Ray Hanania is a Palestinian American columnist, satirist and founder of Yalla Peace. This column appears in the Jerusalem Post
When Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas complained recently in Qatar that the media there was pro-Hamas, and that its bias was threatening the ability to achieve peace, he struck a chord that many Palestinians know is true.
It isn’t just the mainstream Arab media that is pro-Hamas, branded a “terrorist organization” by many nations, but it’s also the groups that support Hamas that slowly dominate the Middle East landscape unchallenged that are threatening peace.
A good example of this is the issue of the Gaza Strip, where Palestinians complain they are under an oppressive military and economic Israeli siege and where Israelis counter that radical elements there continue to target their civilians with Katyushas and Kassam missiles.
Gaza is a very complicated issue, but not that hard to really understand.
The area has been controlled by Hamas and radical Muslims since the 1970s. Although Hamas’s parent organization, the Islamic Association, did provide health and social care to its citizens, that care was only given to those who embraced its hard-line religious ideology.
Hamas opposes genuine peace with Israel, and used the most pernicious form of violence – suicide bombings – throughout the 1990s to destroy the peace process and prevent compromise. Its mission is not to achieve peace based on compromise, but to pursue the impossible dream – more a nightmare for everyday Palestinians – of destroying Israel and returning Palestine to what it was in 1917, before it came under British colonialism.
THAT HAMAS desire is not only shared by the religious extremists who continue to grow, but by those who are secular fanatics yet also oppose peace based on compromise. Most of those activists are based in Western countries, where it is easy to chant for the destruction of not only Israel but of Abbas’s secular Palestinian government which does support compromise based on two-states.
These are strange bedfellows in the Palestinian extremist camps, religious fanatics shoulder-to-shoulder with secular extremists like the Popular Front and the rejectionists led by the activists and fawned on by the Arab media that mistakenly believe “freedom” means embracing the most extremist activists.
The Arab media, which glorify religious extremism and even violent attacks, don’t realize, of course, that under a Hamas-run government, it wouldn’t just be Jews, Christians and secular Muslims who would be oppressed. The media in a Hamastan would be among the primary targets, stripped of the “freedoms” they enjoy today – of criticizing Abbas, two states and peace based on compromise.
THE ISSUE for the Free Gaza protesters is not about bringing freedom to the 1.3 million Palestinians there or lifting Israel’s “oppressive military and economic siege.” It’s about their long-term goals. By “freeing” Gaza, they mean declaring Hamas the “sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.” But that’s not their goal.
The purpose of many of the protesters is to strengthen Hamas. They know that Israel is forced to deal first with the threats rather than the compelling cases for peace. And Hamas is a threat not only to Israel but also to the Palestinians, secular Arab countries like Egypt and Jordan, to Christian and Jewish religious independence and, more importantly, to the goal of achieving a peace based on nonviolent compromise.
The activists continue to cling to the false and irrelevant claims that Hamas won one election in 2006 and ignore the fact that Hamas was ousted from political leadership in the same way it was installed. It was a corrupt election that was poorly constructed, allowing the divisions of the majority of Palestinians to be merged with Hamas’s faith-based reticence. In Western nations with elections, they separate the two processes, allowing individual parties to select their candidates from internal battles before putting them up against candidates from the other parties.
Hamas and the activists have allowed the Gaza Strip to fester in economic squalor because it suits their purpose. They can’t rally support based on their ideals because they have no realistic ideals. They call for the destruction of Israel and the destruction of a secular two-state Palestine, and also for the destruction of Egypt and pretty much anyone who doesn’t agree with their extremist agendas.
Rather than help the besieged people of the Gaza Strip achieve freedom and build the first steps of a secular Palestinian state that would lead to the creation of full Palestinian statehood in the West Bank, the protesters have helped to encase the Palestinians there in continued suffering.
THE PROTESTERS seeking to enter Gaza have closed their eyes to the oppression and brutality that is the true Hamas. They have limited their criticism to Egypt.
More importantly, this bizarre alliance between the religious fanatics and the secular extremists which today is focused on the Gaza Strip is silent on the campaign of terror that Hamas continues to wage against secular Palestinians.
Hamas has made it easy for some to oppose Palestinian statehood, and is the main obstacle standing in the way of peace.
The Arab media are going through an internal struggle no different than the one now dominating Arab and Palestinian politics. It’s one between extremists who see the media as an instrument of activism and those of us who believe the media must remain objective witnesses to the truth.
Truth means that not all of today’s tragic events can be blamed on Israel, Egypt, Abbas or on the failure, so far, to achieve peace.