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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The making of another canard: Hamas, Peace and Robert Novak

http://zionism-israel.com/israel_news/2007/04/making-of-another-canard-hamas-peace.html

Robert Novak is not a novice in the world of journalism. He knows quite well that there is a difference between official government or group positions, and off the cuff tidbits offered by members of a group or government. He also knows that numerous Hamas "peace" offers were quickly and emphatically denied by Hamas leaders. He also understands the difference between direct quotes and various indirect attributions.  
 
So what are we to make of his Washington Post column Olive Branch From Hamas ?
 
He claims Naser al-Shaer, education minister and deputy prime minister in the PA government wants to recognize Israel:
 
 Shaer signaled that the regime recognizes Israel's right to exist and forgoes violence -- conditions essential for talks about a viable Palestinian state adjoining Israel -- even if Hamas does not. "We hope that it is going to be a matter of time," Shaer told me. "But there is a big chance now."
Note that Novak does not quote al-Shaer as saying that he recognizes Israel, because al-Shaer probably never said that. He also doesn't quote al-Shaer saying that the regime forgoes violence. Novak may have asked him, "Will Hamas recognize Israel?" and al-Shaer may have answered as Khaled Meshal answered earlier, that Hamas cannot discuss the matter until the Palestinians "get their rights" - meaning return of refugees to Israel. But did al-Shaer say that the Hamas or the regime recognizes Israel? What does he hope is going to be a matter of time? Probably lifting of the boycott against Hamas. We will never know because Novak doesn't tell us. Rest assured. If al-Shaer had said that the regime recognizes Israel, Novak would have given a direct quote. "Shaer signaled" might indicate that the man scratched his nose when the question was asked. It could mean anything.
 
 
Novak also knows the difference between Hamas and Fatah and independent Palestinian politicians. So he knows that if Salem Fayad says that the Palestinian government honors agreements, it is not the same thing as Hamas saying it, because Fayad is not a member of the Fatah. So why does Novak tell us:
 
 When I asked whether Hamas agreed with Fayyad's formulation, Shaer said it did not matter: "We are talking about the government, not groups." He said Hamas was no more relevant to Palestinian policy than the views of extremist anti-Palestinian cabinet member Avigdor Lieberman are to Israeli policy. Unexpectedly, Shaer expressed dismay that "previous attempts at peace were ruined by suicide bombers. Now, we look forward to a sustained peace."
The Palestinian government is what does not matter. The GROUPS have the arms and they are ALL that matter. Avigdor Lieberman does not have an armed group that send out suicide bombers.
 
An article in Ha'aretz claims that Al-Shaer also said the following:
 
...that suicide bombings had ruined past attempts at peace, and that the PA government recognizes Israel and forswears violence even if Hamas does not.
I couldn't find that quote in the Novak article, but it is exactly true of course. That was the purpose of the bombings after all, and they succeeded. That explains why it DOES matter what the Hamas thinks and what they will do.
 
Ami Isseroff
 
 
 
 
 
 

Olive Branch From Hamas

Monday, April 16, 2007; Page A17

On April 7, ending a seven-day visit to Israel, I finally got an interview I had sought for a year. I sat down in a Palestinian Authority office in Ramallah with a leader of Hamas, the extremist organization that won last year's elections. This leader pushed a two-state Israeli-Palestinian solution and deplored suicide bombers. But officials in Washington seem not to want to hear Hamas calling for peace.

No fringe character, this was Naser al-Shaer: education minister and deputy prime minister in the new coalition government. Shaer signaled that the regime recognizes Israel's right to exist and forgoes violence -- conditions essential for talks about a viable Palestinian state adjoining Israel -- even if Hamas does not. "We hope that it is going to be a matter of time," Shaer told me. "But there is a big chance now."

When I returned to Washington last week, I sought the reaction of Bush administration officials (who refuse to have any contact with Hamas). I asked to talk to Elliott Abrams, the deputy national security adviser who is most influential in policy on Israel. Abrams was once a fellow Cold Warrior and friend whom I have defended, but an aide let me know on Thursday that Abrams would not talk to me about Hamas. A senior State Department official also showed no interest in what Shaer said.

U.S. policy is not just adherence to the economic boycott that has devastated the Palestinian Authority since Hamas won elections in January 2006. U.S. government officials and contract workers in the Israeli-occupied territories must leave when someone from Hamas enters a room. Because the State Department lists Hamas as a terrorist organization, Americans not employed by the government fear that contacting a Hamas member of the Palestinian government would violate the USA Patriot Act.

Accordingly, a year ago, sources who put me in touch with other Palestinians refused to help with Hamas. The best contact I could make then was a brief telephone conversation with a Hamas underling.

I was back in Jerusalem on April 3, two weeks after Hamas brought the more moderate opposition Fatah party into the new national unity government. The Los Angeles Times had just run a remarkable op-ed by the new government's finance minister, Salam Fayyad, a political independent who lived in Washington for 20 years, served as a World Bank official and is well respected in the West. Fayyad wrote that the Palestine Liberation Organization's 1993 acceptance of Israel and disavowal of violence is "a crystal-clear and binding agreement" that "no Palestinian government has the authority to revoke." He added that the unity government's platform "explicitly" pledges to honor all PLO commitments.

Over dinner in a Ramallah restaurant on April 4, Fayyad told me that he offered his column simultaneously to several major American newspapers to get this story out quickly. But do his Hamas colleagues accept his reasoning? Fayyad made clear that he was not flying solo.

Just before my trip ended, the Palestinian Authority put me in touch with Shaer. On Aug. 19, when he was deputy prime minister in the all-Hamas regime, Shaer was seized in an Israeli raid of his Ramallah home and held for a month without charges or evidence.

In his ministry office a few days later, Shaer, who holds a doctorate from England's University of Manchester, looked nothing like the shirt-sleeved, tie-less man photographed when he was released in September. He was dressed in a stylish suit, but more telling than his appearance was what he said.

When I asked whether Hamas agreed with Fayyad's formulation, Shaer said it did not matter: "We are talking about the government, not groups." He said Hamas was no more relevant to Palestinian policy than the views of extremist anti-Palestinian cabinet member Avigdor Lieberman are to Israeli policy. Unexpectedly, Shaer expressed dismay that "previous attempts at peace were ruined by suicide bombers. Now, we look forward to a sustained peace."

While avoiding Israel-bashing, Shaer conjectured: "I don't think the Israeli government wants a two-state solution. Without pressure from the president of the United States, nothing is going to happen." That sounded like a plea for help from George W. Bush. But will he hear it if Elliott Abrams does not listen?

© 2007 Creators Syndicate Inc.


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors. Originally posted at http://zionism-israel.com/israel_news/2007/04/making-of-another-canard-hamas-peace.html. Please do link to these articles, quote from them and forward them by email to friends with this notice. Other uses require written permission of the author.

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