Half of what JTA publishes about Israeli politics is rubbish. Which means that the other half of the time they don’t make utter fools out of themselves. Tonight I’m taking out the rubbish.
JTA’s Israel correspondent is Leslie Susser, who consistently spins ‘straw’ reporting into–not gold–but lead. You’ll recall that one of his pieces of lead was the claim that 20% of Arab residents of East Jerusalem engaged in terror. His latest travesty is a report on the alleged tactical errors Hamas committed during Operation Solid Dead (Lead).
He begins with the premise that most journalists would report as a positive: that Hamas is honoring the ceasefire that concluded the last Gaza war. Instead, for Susser, stenographer of the Israeli establishment that he is, Hamas’ decision not to fire rockets is coldly and cynically calculated to curry favor with the west and the movement’s other potential allies.
Note this sourceless passage:
…There are signs as well of a new [Hamas] strategy of keeping the peace.
Hamas wants to win points with the international community and pave the way for a grand bargain: It releases captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in return for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners and the opening of border crossing points between Israel and Gaza.
This is certainly not a ‘new’ or ‘grand’ strategy. These negotiating points have been bandied about for months.
Here is more unsupported supposition passing for journalistic acuity:
If the relative quiet holds, the grand bargain could be struck. But even if it is, the prospects for a change in American attitudes to Hamas seem remote.
“Seem to be remote” on what basis? Susser does bring up the fact that Hamas refuses western and Israeli conditions for recognizing Hamas as a legitimate partner: ending terror and recognizing Israel. But on one point he has just contradicted himself because earlier he acknowledged that Hamas was adhering to the ceasefire, hence it was not engaging in terror. As for recognition of Israel, Susser refuses to concede that the 10-year hudna that Khaled Meshal offered in his N.Y. Times interview WAS a form of tacit recognition.
Now comes the sorriest series of passages in Susser’s piece:
The Hamas reassessment of policy follows the recognition of mistakes it made before and during last winter’s fighting.
Where is the evidence that Hamas acknowledges “mistakes?”
To a large extent the organization fell victim to its own propaganda: That Israel was weak, that the Israel Defense Forces wouldn’t dare enter Gaza on the ground, and if it did it would be severely punished. Hamas also believed the fighting would lead to international pressure on Israel to fully open the border crossing points into Gaza.
While it may be true that Hamas made mistaken assumptions before the Israeli invasion, Susser of course neglects to mention the equally mistaken assumptions that Israel made: that Hamas was foolish and it’s fighters could be drawn into the open and slaughtered, that the IDF would crush, or even topple it and compel it to stop firing rockets. None of these assumptions were borne out, which means that Israel failed in its war goals. Not a word about that since Susser’s intent is to impugn the Palestinians, not to analyze the situation in a balanced fashion.
As for Israel being “punished,” it has been punished in the court of international public opinion after murdering 1,400 mostly unarmed Palestinian civilians. As for pressure to end the Gaza siege, it has mounted exponentially.
Note once again in the following passage, that it is not only unsourced, but that no media reports that I’ve read, including ones from Israel, confirm the allegations brought forward here:
None of its [Hamas’] assumptions proved true, leading to strong criticism by leading Hamas politicians of the movement’s more radical military wing and the peremptory dismissal of some senior military commanders.
Where is the criticism? Where are the dismissed commanders? Perhaps in Susser’s imagination or that of his Shin Bet informants?
Here is a perfect example of the disastrous policy offerings proffered by the intelligence apparatus of a national security state:
[Shin Bet director] Diskin claimed that during the war he had recommended overthrowing the Hamas government because as long as it was in control in Gaza, progress for peace with the Palestinians would not be possible. The security services chief also said he feared that in a new Palestinian election, Hamas probably would win in the West Bank, too, with horrendous consequences for the region as a whole.
Diskin made no recommendations, but what he was implying is clear: At some point in the future, if Israel wants peace, it will have to topple the Hamas government.
What Diskin really means to say is that a Hamas win would bring horrendous consequences for Israel–NOT the region as a whole. Though for Diskin those are one and the same thing. By the way, Hamas did win one election. What horrendous regional consequences caused directly by Hamas resulted from that win?
Isn’t it astonishing (or perhaps just the opposite) that the Shin Bet offers the same wisdom concerning Hamas as it offers concering Iran: regime change. There is absolutely no consideration (just as there was none on the part of the Bush administration before it toppled Saddam) of what comes after regime change. Who takes the ayatollahs’ place? Who takes Hamas’ place? Frankly dear, the Shin Bet doesn’t give a damn. Let the Iranians carve each other up for a generation or two. Diskin could give a crap. The same with the Palestinians. Topple Hamas and let the Palis fight amongst themselves for the few spoils left over. The worse the Arabs look, the better off Israel is by comparison.
This “strategy” is cynical beyond measure. It walls off the Israeli garrison state as the entire region burns in fire around it. Come to think of it, this IS apocalyptical stuff worthy of one of those fiery Biblical prophets or (if you’re an evangelical fire-breather like a certain former president) the Book of Revelations.
But the rest of us don’t want to live amidst apocalypse. We want a Middle East in which nations try to get along with each other at least minimally. That’s why reporting like Susser’s and “intelligence” offerings like that of the Shin Bet do such a disservice, both to JTA readers and the entire Israeli nation.