Somebody ought to tell Anthony Lake that just because they both start with the letter “H” doesn’t mean that Hezbollah and Hamas are the same. Here’s what he’s reported to have said in an interview with the New York Sun (God, this is the first time I’ve ever found a Sun article actually informative):
…One of the campaign’s most senior advisers, Anthony Lake, said he saw the two countries [Israel and the U.S.] as sharing a common enemy. “You can analytically make distinctions among them. Both Hezbollah and Hamas are more focused on Israel than the United States. They all have different agendas, but they all use terrorism and they all look at the United States as their enemies too,” he said.
Clearly, he is right and Hezbollah does see itself as an enemy of the U.S. chiefly because of its role backing Israel and opposing Syrian interests in Lebanon. And Hezbollah has actually attacked U.S. targets in Lebanon. But I’ve never heard anyone claim that Hamas’ attitude toward the U.S. is similar. In fact, my understanding is that Hamas makes a clear distinction between Israel and the U.S. To my knowledge, it has never attacked U.S. targets. No one would claim that Hamas is a big fan of the U.S. But I don’t think any policy analyst I’ve read makes the claim Lake does.
No doubt my right-wing cheering squad will correct me if I’m wrong, but if I’m not it leads me to express greater concern about the advice Obama is getting from pro-Israel advisors like Lake. How could the latter make such a boneheaded pronouncement? This is out and out pandering to the fears and ignorance of American Jews. What does it tell you about what an Obama presidency might look like regarding the I-P conflict?
The above linked article is also a very good primer on the Obama foreign policy team with an emphasis on its Mideast analysts and phony charges by the far-right against some of them for alleged anti-Israel bias.
Obviously in their world, whoever opposes Israel ipso facto is an enemy of the USofA.
In their world, supporting Israel is the right thing for an American patriotic politician to do, no matter what Israel does, because the goals of both countries are, quote “same”.
In our world, we call these people fundamentalist wackos…
Lets put it that way: if you still believe in basic liberties and rights, in democracy, freedom of religion, freedom of expression and equality for women, not to mention not to fire missiles at a town and blowing yourself in buses, than you can’t be called a friend of Hamas. Unless like chomsky and Finkelstein, you think they are freedom fighters.
i still believe in On Liberty, the Second Treaty on Government and the Rawlsian liberalism.
So yes, the U.S. and Hamas are enemies. This does not mean that talking with them is the wrong political move. But it does mean you should have your values (and heart) at the right place. And that is not with those Hamas people for sure.
Richard Silverstein says
I’d like to think that John Rawls would have understood that to see a guerilla movement as a legitimate player in solving an intractable political stalemate is not the same as being a friend of such a movement. Apparently, Ted Rawls doesn’t understand the subtlety of such a position.
I don’t support Hamas’ social or religious values & I certainly don’t support it’s willingness to pursue violence against civilians on behalf of its objectives. But I’m not a Palestinian and I don’t vote on who their leaders should be. Nor do you. Palestinians DID have such a vote & by a very slim margin approved Hamas as their political representatives. That makes them a legitimate partner in the process of resolving this quagmire. That might not sit well w. you. But since you said you support democracy I presume you don’t limit that notion to only the democratic choices of which you approve.
It means nothing of the sort unless U.S. interests are identical to Israeli interests. Seeing Hamas as a diabolical enemy is a built-in frame that prevents pragmatic approaches to solving the conflict. I am glad to hear that you seem to approve of talking to Hamas. That at least shows a small dose of pragmatism and is more than Israel has shown.
Just a quick one:
since the election of Hamas this new regime has: killed 150 (more or less, probably more) people of the opposition party Fatah, limited freedom of expression completely, opened fire at a Fatah demonstration, closed down media, locked up journalists, and oppressed Christian Palestinians. Is this is still a legitimately elected democratic government? Probably not.
This again not to say that the U.S. or Israel should not talk with them, but it should be on pragmatic grounds only.
There is not a shred of normative legitimacy to this internal dictatorship.
And yes, they are enemies, unless like some, you are willing to accept / support such despotism. Wars of ideas are important, and the battle ground is not only done by guns.
Richard Silverstein says
In your attempt to demonize Hamas you have conveniently neglected the massive amounts of violence perpetrated by the corrupt minions of Fatah (cf. Mohammed Dahlan & others) against Hamas & anyone standing in their way.
They’ve either “limited” freedom of expression or cut it off “completely.” Which is it? Besides Fatah has done the same to Hamas. So do you have a viable political alternative to recommend to Palestinians?
Admittedly, violence against religious minorities is despicable & has happened in Gaza. But do you have proof that Hamas instigated or approved of such violence?
Sloppy argument. Are you claiming Hamas was not legitimately elected? If so, I’d like to see any evidence you might have for that. If you’re saying that Hamas has lost the right to claim it is a legitimate government because of its actions while in power–then democracy would be the best way to allow the Palestinians themselves to determine this. Again, you don’t get the right to determine on their behalf who their representative should be. They do. Here in the U.S. we get the right to throw the bums out if they betray their mandate. Palestinians should get no less a right.
Personally, I wish they would choose an independent, non-violent political movement like that represetned by Mustafa Barghouti. But unfortunately again, I don’t get to choose this for them.
Tell it to the Palestinians. They seem to disagree with you. Besides, again Fatah is just as much a dictatorship while being much more corrupt, inefficient & incompetent.
Would you please tell that to the Israelis? They seem in great need of hearing this argument. BTW, Hamas has offered a hudna which would mean putting down its guns in return for Israel ceasing its own offensive actions against Palestinians. It is Israel which has refused to enter such a dialogue.
Thanks for this.
One point: I don’t understand your use of ‘they’ when you relate to Palestinians in Gaza as though they are represented by Hamas.
There are three possibilities here.
First possibility: ‘they’ means the electorate: which can not be true, following the record of Hamas following their win in the elections. Since then, we have no idea what the electorate wants, as there is no freedom of expression.
Second, ‘they’ can mean the Hamas leadres, as in ‘Syria says’ means a very small minority oppressing the majority population. The analogy here would A raping B, while C looks at them and ask: hello, what is going on here? And A answers, don’t worry, everything is fine and I speak for both myself and B. To accept this would be cruel and illiberal.
Third, there is the possibility that we should not ask the people, but use hypothetical representation like social contracts theorists do, in order to reach a conclusion about the rights people should have. The logic is, that oppressed people will probably fail to represent themselves adequately. For this indeed there are U.N. conventions and books such as J. Rawls’ A Theory of Justice.
Hamas fails in all three. The fact the Fatah is no better is not important, perhaps both are as bad: so what? So as liberals, we should be critical of all despots, dictators and the such.
The pressure should be on these regime to change, not to find excuses for them to continue to oppress their own populations.
All this does not mean Israel or the U.S. should not converse with Hamas. It does mean the reason for this should be strictly pragmatic.
I see at least four good things that might come out of such conversation:
It might prevent the shelling of Shderot.
It will cause an immediate disagreement between the Damascus faction of Hamas and the one in Gaza (as the Damascus faction is more radical).
It might save Israeli lives, and I would hate to see Israeli soldiers entering Gaza.
It might save Palestinian lives, who, unlike their irresponsible leadership, deserve no contempt.
I remember watching the Daily Show with my favorite Jew (well, about even with Lewis Black) Jon Stewart, poking fun at the government officials who didn’t know if al Kaida was Sunni or Shia.
Tells me all I need to know about the “war on terror”…
re American Guy: I’ve lived enough years in Israel to know both Fatah and Hamas, well enough, much more, than 99% of Americans. This is a joke to you, not to me.
Richard Silverstein says
Pls. don’t engage in linguistic sophistry. I’m not about to get into a Bill Clintonesque debate on what the meaning of “is” is. You know very well what I mean when I write “they.” At times I mean Hamas & at times I mean the Palestinians as a whole. The connotation is clear to all except perhaps you.
Hamas is the elected representative of the Palestinians until another election proves otherwise. You don’t get the right to say that Hamas is no longer their representative merely because Palestinians haven’t made a subsequent choice to the one they made in the last election.
Besides, where do you get the chutzpah to tell us their is no freedom of expression in Gaza? How do you know? Have you spent a single minute there? Do you have friends or anyone else with first hand information informing you of this? Or are you merely reading MEMRI or whatever other propaganda outlet you frequent to provide you your window on the Palestinians. However you get yr information you’re clearly slumming it as you have about as much direct first-hand knowledge of Palestinians as I have of Mongol horsemen.
Hamas is a legitimate political entity in Palestine. Not only that but analogizing Hamas to the Alawite Syrian regime is entirely specious as Hamas was legitimately elected by the Palestinian people & the Alawite Baathists never were. Besides which Hamas leaders are of the same Islamic sect as those they represent which cannot be said for the Alawites.
Isn’t that mighty white of you to decide on behalf of oppressed people whether they represent themselves adequately or not. I’d trust the Palestinian people to choose those they wish to represent them. I guess you believe in democracy only when people choose the representatives you approve of.
And I’d prefer you not raise your father’s name in defending your woeful prejudices. He was a great man but I’m afraid the apples have fallen rather far from his tree in yr case.
Fatah is far worse than Hamas. The fact that you do not concede this shows how little you know about Fatah. I am a pragmatist, not an absolutist as you seem to be. I believe you resolve a political and military conflict with the representatives of yr enemy even if you don’t approve of them. I’m not prepared to say I’ll wait until the Palestinians find political representatives of which I approve before I make peace with them. That’s a recipe for endless war.
Besides, if the Palestinian people were not under endless Occupation & the Gazans under endless brutal siege and Palestinian life could return to some degree of normality, I have no doubt that the Palestinians would make other political choices than the ones they make under severe duress & existential threat.
If the Republicans were to win the Presidency and both houses of congress but were then to run all the Democrats at gunpoint from D.C. then they would cease to be the legitimate representatives of the American people regardless of the election results. The same is true for Hamas. And Fatah.