September 3, 2014

Middle East Media Sampler for January 9, 2012


1) Hamas rebrands with the full faith and credit of the United States behind it

Two weeks ago, Jonathan Schanzer wrote,Will Hamas splinter as external leaders seek a new home?

The prospect of losing a safe haven and cash has prompted Mashaal to recalculate, and figures close to him now say they are mulling a new strategy of non-violence in hopes of finding a new Arab state in which to take refuge.

WHILE SOME Hamas members may be willing to forsake violence after more than two decades of suicide bombings and rocket attacks on civilians, others refuse to bend on their founding principles.

On the anniversary of Hamas' founding in early December, Haniyeh himself reiterated that "armed resistance and armed struggle are the strategic way to liberate the Palestinian land from the sea to the river."

I was skeptical because I didn't believe that Hamas would change. As Khaled Abut Toameh has recently written.

Those who think that Abbas's invitation to Hamas to join the PLO is a positive step for the peace process are deluding themselves. Hamas, according to its leaders, is joining the PLO because it wants to "liberate Palestine from the river to the sea," and not because it is interested in becoming part of the peace process.

But in the West, most analysts do not want to hear what Hamas says in Arabic.

However, Avi Issacharoff, in Ha'aretz has also recently written about a split in Hamas. (h/t Elder of Ziyon)

For senior officials in the Palestinian Authority, this did not come as a great surprise. A month ago, after the conclusion of a first round of talks, Abbas and Meshal agreed on a transition to "popular resistance" and on a cease-fire with Israel in the West Bank and Gaza. Haaretz learned this week that in the wake of that meeting, Meshal ordered the military wing of Hamas, Iz al-Din al-Qassam, to desist from armed activity against Israel. Among those surprised by this announcement, issued in Cairo on December 23, were senior Hamas personnel in the Gaza Strip. They were taken aback by the departure from the official Hamas line, which until then held that the jihad and armed operations against Israel would continue indefinitely (other than in periods of hudna, cease-fire ).

The announcement of the new mode of struggle sparked a series of angry reactions by senior figures in Hamas' political wing in Gaza; they, who had been considered more pragmatic, perhaps even moderate in their approach, endorsed a much tougher approach than Meshal's. However, this was not a case of a conservative ideology flying in the face of the new line articulated by Meshal: What really irked the Gaza officials, including Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, Interior Minister Fathi Hamad, Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar and others, was that they were not consulted before the announcement of the new policy was made.

Again the fault line appears to be whether to appear moderate. Finally Anna Mahjar-Barducci wrote a few days ago:

A visit by Hamas visit to Sudan at the end of December exposed some of the irreconcilable positions that divide Hamas's leadership. The Palestinian newspaper Al-Hayat al-Jadida reported that the most important issue discussed a a meeting during the visit was the relations between Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood (MB). Hamas's political bureau chief, Khalid Mashaal, tried to impose his viewpoint, the need of forming a new party, named the MB-Palestine Branch, to act as a reflection of the MB's Egyptian Freedom and Justice Party. Mashaal's idea is to dismantle Hamas, finding a new international and internal legitimacy in acting as a branch of the MB that is now recognized as a legal political party.

So the mechanism by which Hamas will attempt its subterfuge is by becoming an affiliate of the Muslim Brotherhood.

What makes this especially disturbing is that the Obama administration's approach to Islamist organizations makes this tactic possible. Barry Rubin has been writing about this for some time. Two and a half years ago he scored, the administration's terrorism adviser, John Brennan for declaring that we needed to encourage Hezbollah:

It wasn’t enough that President Obama’s counterterrorism advisor, John Brennan gave a speech which—possibly for the first time in U.S. history—gave a government definition of a religious practice, endorsing Jihad as a noble pursuit. No, he also gave a basic endorsement to a terrorist group which has murdered several hundred Americans.

Please understand, Brennan is not engaging in appeasement. It's much worse. He thinks he's a brilliant strategist who is going to manipulate Hizballah into being pro-American without knowing very much about the Middle East, Lebanon, Iran, Islamism, or even his supposed subject of expertise, terrorism.

A few months ago, he similarly criticized Secretary of State Clinton for a speech expressing tolerance of Islamist regimes and organizations:

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s speech justifying Obama Administration Middle East policy changes everything. True, it isn’t surprising. I’ve been writing for almost three years about how the current U.S. government thinks this way.

Do not underestimate this speech’s importance. It isn’t a reluctant acceptance that Islamists might win elections and take over coutries. It is an enthusiastic endorsement of that idea.

But now there can be no doubt that Obama’s Middle East policy is engaged in what might be the biggest blunder in the history of U.S. foreign policy. Millions of people will bemoan it as delivering their countries into the grip of repressive dictatorships.

And a few days ago, Rubin wrote:

And so for the first time in U.S. history an American government, to the applause of the vast majority of the mass media, is backing an anti-American authoritarian movement. Here’s how the New York Times explains it:

The Obama administration has begun to reverse decades of mistrust and hostility as it seeks to forge closer ties with an organization [the Muslim Brotherhood] once viewed as irreconcilably opposed to United States interests.

In short.

Elements of Hamas have decided to maintain a more moderate public stance.

This faction will demonstrate its moderation by affiliating with the Muslim Brotherhood.

This might very well work because the Obama administration sees Islamist organizations as moderate.

We will now see how the Obama administration's misguided view will affect its own actions regarding the Middle East.

About Daniel Goldstein

Daniel Goldstein is a media critic and recovering blogger. He has been critiquing media bias against Israel since his first letter to the editor in 1987.