Archive for the ‘Hamas’ Category


The announcement today of a deal for reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas certainly caused a great stir. It’s worth examining what it means.

Is This For Real?

That’s the first question to be asked and only the coming days will provide an answer, but the early indications are that it seems like this will finally happen. The announcement of the deal was met with no small amount of cynicism, as these agreements have been said to be coming about in the past, but have always evaporated over some dispute or other.

Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh (left) and PA President Mahmoud Abbas

This has a different feel. Probably the biggest reason for that is the proposed vote in the UN in September on recognition of Palestinian statehood. The proposition is problematic, even for supportive countries, as long as the Palestinians themselves are split. Also, while Egypt has been the broker of these agreements in the past, this time the Mubarak regime, and particularly his aide Omar Suleiman, are not involved. The new faces may have had ideas that the former mediators would not have broached. Finally, the Arab Spring has unleashed a wave of democracy. Neither of the Palestinian factions want to wait until such a thing happens in their own territory. But more importantly, the increasing weight of Arab public opinion will be a boon to the Palestinian cause, both in new Arab regimes and in the current ones that survive. A unified Palestinian government will be in a much better position to take advantage of that.

The deal apparently will mean a sharing of power between Hamas and Fatah in the broader PA government, while getting around the question of control of security forces (which has been the main sticking point in previous attempts at an agreement) by keeping the status quo, where Hamas will control security in Gaza, Fatah in the West Bank. Ultimately the PA will be reconstituted by elections within a year.

If this does happen, it’s a game-changer. The changes are not entirely predictable; nothing ever is, especially in this conflict. But there is no doubt that it will mean changes for the Palestinian Authority and will present new dilemmas for Israel and the United States, as well as the larger Middle East and the international community in general. (more…)

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It is not easy being the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights in Gaza. It is impossible for them to issue any statement that doesn’t become instantly politicized. And, like many NGOs, their reports are often put in less than ideal contexts by the media.

Much like their counterparts — such as al-Haq in the West Bank and groups like B’Tselem and Gisha in Israel — their attempt to report on human rights and, to act as a watchdog on their own government while operating in an atmosphere where the Israeli occupation causes overarching human rights violations creates a difficult balancing act.

Logo of the Palestine Center for Human Rights, located in the Gaza Strip

But PCHR still is the best NGO source for the state of human rights in Gaza. True, it has little competition (though there is some, including B’Tselem’s fieldworkers in Gaza), but its reports have generally proven reliable—so much so, that their releases are often used by the Israeli right.

Today, the New York Times reported on a recent PCHR release, which criticized “members of the Palestinian resistance” for “stor[ing] explosives or to treat such explosives in locations close to populated areas.”

It is important to note that PCHR did not identify the “members of the resistance.” The Times, while scrupulously avoiding any statement that the PCHR statement is referring to Hamas, does say that “Israel has long accused Hamas and other groups of endangering Palestinian civilians by carrying out militant activities in densely populated areas.”

A PCHR spokesman also noted that the Hamas government tried to shift blame for injuries to Gazan civilians that were clearly caused by Palestinian rockets onto Israel.

An unwitting reader of the Times article might infer that PCHR was implicitly accusing Hamas of being responsible for the weapons storage. The distinction there is an important one.

Storing weapons in civilian areas, or dangerously near civilians, carries two threats, both of which the people of Gaza have become intimately familiar with. One is that the weapons will accidentally discharge or misfire when used. The second is that Israel will target the area. (more…)

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[This piece was originally published at the Meretz USA blog]

Yesterday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made it clear, as if it needed clarifying, that he is uninterested in finding peace with the Palestinians. He did this by issuing an ultimatum to Fatah and its leader, PA President Mahmoud Abbas: you can either reconcile with Hamas or make peace with Israel, not both.

More than once on my blog, I’ve been criticized by commenters for my view of Hamas. I see them as a reactionary religious-nationalist movement. They have no

Fatah's Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas' Khaled Meshal share an uncomfortable handshake

compunction about attacking civilians, are appropriately called terrorists, have a poor human rights record in Gaza (a score on which anyone who has read my work will know I have been at least as critical of the Israeli occupation record as well as the PA), and are legitimately mistrusted.

But Hamas is, like it or not, also a part of the Palestinian body politic. In the early 1980s, when Israel tacitly permitted the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood to organize in the hope that it would provide a religious, but much less threatening, counterweight to the PLO, they surely did not have any idea what they were doing. Hamas grew out of that, and it is a regrettable development, in my view for both sides.

And, again like it or not, they control the Gaza Strip. All efforts to shake their rule there have failed, and if elections were held today among all Palestinians, all polls indicate they would have significant, albeit clearly minority, support. Put simply, the option of being able to reach a deal with the Palestinians without Hamas just does not exist.

And we can thank ourselves for that. In 2006, the United States insisted on Palestinian elections, and Hamas, as the main party in the List of Change and Reform, won the most seats, 74 of 132. Before the newly elected PA could form any sort of policy on anything, Israel and the Quartet (the US, EU, UN and Russian Federation) instituted a regime of economic sanctions on it. These actions reverberated around the Arab world, sending the message that America supports democracy as long as it produces outcomes we approve of. (more…)

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Today, Israel’s Turkel Commission came out with its first report on its inquiry into the Gaza flotilla debacle. Their report stated that the IDF acted properly and legally. Roi Maor, over at 972mag.com, efficiently breaks down just how much of a sham the report is.

It would feel much better for me to report that Israel was capable of investigating itself; it has done so in the past, perhaps not to everyone’s satisfaction, but in a manner that I think put it, back then, ahead of most, maybe any other country in the world.

But a quarter century later, this is a very different Israel. And this particular outcome was predictable, not because of cynicism about Israel’s ability in this regard, but by the behavior of the commission itself. This is demonstrated in this piece, which I wrote back in October.

It really doesn’t make sense anymore to demand that Israel investigate itself. It rarely does so, and this sort of thing is the result when it does.

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It’s always nice to see when a group of diplomats does something right. In the case of the UN Human Rights Council, the announcement last week of a fact-finding mission headed by Richard Goldstone is not only smart and appropriate; it offers some correction for a past error.

During the Gaza fighting, the UNHRC set out a foolish mandate, where it called for an international, impartial investigation-but only into Israeli actions during the Gaza offensive. Not only is this inherently unjust and an unacceptable application of international law, it is also impractical. An independent investigation depends on the cooperation of the country in question.

Richard Goldstone

Richard Goldstone

As it stood, the mandate was going to be little more than hot air and another point against the UNHRC, which, like its predecessor (the UN Commission on Human Rights),  has merited the criticism of paying more attention to Israeli crimes than to those of other countries. But the appointment of Goldstone to head a four-person team to investigate Gaza changes this.

The UNHRC president, Martin Uhomoibhi of Nigeria, stated explicitly that the investigation would cover the actions of both sides. More to the point, Goldstone wouldn’t be doing it if the purpose of the mission was only to “nail” Israel.

Goldstone has a rock solid reputation as a fair prosecutor of justice and his experience covers many of the most high-profile issues in recent times: South Africa, Yugoslavia, Rwanda and the Iraq Oil-for-Food program. He has also been involved in monitoring Nazi activity in Argentina.

Goldstone has always presented himself as a Jew in more than just ancestry. He has also always had strong ties with and an abiding concern for Israel. He is a trustee of the Hebrew University and this should not be underestimated. A professor might hold all sorts of views, but a trustee, especially one who is a foreign citizen, is not getting that position at Hebrew U if he is anti-Israel. (more…)

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