The Region: Hamas indeed has time on its side

Thanks to Western aid and lowered sanctions the organization can stay in power in Gaza while building strong support base by delivering goods.

Kassam cradled by terrorist 311 (photo credit: Associated Press)
Kassam cradled by terrorist 311
(photo credit: Associated Press)
If I had to pick one paragraph that shows what’s profoundly wrong with Middle East coverage in the Western mass media, it would be from the following New York Times article: “A rocket fired from Gaza fell close to a kindergarten in an Israeli village on Tuesday morning. Earlier, the Israel Air Force struck several targets in Gaza in retaliation for a recent increase in rocket and mortar shell fire.
Small groups appear to be behind the fire, but Israel says it holds Hamas, the Islamist organization that governs Gaza, responsible.”
Why does this bother me so much? Because it symbolizes how too much of the West seems to fall for every trick, no matter how simple, of terrorists and totalitarians and does their propaganda work for them.
Hamas rules the Gaza Strip as a dictatorship.
What it wants to happen happens; what it doesn’t want to happen doesn’t happen, or if it does, someone is going to pay severely for it. There are smaller groups allied with Hamas, notably Islamic Jihad.
Nothing could be more obvious than the fact that Hamas uses these groups as fronts so it can attack Israel and then deny responsibility for doing so.
But let’s assume that Islamic Jihad – which Hamas allows to operate freely in Gaza as its junior partner or some smaller groups or some Hamas people hiding behind some other name – fires rockets or mortars at Israel. Presumably, if Hamas didn’t like what they’re doing, it would arrest and perhaps torture those responsible. But when it does nothing month after month despite repeated attacks, this is a signal that Hamas approves of the attacks.
That paragraph could be used to argue that if Israel hits Hamas facilities in self-defense, it is lashing out at an innocent bystander. And every time some devious Hamas leader remarks about the group’s willingness to make peace in the ear of some politician or reporter, they provide free publicity about Hamas’s alleged moderation. This, in turn, sets off others to chatter about the “great” idea of negotiating with Hamas or rewarding it to encourage “moderation.”
You can substitute for Hamas such words as Iran, Hizbullah, the Muslim Brotherhood, Syria, the Taliban or others.
I COULD cite hundreds of examples showing Western governments, journalists, academics, courts and, at times, public opinion being fooled by letting radicals and terrorists make fools of them.
Yet the truth is hardly well hidden. Hamas, for instance, has revealed its new strategy. Mahmoud Zahar, the group’s key leader in the Gaza Strip, explains its medium-term goal is consolidating its hold on the area, thanks largely to help from the US and Europe.
“We are not in a hurry to buy or to sell our national interest because this is not the proper market.”
The group rejects both negotiations (selling) and all-out war (buying). The medium-term effort is to win broad support from Gazans by improving their lives (with Western aid money), then using this base to go to war with Israel (thus making their lives much worse).
This is Hamas’s response to the US argument that raising living standards in the Gaza Strip will inevitably make people more moderate and lead to its downfall.
I’m putting my money on Hamas, not the Obama administration, proving correct.
Zahar said Hamas is not planning to launch new attacks. Why should it? It is enough to let Islamic Jihad and others fire mortars or rockets and send squads across the border in terrorist attacks. If Israel retaliates too much, Hamas will run crying to the Western media and governments to protect it.
Thanks to Western aid and lowered sanctions – although it is officially listed as a terrorist group in the US and Europe – Hamas can stay in power and build a strong support base by delivering the goods.
Zahar boasts: “They told me... ‘You cannot stay isolated and you are not going to survive more than two months. Now we finished five years and we survived, and we stayed, and we faced two wars,” Zahar said. “So we can stay, and we can withstand, and we can win.”
Of course, Hamas would not have survived if Israel had the support to overthrow it during Operation Cast Lead or perhaps if sanctions had remained tight. Hamas succeeded not because of its own ability – its military performance in the war was abysmal – but because the West saved it.
And Zahar says things like “time is not important if you are not wasting this time” because, he believes, Israel is losing international support while the Palestinians gain legitimacy.
In other words, Western demonization and delegitimization directly encourage terrorist groups to be less moderate and to fight more often.
Western aid, pressure to reduce sanctions and pressure to limit retaliation against Gaza is helping Hamas to build a genocide-seeking, terrorist, repressive Islamist dictatorship, backed by Iran and determined to spread instability and anti-Western revolutions.
Finally, Zahar provides a good comparison of Palestinian Authority and Hamas strategy. The PA, Zahar explains, “says we are going to make the infrastructure for a state and then the international community will give us a state as a gift.”
So neither side wants to make peace with Israel: The PA wants unilateral independence without conditions or concessions; Hamas seeks military victory. Western policy encourages both of them not to become more moderate and not to make peace. Even worse, Western misunderstandings and misreporting help make the world a worse and more dangerous place.
The writer is director of the Global Research in International Affairs Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs Journal and Turkish Studies.