Hoodwinked By A Hudna

by James Kirchick | April 16, 2008

Ezra Klein breathlessly informs us about Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal's "bombshell" announcement that he would recognize the state of Israel as long as it adheres to its pre-1967 boundaries. Finally, Klein tells us, a breakthrough in the Arab-Israel conflict!

This seemingly outstretched hand from Hamas is nothing new, and anyone with even a cursory understanding of the Islamist terror group and its tactics will be dubious of its latest sweet-sounding promise. As Phil Klein points out, in 2006 Hamas's founder Mahmoud al-Zahar offered the same deal that Meshaal spoke of last week (nor was this the only time that Hamas made a similar gesture). The ostensible peace offering that sets Klein's heart aflutter is actually something called a "hudna" -- a momentary truce with the implicit promise that there will be more violence to come -- and it isn't worth the paper it's written on. Klein should take a look at the Hamas Covenant -- in all of its hateful and demagogic glory -- before succumbing to his credulous impulses.

Opposing peace talks with Hamas -- an organization committed, in constitution and in practice, to the destruction of Israel -- is not a policy supported just by that old bugbear "Likud" or "hardline political elements," as Klein accuses. Israel's current government, very much opposed to talks with Hamas, is a coalition composed of the centrist Kadima and the left-wing Labor party. Palestinian National Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas also vehemntly opposes talks with Hamas, which, after all, violently took over the Gaza Strip last summer. Why does Klein want to undermine the internationally recognized leader of the Palestinian people? Why does he want to undermine the democratically elected government of Israel, the country he purports to care so much about?

Klein cites an article from his own magazine, written by Gershom Gorenberg, trumpeting the supposed "bombshell." I'm not sure if Klein actually read it. It's entitled "Hamas: A Silent Partner for Peace?" (gotta love that face-saving question mark, which almost succeeds in preventing the author from sounding like a complete dupe). 

(Meshaal's) interview reflects a political and psychological balancing act, says Israeli analyst Menachem Klein of Bar-Ilan University. Meshaal hasn't abjured Hamas' fundamental beliefs, as expressed in the organization's 1988 charter: All of Palestine, including pre-1967 Israel, is an Islamic waqf, sacred trust, to be liberated solely by jihad. But in the course of entering Palestinian electoral politics, Hamas has taken pragmatic positions that contradict the charter -- including acceptance of a de facto two-state outcome. "It's very hard to totally abandon fundamental beliefs. [Meshaal's] solution is to ... keep the beliefs, but in the private domain, and to act publicly in a different way," Klein says.

So Gorenberg's own source contradicts the thesis of his article. Meanwhile, Klein bemoans the fact that Meshal's statement received "virtually no visibility in the English-language press" and expresses amazement at the "the odd spectacle in which Hamas's apparent willingness to resign itself to a Jewish state is ignored, but Obama's promise to ignore cracks in their militancy is greeted." This lack of press coverage is only an "odd spectacle" to those who know as little about the Middle East as Ezra Klein.

--James Kirchick

Source URL: http://www.newrepublic.com//blog/the-plank/hoodwinked-hudna