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Saturday, February 24, 2007

Hamas vs Fatah versus Peace: a people who would rather kill than eat

Are the Fatah really not enemies of the Hamas, and in what sense and for what purposes? It is certain that Hamas has more than one goal. In addition to destroying Israel, they want to set up an Islamic (or Islamist) Shaaria state in Palestine, a goal which one would think is certainly opposed by the nominally secular Fatah. However, large majorities of Palestinians in every poll have insisted that religiosity of candidates is important in their choice, and have also opted for an Islamic state.
The West is not sliding so quickly toward acceptance of Hamas, as latest reports indicate, but it is probably getting there. Insistence on recognition of Israel however, may be creating an empty "red herring" goal. Recognizing the right of Israel to exist, even if sincere, does not mean recognition of the right of the Jews to self-determination, since "Israel" could be the name of a state with an Arab majority created by return of Palestinian refugees, or by expelling "Zionists."

a people who would rather kill than eat

Robert Fulford

National Post, February 17, 2007
In the last two weeks, the West has been sliding coyly toward fresh acceptance of Middle East terrorists as legitimate players in diplomacy. Hamas, which randomly sends rockets into civilian towns in Israel, has been placed on the road to respectability and soon politicians will again be chattering about "the peace process," a tattered phrase discredited by a generation of ignoble misuse but still a token of nobility to those who imagine they can mediate between Palestinians and Israelis. It won't be long before we begin reading about Western diplomats cultivating "the moderate faction" within Hamas.
        Political and journalistic magic has in the past transformed career terrorists into statesmen. Yasser Arafat, a thief and liar, as evil a monster as any who ever sent out a teenager wrapped in dynamite, became in the 1990s an international statesman and a Nobel Peace Prize winner. In the atmosphere of false hope created by the Oslo Accords, the world actually believed Mr. Arafat when he said he favoured peace - until the Second Intifada in 2000 proved he was only kidding.
        Today, the Palestinians are split into two factions, Fatah and Hamas. The West hopes they are different, but it's possible they diverge mainly in their rhetoric. Fatah, following the tradition of Mr. Arafat, claims to favour peace with Israel - providing conditions are right, which they never are. Hamas, a relative newcomer, bases all its activities, from bombing to running health clinics, on one principle: Israel must be destroyed.
        Hamas won the Palestinian legislative elections of January, 2006. Those who believe Palestinians are essentially peaceful (and would comprise a model society if not for expansionist Israelis) explained this embarrassing result by saying that Fatah was famous for its corruption while Hamas, having so far failed to get its hands on much money, looks "clean" in the financial sense, at least by comparison with Fatah.   
        Nevertheless, in the world of diplomacy and money-granting, the election created a scandal. Politicians in Europe and elsewhere huffed and puffed indignantly, expressed "deep regret" and froze the funds that were scheduled to go to the Palestinian Authority. This has more or less bankrupted the PA and made financial management a bigger issue than suicide bombing.
        There's no doubt that Hamas and Fatah are genuine enemies. They now appear to be competing for the title of Most Violent Gangsters. In the last six weeks, their "clashes" (the wire-service euphemism for gun battles) have killed at least 90 Palestinians and injured a larger but unknown number.   Fatah, while issuing peaceful statements from time to time, refuses to surrender its traditional terrorist franchise. As recently as Jan. 11, President Mahmoud Abbas, speaking to fellow Fatah members, bragged about a list of 15 "martyrs," all terrorists, many in the infamous Black September movement. He also said that killings by Fatah put Palestine on the world map long before anybody heard about Hamas.
        Earlier this month, under the guidance of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, representatives of Hamas and Fatahmet in Mecca, agreed to stop shooting each other for now and began the formation of a united government. Hamas insisted that it still doesn't recognize Israel and never will. Abolishing Israel is its only political program. Without it, there would be no reason for Hamas to exist.
        Since the Mecca conference, the United States, Israel and the Europeans have said they will "wait and see" how the new government works out. What's to wait? What's to see? The West, having sworn to oppose Hamas until it recognizes Israel and gives up terrorism, is obviously considering the restoration of funds. What they are waiting for is someone who will propose a formula to let this happen without making everyone involved look like Neville Chamberlain. They will find a way.
        Meanwhile, the central tragedy of Palestinian life continues to unfold, consistently made worse by Palestinian leaders: About a third of Palestinian children under age five suffer from chronic malnutrition. That's not the result of famine or the indifference of the world. The reason, so far as the record shows, is that Palestinian adults would rather kill than eat and would rather kill than see their children eat.

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