Tag Archives: Hamas

Should Hamas Be Part of the Negotiations?

My latest from The Daily Beast.

A few weeks ago, at a dinner with Yuli Tamir, Israel’s former minister of education and one of the founding members of Peace Now, I asked whether negotiations without Hamas can succeed. “Well, if negotiations do succeed—and I am highly skeptical they will—Hamas will feel tremendous pressure to make the necessary compromises, and join in the negotiations,” said Tamir. “They are a rational actor and, given their political position today, I don’t think they want to be seen as an absolute spoiler, should the negotiations produce real dividends.”

Tamir’s comment left me wondering: If we accept the view of Hamas as a serious and rational actor responsive to the needs of its people, why didn’t the Obama team find a creative way to include Hamas in the negotiations? After all, part of the reason for the deep skepticism surrounding the negotiations is that this round of talks looks and sounds like every other failed effort at peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, as Albert Einstein once quipped, then we may indeed be flirting with madness. The inclusion of Hamas would at least add some novelty to the political spectacle, a new element to that old equation.

To read more, click here.


George Mitchell On Hamas And Misconceptions Concerning Northern Ireland’s Peace Process.

Interesting press briefing by the indefatigable Geroge Mitchell: Instead of emphatically stating that Hamas has no role to play in the peace process (is he did in his last press briefing), Mitchell explained that while he does not expect Hamas to participate in this immediate process, he would “welcome the full participation by Hamas and all relevant parties once they comply with the basic requirements of democracy and nonviolence that are, of course, a prerequisite to engage in these serious types of discussions.”

Also, putting to rest the misconception that back in Northern Ireland Mitchell had included the Sinn Fein/IRA in the peace process without preconditions (and should therefore do so with Hamas), the Senator stated: Continue reading

Hamas advocating dialogue through children’s cartoon? Not exactly.

From France 24’s The Observers:

Last month, on the controversial Palestinian children’s program, “The Pioneers of Tomorrow”, a cartoon was aired (on the Hamas owned Al-Aqsa TV) ostensibly aimed at teaching kids Islamic values. The cartoon features a conversation between a Palestinian boy and a young Israeli Jewish settler. Through their dialogue and interaction, the Jewish settler learns to question everything negative he had been taught about Palestinians.

The problem is that while the cartoon is designed to empower Palestinian children, it does so through the use of anti-Semitic stereotypes. This is not all together uncharacteristic for the Hamas run TV program: Past episodes of the show, for example, have shown a cute and cuddly rabbit who desires to kill and eat Jews. Yet, unlike previous shows, the message of this cartoon is less than clear: Is Hamas (in its unique way) calling for dialogue with the enemy, or is the organization using dialogue to perpetuate fear and mistrust? Have a look and decided for yourself:

[Below are my comments, along with Palestinian and Israeli peace activists Aziz Abu Sarah and Kobi Skolnick.]

Roi Ben-Yehuda: From an Israeli, Jewish and humanistic perspective, this is a disturbing cartoon. The faces of the Jews (who are all settlers) are evil looking: they have angular shapes, scowling eyebrows, and thin mouths. This is in contrast to the rounded facial features of the Palestinian boy, which make him look friendly and unthreatening. Moreover, the film uses some subliminal techniques to carry the anti-Semitic messages home. The opening close-up of the Jewish child, for example, appears (for a second) to have blood spilling from his mouth. While the older brother, with his red eyes and goatee, literally looks like Satan. The physical posture, vocal intonations and actions of the Jewish teacher and father clearly portray them as sinister and diabolical characters. All together, the cartoon depicts the Jews as fearful yet demonic figures who, on the one hand, believe it is necessary to fight against the evil Palestinians, and on the other hand, actually enjoy killing their neighbors. Ironically, this is exactly the type of negative misrepresentation the cartoon criticizes the Jews for originally engaging in vis-à-vis the Palestinians.

However, behind the anti-Semitic caricature of the Jews and the self-righteous image of the Palestinians, I do see a silver lining. Whether intentional or not, the cartoon is teaching Palestinian children that Jewish hatred is a consequence of learned fear, which could be overcome through dialogue (albeit one-sided) and positive experience. This is an important and valuable lesson – all the more so coming from an organization that has vigorously and violently disapproved of dialogue as a type of “normalization.” One can only hope that for the sake of consistency and peace, Palestinian children will grew up and turn a critical eye on the institutions that have spoon-fed them hateful and distorted images of Jews and Israelis.

Aziz Abu Sarah: The cartoon featured in the program starts with a positive message of encounter between an Israeli and a Palestinian child. However, while confronting Israeli stereotypes of Palestinians, the story quickly dissolves into Palestinian stereotypes of Israelis and self-righteous proclamations.

Such videos are aimed at socializing Palestinian children, imprinting a sense of injustice and providing warnings about “the enemy.” This is important because Palestinian children face a reality characterized by violence, death, separation, settlements, and soldiers. Hamas’ programs reflect this existence. Unfortunately, they also perpetuate and feed preexisting notions among Palestinian youth that an Israeli is either a soldiers or a settler. They also reinforce the Palestinian belief that Israeli Jews don’t desire peace but to destroy and kill Palestinians.

Palestinian children do not need self-aggrandizing messages about Palestinian existence in the face of suffering, and they do not need to internalize stereotypes about the depravity of Israeli Jews. Instead, they need to learn about the faults of both sides and the suffering of both sides. Just as the Palestinian boy in the cartoon tried to communicate his suffering to the Jewish boy, Palestinian children need to learn about Israeli suffering. Israeli children should also learn about Palestinian suffering, but Palestinians must realize that the self-righteous tones of the boy in the video will only hinder communication.

Kobi Skolnick: Watching this video I became sad because the way the adults taught hatred and violence to children in such a manipulative manner. Then, I felt encouraged by the fact that a dialogue was taking place. In addition, there was a hard look at the radical education that some children in both sides of the conflict still receive. Yet, this is my adult’s mind processing it, not that of a Palestinian child.

As I was thinking about cartoon, I flashbacked to my teenage years. A chill went through my bones but I let the images in. I was walking in the streets of Jerusalem with a black thick marker and wrote on the walls “Death to the Arabs” and “Long live Kahana” [an extremist Jewish leader who called for the expulsion of Arabs from historical Israel]. I was a young teenager looking for a strong identity and a sense of meaningfulness. I had no moral problem with Palestinians getting hurt and in fact had participated in such attacks. I had a strong enemy image of cruel Arabs killing children.

Yet, with time and experience, I had learned to break this image.

In both sides, the extreme communities are creating violent realities that sustain the enemy image of each other. As a result, the young generation is developing destructive moralistic judgments that continue the doctrine of just war. Clearly, Hamas’ manipulation of facts and labeling the Jewish people as bloodthirsty would result in more foot soldiers fighting “the enemy”, but at the same time would provide “the enemy” with more enemies — just a continuation of the vicious cycle of violence and self-fulfilling prophesies.

It is tragic to manipulate young children’s sense of compassion and honesty with self-destructive tendencies. Classifying people promotes violence not compassion. We need to teach children of both sides about the resolution of human conflict through means other than violence.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Find Out What It Means To Me

Here is my latest from Haaretz:

During this recent campaign trail, Benjamin Netanyahu seems to have channeled the spirit of Aretha Franklin.

“I think that it is a matter of self-pride,” says Netanyahu. “A people that respects itself doesn’t divide its capital. A people that respects itself does not run away from terrorism. A people that respects itself believes in its right to its land.,

The logic of Netanyahu’s position is crystal clear, as is his not-so-tacit message to voters: Since Livni or Barak (along with the international community) believe that dividing Jerusalem and returning land is a necessary condition for peace with the Palestinians and with Syria, they do not respect themselves or the Israeli people.

Of course one can easily flip Netanyahu’s logic and say that a people that respects itself does not value land over life. One can also point out that Netanyahu’s positions are a broken mirror image of a radical and intransigent Palestinian constituency that refuses to compromise with Israel on land and recognition. It will leave no one incredulous if the words quoted above (with slight modifications) came from the mouth of Hamas leader Khaled Mashal and not Benjamin Netanyahu.

But the telling problem in Netanyahu’s logic is the overarching value he places on self-pride. Is respect for one’s self the only game in town? What about respect for the rights of others? What about respect for Judaism’s ethical heritage?

To read the rest, click here. As always, if the spirit moves you, please leave a comment.

After Gaza War, Palestinians are of a Mixed Mind About Hamas.

According to poll conducted by Jerusalem Media and Communications Centre, the war in Gaza has increased the popularity of Hamas and decreased the support for Fatah.

The results of the public opinion poll conducted by the Jerusalem Media and Communications Center (JMCC) during the period 29-31 January, 2009 show that the majority of respondents (46.7%) believes that Hamas came out of the war victorious compared with only 9.8% who said that Israel won the war. Over one-third, 37.4%, said that neither side achieved victory in this war.

When asked if PLC elections were held today, the percentage of those who would vote for Hamas rose to 28.6% in this poll compared with 19.3% last April. On the other hand, the popularity of Fatah Movement declined from 34% last April to 27.9% in this poll.

This change was also reflected in the level of public trust in the two movements. Trust in Hamas rose from 16.6% last November to 27.7% in this poll. With regards to Fatah, popular trust in the movement declined from 31.3% to 26% in the same period. It is clear from the poll that the rise in Hamas’ popularity is due to an increase in its popularity in the West Bank – it rose from
12.8% last November to 26.5% in this poll.

However, a similar poll conducted by the Palestinian Center For Public Opinion has produced significantly different findings. According to this study:

The rate of support for Fateh (40.6 %) among the Palestinians lies now higher than that for Hamas (31.4 %). The rate of Fateh’s popularity in Gaza Strip, established at (42.5 %), lies much higher than that of Hamas on its own terrain, reaching namely the rate of (27.8 %). The same trend has been found in the West Bank, where Fateh scored (39.2 %) of the Palestinians’ support, whilst Hamas has to content itself with only (23.7 %).

Another important finding of the PCPO poll is that “the overwhelming majority of the Palestinians, (88.2 %), are for the present in favor of a Palestinian-Israeli truce, specifically (86.1 %) in Gaza Strip and (89.6 %) in the West Bank.” Contrast that with the JMCC poll which concludes that:

Israel’s war on Gaza contributed to an increase in support for military action against Israel. The percentage of respondents who believe that locally-made rockets help achieve the Palestinian national goals rose from 39.3% last April to 50.8% in this poll, with a decrease in the percentage of respondents who believe that the rockets harm national interests from 35.7% last April to 20.8% in this poll.

In the same trend, the percentage of those who support military operations against Israel targets as an appropriate response under the current political conditions increased from 49.5% last April to 53.5% in this poll. Moreover, this poll found that the percentage of supporters of bombing operations against Israeli civilians increased from 50.7% to 55.4% for the same period.

According to the JMCC poll results, the war led to an increase in the percentage of those who oppose peace negotiations. Nearly 41% (40.9%) of respondents polled opposed peace negotiations compared with 34.7% in a JMCC poll conducted last November.

What If Hamas’ Rockets Hit Tel-Aviv?

My latest report from France 24:

After 22 days of war that left scores of people dead and injured, Israel and Hamas have both declared a ceasefire. Was so much bloodshed necessary to reach an end to the hostilities? The Israeli response, given the dire threat that it faces, has been affirmative. Yet many across the world are not convinced: With over 1200 Palestinian dead (including many civilians), a lot of people believe that Israel used disproportionate and excessive force.

In an effort to show the world the seriousness of the Israeli perspective, two students from a school in the south of Israel created an artistic project illustrating the daily lives of those living under target of Hamas rockets in southern Israel. The project is entitled, “Distance Is Only A Matter of Time” and culminates with a controversial film (also aimed at apathetic Israelis) that simulates a rocket being launched in Gaza and hitting Tel-Aviv.

To read Observer commentary from the makers of the film, as well as a critical rejoinder by Lisa Goldman, click here. You can also read a defense of Tel-Aviv by Yair Lapid here.

Why Israel Is At War: Video of Missile Hitting Ashdod, ISrael.