An apology for Hamas

With the deadly group, governance and terrorism are not mutually exclusive.

Haniyeh 521 (photo credit: reuters)
Haniyeh 521
(photo credit: reuters)
The cover of Paola Caridi’s new book, Hamas: From Resistance to Government, should have served as a warning. If the title didn’t suggest a kinder, gentler Hamas, the cover art certainly did. It features two cute girls, one with pink nail polish, the other waving a green Hamas flag, both wearing a hijab and a Hamas bandana.
A closer look reveals that the girls are wearing the bandana of the Izzadin Kassam Brigades – the so-called “armed wing of Hamas,” which is responsible for hundreds of attacks, including grisly suicide bombings and rocket firings, since the terror group’s inception in 1987. Not so cute.
But the book came recommended.
Notably, Nathan Brown, a keen observer of Hamas, endorsed the book. And, to the extent one book can reveal, it’s important to see how European thinking is evolving on the Palestinian- Israeli conflict.
The prologue gives every indication that the author understood the complexity of the topic. But she peaked at the prologue. The tone thereafter is strident. The Palestinians (Hamas included) are depicted as downtrodden innocents while the sins of the Israelis accumulate by the page. The author does not identify Israel’s government as Jerusalem (where it is located), instead referring to it disdainfully as “the government in Tel Aviv.” More troubling is the author’s lionization of Hamas members and the way she gushes about the violent group’s principles and its popular appeal.
These themes endure through more than 300 pages of text, culminating in an epilogue that attempts to look back on Hamas’s “terrorist period,” implying that Hamas violence is now over.
Caridi marvels at the notion that “in the space of 20 years, the movement has gone from the founding charter of 1988 that called for the destruction of the State of Israel to the ‘Hamas in a suit’ of [Gaza leader] Ismail Haniyeh” today. The author then implores the world to help the organization “continue on the path of politics, pragmatism and moderation.”
Continue? There’s an extensive body of literature, including the most recent “Country Reports on Terrorism” issued by the US State Department, that begs to differ.
But let’s assume Caridi’s analysis is not severely lacking. What about her ability to convey the facts? First, there are sins of omission. Caridi cites as gospel the controversial UN-sponsored Goldstone Report, which purported to reveal Israeli war crimes from the 2008- 2009 Gaza conflict, in her relentless condemnation of Israel. But she neglects to note that Richard Goldstone retracted his primary findings in an editorial he published in April 2011.
Caridi’s book was published in English a full year later. The author almost certainly had the opportunity to include this as her book (first published in Italian in 2009) was being translated to English. She simply didn’t.
Caridi also makes a preposterous claim that “very few Qassam rockets had been fired on Israeli cities in the Negev” from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip in the months leading up to the Gaza conflict. Here, she appears to have simply decided to ignore the data.
Official Israeli government statistics reveal that between June 2008 and the start of Operation Cast Lead in December, Gaza militants fired 892 rockets and mortars at Israel.
Additionally, Caridi asserts that Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, the Hamas operative assassinated in Dubai in 2010, was unjustly targeted because his operations were “confined to the early years of Hamas and all directed against Israeli soldiers.” She appears to have botched this one, too.
As Yossi Melman and Dan Raviv note in The Atlantic, Mabhouh had a “key role in forging secret connections between the Palestinian radicals who rule Gaza and the Al-Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guards in Iran. Israel believed that Mabhouh had a major role in arms shipments from Iran to Gaza via the shores of Sudan and Egypt, and on through the Sinai. And rockets that get into Gaza have a high likelihood of killing Israelis.”
Caridi also gets Israeli politics wrong.
She claims that the Israeli Kadima party received “minuscule electoral returns” in the 2009 vote, which she directly attributes to Israel’s “defeat in Gaza.”
Actually, Kadima won the highest number of seats in that election. The math is undeniable. Ultimately, Binyamin Netanyahu’s Likud party was simply able to forge a more viable coalition with other parties.
Don’t expect Caridi to have a better grasp of Palestinian history. In discussing the Palestinian civil war of 2007, during which Hamas overran the Gaza Strip and murdered dozens of fellow Palestinians, Caridi asserts that the “coup had not been prepared... Instead, the clashes provoked a chain reaction from which there was no going back.
Hamas had no military plan.”
Caridi must not have bothered to read the authoritative Palestinian Center for Human Rights Report, which noted how Hamas “blew up the headquarters of the Preventive Security Service, apparently through explosives planted in an underground tunnel.” The very existence of such tunnels suggests advanced planning for the Hamas assault.
She further claims there were “no suicide attacks in Israeli cities since 2005.”
Here, she ignores the suicide attack in 2008 in Dimona that killed one and wounded 11.
To be sure, Caridi’s book yields occasional nuggets. Her depiction of the early ties between Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood is worthy. Similarly, the quotes from Hamas insiders can forge a better understanding of how these men view the world.
But, on balance, if Caridi sought to help readers understand the dangerous balance that Hamas strikes between governance and terrorism (what she calls “resistance”), she has failed. She disregards the dangers of this deadly terrorist group, offering instead an apology for the platform of irredentism, extremism and anti-Semitism upon which Hamas has built its burgeoning base.
The writer, a former US Treasury intelligence analyst, is vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. He tweets at @JSchanzer.