Commentary Magazine


Posts For: August 18, 2011

Hamas Keeps Mum as Syria Assaults Palestinian Refugee Camp

Syrian forces attacked a Palestinian refugee camp in Latakia this week, causing up to 10,000 residents to flee. UNRWA, the UN agency in charge of Palestinian refugees, said it has no idea where they went, how many were killed, or whether wounded and elderly people might still be trapped in the camp; it deemed the situation “very, very worrying.” A senior Palestinian Authority official, Yasser Abed Rabbo, went even further, terming the attack “a crime against humanity.” But one Palestinian organization had not a word to say about this assault on its brethren: Hamas.

Hamas, of course, is deeply beholden to Bashar Assad’s regime: It’s headquartered in Damascus and receives extensive military and financial aid from Assad’s patron, Iran. For the same reason, smaller Palestinian terror organizations based in Syria also kept quiet about the assault. But unlike these smaller groups, Hamas aspires to lead the Palestinians; it even won the last Palestinian election. That’s precisely why many Westerners advocate engaging with this terrorist organization: They say it authentically represents many Palestinians, and therefore can’t be ignored.

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Syrian forces attacked a Palestinian refugee camp in Latakia this week, causing up to 10,000 residents to flee. UNRWA, the UN agency in charge of Palestinian refugees, said it has no idea where they went, how many were killed, or whether wounded and elderly people might still be trapped in the camp; it deemed the situation “very, very worrying.” A senior Palestinian Authority official, Yasser Abed Rabbo, went even further, terming the attack “a crime against humanity.” But one Palestinian organization had not a word to say about this assault on its brethren: Hamas.

Hamas, of course, is deeply beholden to Bashar Assad’s regime: It’s headquartered in Damascus and receives extensive military and financial aid from Assad’s patron, Iran. For the same reason, smaller Palestinian terror organizations based in Syria also kept quiet about the assault. But unlike these smaller groups, Hamas aspires to lead the Palestinians; it even won the last Palestinian election. That’s precisely why many Westerners advocate engaging with this terrorist organization: They say it authentically represents many Palestinians, and therefore can’t be ignored.

But if this “authentic Palestinian representative” can’t even be bothered to condemn a brutal assault on its own people, exactly Palestinian aspirations does it represent? Surely not the aspiration for a better life: If that were Hamas’s goal, it would condemn the assault, since being forced to flee their homes presumably makes the refugees’ lives worse.

Senior Hamas official Mahmoud al-Zahar effectively answered that question last month in an interview with DPA:

“We are not going to recognize Israel. That is very simple. And we are not going to accept Israel as the owner of one square centimeter because it is a fabricated state” … He says accepting Israel’s right to exist would “cost 10 million Palestinians their right to Palestine. Who can pay that price?”

In short, Hamas is an authentic representative of that 66% of Palestinians who still see Israel’s destruction as their ultimate goal, the 80% who agree with Hamas’s charter that “battalions from the Arab and Islamic world” should come defeat the Jews, the 73% who agree with its charter “about the need to kill Jews hiding behind stones and trees.” Or more accurately, it represents those Palestinians who consider its tactics the best way to achieve these goals: As the above poll showed, most Palestinians see a two-state solution as an effective stepping-stone to the goal of eradicating Israel; that’s why most prefer the PA’s declared support for it to Hamas’s open opposition. After all, the PA also sees a two-state solution as a tool for eradicating Israel; see, for instance, its insistent demand for a “right of return” or its denial of Jewish history in Jerusalem.

But in recent years, the PA government in the West Bank has also done something to improve its people’s daily lives. Hamas-controlled Gaza, in contrast, remains a hellhole — because, as its silence over the Syrian assault makes clear, improving Palestinian lives isn’t even on its agenda; it exists solely to destroy Israel.

Which begs one question: Is that really what advocates of engaging Hamas want to support?

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Not the Booker

The Guardian announced the finalists for its reader-nominated Not the Booker Prize this morning. As I’ve had occasion to say before, literary prizes are just another way of advertising books. The anti-establishment spirit of the Not the Booker is as feeble as complaints about sexist TV commercials.

Even so, one of the nice things about the Guardian’s prize (the winner gets a coffee mug) is that nominations must be accompanied by a defense of the novel in not-less-than 150 words, although Sam Jordison said that the paper “had to be pretty lenient with the rule.” Unexplained “complications” would have ensued otherwise. “So long as people have had a decent stab at writing something,” he admits, “we’ve accepted it.” I can’t make up my mind about that phrase decent stab. After 20 years in the college classroom, I know that a stab can be decent, and yet awfully messy. Still, the Guardian has made a decent stab at replacing book enthusiasm with at least some book discussion, and that’s worth something.

Jordison swears that he will publish his own reviews “within a week.” Desperate for informed recommendations, hungry readers will be waiting impatiently.

The Guardian announced the finalists for its reader-nominated Not the Booker Prize this morning. As I’ve had occasion to say before, literary prizes are just another way of advertising books. The anti-establishment spirit of the Not the Booker is as feeble as complaints about sexist TV commercials.

Even so, one of the nice things about the Guardian’s prize (the winner gets a coffee mug) is that nominations must be accompanied by a defense of the novel in not-less-than 150 words, although Sam Jordison said that the paper “had to be pretty lenient with the rule.” Unexplained “complications” would have ensued otherwise. “So long as people have had a decent stab at writing something,” he admits, “we’ve accepted it.” I can’t make up my mind about that phrase decent stab. After 20 years in the college classroom, I know that a stab can be decent, and yet awfully messy. Still, the Guardian has made a decent stab at replacing book enthusiasm with at least some book discussion, and that’s worth something.

Jordison swears that he will publish his own reviews “within a week.” Desperate for informed recommendations, hungry readers will be waiting impatiently.

Read Less




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