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(photo credit: Associated Press)
The American Jewish Committee is lobbying Argentina and Brazil to refrain from inviting Hamas to visit their countries, on the heels of Venezuela's invitation to the new leaders of the Palestinian Legislative Council.
"Hamas itself is very interested in going beyond the more ideological countries like Venezuela and Cuba and would like to be received in some of the major countries like Brazil and Argentina," AJC Executive Director David Harris told The Jerusalem Post while in Israel to mark his organization's 100th anniversary.
"Obviously we're very hopeful that responsible countries like Brazil and Argentina will understand that it would be a gross error if they agreed to invite a Hamas delegation," he continued. "It will add nothing to the equation but it will certainly have the effect of conferring legitimacy on Hamas and further undermining any prospects of peace in this region."
Harris noted his disappointment with countries such as Turkey and Russia that have already hosted the leaders of the terrorist organization. He noted that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov recently met with the AJC and told the group that the Hamas meeting had only served to pressure the new legislators to adhere to the Quartet's demands that they refrain from violence, recognize Israel and accept previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements.
Harris said that Turkey had similar explanations and that it was time to "move on" from the issue of the Hamas visit to Ankara.
The AJC has nurtured relations with Turkey for years, and Harris said that "the Turkish-Israeli relationship is so wide and so deep and so important to both sides that as problematic as this visit was, there's far more to the relationship. In my judgment, it would be shortsighted to allow an entire relationship, which is of such consequence, to be held hostage to such an issue." Harris said the major issue now was to make sure the trip was a one-time event.
He added, "I don't doubt the Turkish good intentions. We felt that in this particular case they were misguided."
In fact, Harris described all the overtures made to Hamas as well-meaning. But he said he opposed those acts, and suggested that the international community had failed to learn its lesson from engaging Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
"They did not persuade Arafat to change his stripes, but at the same time they divided the world," he charged.
Harris also expressed outrage at the recent study out of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government claiming that the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC leads the US to act against its own interests.
"We shouldn't be blinded by the Harvard imprimatur," he warned. "Harvard has such a magical name in the academic world that many simply defer to whatever comes out of Cambridge, Massachusetts."
He pointed to another recently published study listing Israel as the third most-liked country by Americans.
"That is far more reflective of the American attitude toward Israel and that obviously goes far beyond the Jewish community or the reach of Jewish organizations," he said. "That's far more explained by the fact that within the American DNA, being understanding of and sympathetic to Israel comes quite naturally to many."