching pad by Hamas for attacks on Israel. He also does not mention that notwithstanding Hamas’s ongoing rocket attacks and attempts to smuggle new and improved Iranian made weapons into the Gaza Strip, Israel has continued to ease the blockade (even though it is not required to do so under international law).
He also conveniently overlooks the many other painful concessions Israel has made in recent years.
For example, easing many checkpoints, the same checkpoints which have successfully reduced the number of Palestinian terrorists attempting to infiltrate into Israel. Israel has also continued to release Palestinian prisoners, many with blood on their hands, while Israeli Gilad Shalit continues to languish in Hamas’s captivity for five years now, without so much as a visit from the Red Cross.
And of course there was no mention of Israel’s historic settlement freeze over in the West Bank. The freeze was an unprecedented concession by the Israelis, in which Netanyahu risked all his political capital.
And what has Israel achieved in return?
The PA have turned their back on repeated offers from Israel to negotiate a two-state solution without pre-conditions and refused to speak altogether, even during the settlement freeze. Instead, the PA has proceeded upon a disastrous unilateralist path to the UN, relying on the world body’s permanent anti-Israel majority as a means of establishing a Palestinian state encompassing the West Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza Strip and a Right of Return for so-called Palestinian ‘refugees’, but without making peace with Israel or offering any concessions.
In the meantime, Saikal would have us believe that the PA is a model ‘partner for peace’, while all blame for the impasse in negotiations lies with the Israelis. This is after all the same PA where the incitement and hatred of Jews and Israel is still rife, and where the glorification of terrorists still permeate into almost every institution of the PA, including the schools, the mosques, the sporting and cultural events and the government-controlled media.
Just this week, as the entire peace-loving world applauded the death of Osama Bin Laden as a major victory in the global war on terror, one of the sole groups to have condemned the killing was Hamas, with Hamas PM Ismail Haniyeh, calling him an “Arab holy warrior” and accusing the United States of pursuing a policy based on “oppression and the shedding of Arab and Muslim blood”.
And this is the same group which Saikal now expects Israel to make peace with? The Fatah-Hamas agreement is no ‘peace pact’ as he states in the title to his article. Rather, it is a terror pact.
Regrettably, all Mahmoud Abbas has shown by entering into a government with the terrorist Hamas is that he prefers to partner with those who seek Israel’s death and destruction, rather than negotiate a two-state solution in good faith.
Arsen Ostrovsky is a policy analyst at the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC)