The Region: Exposing Hamas

Hamas is repeating the PLO's history, fooling people who should have learned from the first go-round.

mashaal 88 (photo credit: AP)
mashaal 88
(photo credit: AP)
How can a conservative British aristocrat, a German revolutionary philosopher and a New York Yankees catcher teach us to understand the Middle East's new era? Let's begin with the philosopher, Karl Marx, who wrote that history does repeat itself, but not precisely: The first time something happens it takes place as tragedy, the second time as farce. This certainly applies to the way Hamas is repeating the history of the PLO, fooling the same people who should have learned better from the first go-round. Even the fact that virtually no one notices this duplication of the past is sufficient proof of the triumph of foolishness - even more than the first time it was done. Back in February 1974 the PLO's basic program of "Let's throw the Jews into the sea" was not exactly an inspired PR slogan. As a result master showman Yasser Arafat came up with a new idea. The PLO stated that its aim was to "establish a national authority on any lands that can be wrested from Zionist occupation." Arafat explained that this did not mean peace or recognition of Israel within its pre-1967 borders; instead, if the Palestinians gained the West Bank and Gaza Strip they would use them as a base to attain total victory. IN THIS two-stage plan to eliminate Israel, terrorism, the demand that all Palestinian refugees return to their ancestors' pre-1948 homes and the rejection of negotiations with Israel would all continue. In Arafat's words, the strategy was not about peace, but about "how the rest of Palestine is to be liberated." And if any regime was established in the territories, its main duty would be to complete "the liberation of all Palestinian soil" by wiping Israel off the map in an act of genocide. Marx wrote in favor of revolutionary candor: "The Communists disdain to conceal their aims." Similarly, the PLO told us exactly what they intended. One merely had to read their speeches and documents. If the rest of the world wanted to pretend otherwise - well, that was scarcely Arafat's fault. Of course there were cute gimmicks. For example, when a PLO leader declared: "We want to liberate all the Palestinian territories," Palestinians knew he meant everything, while Westerners could pretend he was only talking about the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem. It was a strategy which British comedians call "nudge, nudge; wink, wink." Shortly afterwards Arafat was invited to the UN since this plan supposedly made him a moderate. Still, perhaps one shouldn't complain too much about the "first coming" of the two-stage plan since it took 20 years for the PLO to evolve far enough - in terms of giving lip service to moderation - for real recognition and negotiations to begin with the 1993 Oslo agreement. Yet here we are, nearly 13 years later, and even the PLO's promises have been shown to be hollow. In point of fact the Palestinian nationalists are still back in 1974. NOW FAST forward to the present and Hamas; which brings us to Lord Chesterfield, who warned that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. The Hamas victory has rolled the clock back about 32 years. The statements that are winning Hamas nice treatment and the "moderate" seal of approval are almost precisely the same as the PLO's 1974 position. Indeed, Hamas's strategy must be deliberate on this point. The most important statement made by Hamas since the election was that of its Political Bureau deputy head Musa Abu Marzouk, in a February 14 interview with Dream 2 TV (see Marzouk explained: "Hamas believes that all of Palestine belongs to the Palestinian people. All of Palestine, from the [Jordan] River to the [Mediterranean] Sea, belongs to the Palestinians." The current phase is to seek control over the West Bank, Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip but that "is a temporary and phased solution. This is not the permanent solution." Actually, the Hamas position is more extreme than the PLO stance of 32 years ago because the latter was ready to take the land before getting all the Palestinian refugees and their descendants back inside Israel. Hamas demands this step as a prior condition. In a remarkable comment Marzouk likened this plan to a "truce" of the past, saying, "After all, there was a hudna from 1948 until 1967, and no Arab country recognized Israel." Of course, during that time Palestinian terrorism against Israel continued. So not only is Marzouk demanding Israel give up all the territory and let in a couple of million Palestinians, with a level of disruption, violence and subversion that can be easily imagined; but even those concessions will not bring even a temporary cessation of terrorism, incitement and other measures against Israel. BACK IN THE 1970s and 1980s, despite some major shortcomings, most of the Western world recognized that the PLO was a terrorist organization which did not deserve to be called moderate, or be treated as a partner for talks or a recipient of aid. There were 20 years of pressure to achieve at least the appearance of change, only for the West to discover that this was the same type of group it had been all along. Yet now many are willing to grant all these benefits to Hamas based on a record, statements and a plan which can only be termed worse than what Arafat offered in 1974. What better proof of the warnings of Marx and Chesterfield could there be? Moreover, Hamas is making clear that it will continue the most extreme incitement to hate and kill Jews since the Third Reich, installing this as the main lesson in Palestinian schools. Given everything we know and see, it would probably take Hamas at least 20 years to reach a level of dissimulation even equal to Arafat's, much less any sincere shift toward moderation - which even its Fatah rivals have not yet achieved. Which leaves us with the wisdom of that great baseball player, Yogi Berra: "It's d j vu all over again!" The writer is director of the Global Research in International Affairs Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs.