Friday, January 9, 2009

Will Hamas Gain Or Lose Support Following Gaza War?

Diana Buttu (left), Palestinian attorney and spokeperson of the PLO's Negotiations Support Unit, contends that "the Israeli assault had strengthened short-term solidarity with Hamas, but was likely to have weakened the group politically." She continues:

"People in Gaza are under assault right now so they're going to support Hamas. But when the dust settles I think we'll get a very different perspective, a lot of questioning about whether Hamas has the right strategy.

"I think what's going to happen will be similar to what happened when [
Yasser] Arafat was besieged in the mukata [the Palestinian presidential compound] in 2002. People who were very critical of Arafat before said 'we're supporting him 110%.' A few weeks later ... you started to get the introspection of 'is this really what we need, is this really what we want?' "

I hope that Buttu is right. The idea of Hamas being interested in good governance is a macabre joke; in reality, it is a death cult that thrives on turmoil. Hamas threw Fatah out of Gaza in a fratricidal war, then refused to recognize Israel, renounce violence and accept previous agreements. A political party does not have the right, according to accepted international legal and governmental practice, to abrogate treaties made by a party previously in power. 

The Israeli economic blockade against Gaza was collective punishment and a futile attempt to turn Gazans against Hamas. Nevertheless, targeting rockets at southern Israeli towns cannot be justified in any way as a form of protest; such actions placed both Israeli and, ultimately, Palestinian citizens in danger. An Israeli military response against sites of rocket launching and weapons smuggling was inevitable.

In returning to whether the people of Gaza will turn against Hamas, though, we must consider the massive scale of the Israeli response, in which tanks and F-16s have been employed for about two weeks in one of the most crowded civilian population centers in the world, one that includes hospitals with inadequate resources and no bomb shelters. So while I hope that the citizens in the area turn against Hamas for its provocative and destructive actions, I can't help but wonder whether this terrorist group is gaining adherents, the same way that Hezbollah gained in political strength following the 2006 war in Lebanon. I'm reminded of Henry Kissinger's observation, "A conventional army loses if it does not win. The guerrilla army wins if it does not lose."

Recently I read of two circumstances in which Palestinians who were not necessarily for Hamas turned toward it. In the West Bank, engineer Sari Sa'adi stated, "Before, I was against Hamas, against their political and religious points of view, but after what happened… I'm supporting Hamas." Following Israel's shelling of a United Nations school, the IDF said that Hamas was firing from the school compound, a point disputed by the U.N. The discussion, even if he were aware of it, would be lost on Abdel Minaim Hasan, who wept by the body of his daughter Lina, 11, and said, "From now on I am Hamas! I choose resistance!"

Were the two responses just made in the heat of the moment? Is Diana Buttu correct? Will Hamas, assuming it survives, gain or lose in political strength and popular support following this war?


Joe said...

How do people resolve Buttu's blatant lying to the press with her obviously slick propagandizing of the Palestinian cause?
And should she be kicked out of the Ontario Bar Association for purposefully lying?
When interviewed on Fox TV about the conflict in Gaza and the missiles fired at Israeli civilians, she looked at the camera and said:
"It is important to note that these rockets do not have explosive heads."
Here's the link to the clip that is on You Tube:

Yet any dork who can use Google finds out within a few seconds that not only are Kassam rockets armed with warheads, but they have indeed killed and injured many Israelis.
So why is Buttu pushing such an obvious lie? And is she guilty of professional misconduct by doing so?
She certainly brings the legal profession she is licensed under into disrepute by her behaviour.
Is it time for multiple compaints to the Law Society of Upper Canada to get her disbarred for professional misconduct?

Jeff Tone said...

Joe: Yes, Kassams have explosive heads, and even if they didn't, it is still a war crime to fire them into civilian areas. There's no question that they have killed and injured many Israelis.

Regarding disbarring Buttu, I don't think you have a case. Making a false statement, knowingly or not, is not "behavior" that is tantamount to "professional misconduct." If we disbarred all lawyers for lying, we'd have very few left.

I'm not sure what else you are referring to as "obviously slick propagandizing of the Palestinian cause." While one should be against slick propagandizing, the Palestinian cause for a state alongside Israel is worthy of support.

Joe said...

As an Israeli I still support a two-state solution, even though the Palestinian leadership does not (ever listen to those guys in Arabic? They NEVER talk about peace with Israel).
But state making in the 21st century isn't going to come from media campaigns.
I'm offended when hired media mercenaries like Buttu get up on live tv and simply lie like rugs and promote war crimes in order to push their cause.
Ok, so you conclude that Buttu is just another dirtbag lawyer who lies for a living. The big problem is that her lies are killing my fellow Israelis and pushing peace further away, not bringing it closer.
When the Pals and their hired foreign spin-meisters stop lying and start dealing with actual peace, then maybe we'll get closer to it. In the meantime, Buttu is pouring more nitromethane on the flames of hatred with her pathetic attempts to excuse Palestinian terrorism.
And, of course, in the eyes of several million people who have to make peace with the people she's representing, she's just another pathetically lousy Palestinian liar trying to kill us.

Jeff Tone said...

Joe: While the Hamas leadership does not support a two-state solution, the Fatah leader, Abbas, does.

Media campaigns are certainly a component in state building and defense, as the Israeli emphasis on hasbarah has shown.

I do not necessarily conclude that Buttu is "another dirtbag lawyer who lies for a living." I certainly disagree with her statement about kassams, but I don't know enough about her to form a conclusion. I absolutely agree with the statements she made, cited in the article I wrote, condemning Hamas.

Your references to Palestinians ("they never talk about peace," "another pathetically lousy Palestinian liar") make me wonder if you believe there are any reasonable Palestinians. You also remind me of statements Palestinians have made about Israelis: "they only understand violence," "they're not interested in peace." Peace will never come if both Israelis and Palestinians continue to demonize every single human being on the other side.

Joe said...

Jeff - people forget that Abbas and Fatah lost the elections and Hamas is the "democratically elected representatives of the Palestinian people". Abbas is toothless and couldn't sign a peace treaty if he wanted to. We could negotiate till the cows come home, but nothing will come of it unless Fatah wins the next elections and all signs are that they won't.

Media campaigns are one thing, propaganda campaigns to spread outright lies are another. The Palestinians have a sad history of stretching credulity to the breaking point in order to support their cause.

I think it's enough to hear Butto feed such a blatant and intentional lie to the press in order to make a conclusion about her. It wasn't a slip, it wasn't a misconception. It was a deliberate attempt to hide the truth and pretend the Palestinians weren't the aggressor in blatant armed attacks on civilians.

I know lots of reasonable Palestinians, I've traveled in the West Bank and Gaza and eaten in their homes, gone to their kids' birthday parties, and they danced at my wedding. The reasonable Palestinians are NOT the ones running Hamas and Fatah. And yes, Fatah is run by a lot of corrupt liars and cheats who make a lot of smoke about the "peace process", but they are simply not committed to it - and that's the conclusion of the reasonable PALESTINIANS I talk to!

If we want progress, then western pressure has to be brought to bear on the Palestinian leadership and the best way is to make donations contingent on commitment to good government. Forget peace at this point. The Palestinians have dug themselves a gluttonous hole of corruption and graft because of the unchecked billions that flow into their coffers.
Force them to be responsible to themselves first, then we can make progress with peace negotiations.
Without the Pals cleaning house first, or somebody forcing them to do it, nothing is going to change - both Israelis and Palestinians know that.

Jeff Tone said...

Joe: Again, I believe that your portrayal of the conflict is too one-sided. Yes, Hamas is a reprehensible organization, the use of terror is an abomination, the PA has had a lot of corruption and Abbas is weak. But there are a number of Israeli policies that contribute to the conflict.

For a while Israel had only Abbas, a moderate, to negotiate with–and Israel did its part to weaken him. What did the negotiations mean when land was being expropriated and settlements were being built? Israel’s historic mistake in building settlements was compounded by expropriating private Palestinian land. The New York Times stated that, according to Shalom Achshav, “32.4 percent of property held by Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank is private, “ that is, private Palestinian land, and “the data shows a pattern of illegal seizure of private land.”

Israeli groups like Yesh Din are helping Palestinians sue the state of Israel for the illegal expropriations. Again from the Times:

"The violations include private and public building carried out without the appropriate permits or outside of approved plans, as well as the construction of whole neighborhoods on private Palestinian lands in blatant contravention of Israeli policy and law."

What is the result of the creeping annexation, under both Labor and Likud, of the West Bank? More Palestinian land being expropriated, proportionally more water sources going to settlements, the wall jutting out past the Green Line, more checkpoints, limited access roads and breaking up the contiguity of Palestinian land–none of which helps the peace process. In fact, all of it weakens the moderate, reasonable Palestinians and helps a destructive group like Hamas.

In addition, there is the demolition of homes in East Jerusalem:

And settler violence against Palestinians:

Finally, as reported in Haaretz and the Times, lax rules of engagement in Gaza led to the killing of civilians and destruction of property, as stated by IDF forces:

“During Operation Cast Lead, Israeli forces killed Palestinian civilians under permissive rules of engagement and intentionally destroyed their property, say soldiers who fought in the offensive.”

Your call for a suspension of peace talks until the Palestinians straighten themselves out politically reminds me of Netanyahu, who calls first for them to straighten themselves out economically (actually, Bibi has never agreed to a two-state solution). There is always a reason to delay the only viable solution to the conflict.

Yes, let the West pressure the Palestinians to live up to their commitments to Israel. The West should also pressure Israel to change policies that are not helpful to the peace process. The first step should be the dismantlement of settlements.

Joe said...

"Israel’s historic mistake in building settlements"
Who says so? Wasn't the bigger "historic mistake" the giant blooper by the Arabs to reject the original UN partition plan? Crikey, the Pals would've had a huge country, lots more resources, and a decent future. But no, they made an historic mistake and chose war. In fact, they did it again in 1967 and again in 1973 and again with intifada 1 and again with intifada 2.
Why are you keying on a fringe anti-Israel group like Yesh Din?
You fail to note that there is not a single pro-peace group in the Palestinian camp that is similar to any of the Israel groups: Yesh Din, Peace Now, Machsom Watch, and the rest of them.
And why are you talking about "lax rules of engagement" in Gaza when you totally fail to mention what the Palestinian rules of engagement are? If you bother looking, you'll see that the Palestinians consider Israeli civilians to be legitimate targets - and that Mr. Tone, is a war crime. Not just a single war crime, but decades of Palestinian official policy to carry out war crimes, and all the time calling it "resistance to the occupation" so that western dupes suck up the propaganda and don't bother to level anything but cursory criticism against the Pals.
And how do you conclude that Abbas is a moderate? What makes him a moderate? His PhD thesis that the Holocaust didn't happen? Has his administration pushed the peace line within the Palestinian community? No. Has his administration done anything to reduce corruption and improve confidence in Fatah? Not that we can see. If you read the Palestinian comments on their own leadership, you'll see that they too think he's useless.
Why should Israel prop up a weak pseudo-moderate?
Going back to the original blog, Buttu is a symptom of the Palestinian sickness: they lie about the truth to cover up that their ultimate goal is not a two-state solution.
Prove me wrong: show me Palestinian documentation distributed by the PA to their own people that promotes the two-state solution.
Show me a single official map produced by the PA that shows the two-state solution, or even shows the name "Israel" in Arabic. So far as I know, they don't exists, and neither does a "moderate" leader.

Jeff Tone said...

Who says that the settlements are a mistake? The entire world and international law, as defined in the Fourth Geneva Convention:

(a) the transfer by the Occupying Power of parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies, or the deportation or transfer of all or parts of the population of the occupied territory within or outside this territory, in violation of Article 49 of the Forth Convention.

The fact that the Arabs made mistakes surely cannot be a justification for Israel’s historic, ongoing settlement mistake. In addition, Palestinian rejection of the 1947 Partition Plan was based on the natural reluctance of an indigenous people, who composed the majority of the population, to share their homeland. Does this mean that Israel should not have been established? Absolutely not. After centuries of persecution culminating in the Holocaust, the Jewish people needed and had a right to a homeland, and it was natural for them to return to the place where they had historic and spiritual ties and where a remnant had lived through the centuries. One must understand the perspectives of both nations.

So Yesh Din is an “anti-Israel” group? Why? Because they stand for human rights and against illegal expropriation of private Palestinian land? Is the American Civil Liberties Union “anti-American” because it stands for civil liberties and human rights? Groups like Yesh Din, Peace Now, Machsom Watch and B’Tselem, with their focus on human rights, are a credit to Israeli democracy.

It’s not true that there are no Palestinian human rights groups; there are groups like Al-Haq and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights. On the other hand, these groups are not protesting for Israeli rights, and human rights are, after all, universal. The Palestinians are the underdog in the conflict, however, so they feel less magnanimous. It is Israel, after all, that is expropriating their land and controlling their economy, agricultural areas, water, boundaries and physical movement.

Regarding Palestinian “rules of engagement, I have called Hamas reprehensible and destructive and terror an abomination. There’s no need for me to convince you that Hamas is a terrorist organization, something we both know. The issue of Israeli rules of engagement is a legitimate one regardless of what Hamas does, particularly when it’s raised by IDF soldiers.

I conclude that Abbas is a moderate because of his acceptance of Israel and his engagement in peace negotiations–even while Israeli policies have weakened him. I’m not concerned about his thesis, however ridiculous it was. I’m reminded of someone who spoke to me about Obama’s thesis, as if that should have kept me from voting for him. I’m more concerned about what an individual is doing in the present. I must say that it is difficult for Abbas or anyone else to “push the peace line” with the continued growth of settlements.

I’m also not going to take Buttu’s statement, however stupid and false it was, and apply it to the entire Palestinian leadership. Should I take the racist and undemocratic statements made by Avigdor Lieberman about a loyalty oath from Israeli-Arab citizens as representative of all Israeli officials?

Regarding your last point, here is the official position of the PLO Negotiations Affairs Department:

The PLO has accepted that Israel’s 1967 Pre-Occupation borders (the “Green Line”) shall serve as the international border between the states of Palestine and Israel. In other words, Palestinians have recognized Israel on 78% of historic Palestine while accepting to create a state on the remaining 22%.

They have an Arabic translation of this statement on the same web page, so they are therefore proclaiming it to the Arabic-speaking world. They also obviously mention the word “Israel” in Arabic, one of your criteria.

While you say that you are for peace and a two-state solution, you support the settlements, don’t trust any Palestinian leaders, call for pressure to be put only on the Palestinians and want to suspend negotiations. Peace cannot be established under such conditions.

Joe, I suspect that the debate between us goes to our ultimate view of the conflict. You seem to see it as right against wrong, Israel always being right and the Palestinians always wrong. I view the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a tragic clash of right vs. right. I don’t believe that either one of us will change the other’s mind about that.

Joe said...

Exactly my point, and you've fallen into your own trap.
Just who is occupying whose territory?
Like others, you're stuck on the erroneous notion that the "green line" is some legal border that marks the limits of two sovereign states.
It doesn't.
Let's take the Gush Etzion region as an example. Before 1948 the original communities were built on Jewish owned land.
Then in 1948 a war broke out, the Jewish soldiers were defeated (we won't talk about the ensuing massacre of prisoners) and Arabs controlled the land.
In 1967, Gush Etzion was captured by Israel, and then what do you call this land that was legally owned by Jews before 1948, and the survivors and their offspring who moved BACK to their communities? If the Arabs get it, then aren't they illegal occupiers?

What you and others fail to recognize is that the Green Line is also open for negotiation.

And, I obviously didn't express myself well, since I support first and foremost direct negotiations with the Palestinians. The big problem today is that while you see Abbas as a "moderate", the Palestinians voted in Hamas to be their government. Does Abbas have the right to negotiate? Not according to Hamas. So what authority does Abbas have? Many of us Israelis see him just as the Palestinians do, a flimsy entity who is propped up, and you tell me that we should continue to prop him up when the Pals themselves don't want him?
We say let him stand on his own two feet, clean up his act, and get his own Palestinian people to support him. We'll even help him with the act cleaning and economy building - if they can get past their penchant for graft.

I support negotiations, even direct negotiations with Hamas - I'm not afraid to call their bluff and force them to meet us at the negotiating table openly. But they're going to hear us call for a peace treaty with them, and Hamas is already on record as rejecting that.
And no, their latest ploy for a 10-year "ceasefire" is not an alternative. Peace is the alternative.
Abbas can't do it, neither can Hamas.
You, as well as most others, totally misunderstand us. The majority of Israelis are willing to pull out almost all the settlements in return for real peace. In order for the Pals to get legitimate "settlements" like Gush Etzion, they're going to have to show us that that they can give up on returning all the "refugees" and give us a guarantee of peace for a generation or more to come.
I don't think they can do it right now. Neither do the majority of Israeli voters.
And it's the Buttus in the Palestinian propaganda machine who are convincing us Israelis that the Pals cannot be trusted. Admiring her for her good looks and her slick talk doesn't help the cause of peace, it pushes it farther away.

You might not take Buttu as representing the Pal leadership, but we do. She's hired by Abbas, paid by Abbas, and speaks on behalf of the Pal leadership headed by Abbas.
And when this same Palestinian spokeswoman gets on international tv and lies about how the Pals are trying to murder our civilians, you'd better damn well understand why we're not budging from where we are.

If Buttu is committed to peace with us, let's see her get back on tv and apologize and set the record straight. But she won't and her masters won't stop lying about trying to kill Israeli civilians and show us that we should listen to them.

I'll make you a deal, come on over and I'll take you to Sderot and show you what Buttu's
unarmed warheads can do. Maybe then you'll understand that when Abbas' spokespeople like Buttu speak, all we hear is them calling for war, not peace.

Jeff Tone said...

Joe, may I make a recommendation? Take a look at the web site “bitterlemons”:

The site features regular commentary by two Israelis and two Palestinians on various topics in the conflict. They always include the Israeli and Palestinian editors, plus two guest writers. You can subscribe to it if you wish. I believe you’d find it of interest.

Back to our discussion: I found it ironic that you should mention a “trap” and then cite Gush Etzion. I don’t recommend that any Israeli advance this argument in negotiations, lest Israel itself fall into a trap. Let’s consider the following scenario:

Joe the Israeli negotiator advances the Gush Etzion argument to Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat. Erekat then says the following:

“If you want to talk about Gush Etzion, are you also prepared to talk about expulsions and massacres of Palestinians? Are you ready to talk about Ben-Gurion’s signal to Yitzhak Rabin and others that the civilians of Lydda and Ramlah be expelled, which was then carried out, followed by the settlement of 16,000 Jewish immigrants in both areas in 1949? If Israelis can return to Gush Etzion, can Palestinians return to Lydda, Ramle and all the other villages from which they were expelled? What about the ‘present absentees’ ruling, in which Palestinians who left their homes but remained in Israel were not allowed to repossess their homes? And if you want to talk about massacres, how about Deir Yassin?”

Israel would then trade counter-charges of Palestinian terrorism, from Sderot to Ma’a lot to the Olympic massacre to the 1929 Palestine riots–and the negotiations would collapse.

Yes, I know that the green line was never a formally recognized boundary. The fact remains, though, that there are two nations who reside in this land the size of New Jersey. One nation occupies 78% of it. Should the other nation agree to less than the remaining 22%? Is that a viable negotiating position? The most realistic decision was the land swaps discussed at the Taba accords.

I agree with calling Hamas’ bluff, and I also agree with the rejection of the right of return. I do not agree, though, with your wholesale rejection of every Palestinian leader. I’m reminded once again of Palestinians taking selective statements from Israelis and stating that they represent everyone in Israel.

I also contend that Israel weakened Abbas. Israel will help him? Let Israel stop expropriating private Palestinian land for settlements. Israel, by the way, also supported Hamas as a counterweight to Fatah decades ago–a fatal mistake, similar to the American support for the mujahideen fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan.

Are the majority of Israelis ready to pull out of almost all settlements? I hope you’re correct. Perhaps the thousands of Israelis I saw at a Peace Now rally in Hayarkon Park would be ready to. But If pulling out of Yamit was such a trauma, can we imagine the response of the settlers screaming for Judea and Samaria? What about all their supporters, such as the current prime minister, who never made any commitment to the two-state solution?

Thank you for your invitation; I have, however, been to Israel several times and traveled throughout the country, from Eilat to the Galilee. I have also made excursions into the Golan and the West Bank. If you honestly believe that I’m unaware of what warheads can do and am unconcerned about and unsympathetic to the citizens of Sderot and the terror that they’ve experienced–well, then I, like you, will also be polite and state that I obviously didn’t express myself well.

Joe said...

As we dance around each other, it should be clear to any other reader that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is deeply mired in mutual mistrust, justified and unjustified assertions, historical events that cannot be undone, and current-day realities that befuddle the greatest of statesmen.

But I want to go back to my original beef: The Palestinians choose their spokespeople, and they chose Dianna Buttu.
Butto showed herself to be a liar on international television, trying to pretend that Palestinian missiles were harmless.

You also mentioned Erekat, who is on record for a bigger lie than Butto - that of the infamous non-existent "Jenin massacre" (where Erekat clained on CNN that Israel had massacred "500" Palestinians in Jenin... subsequently proved to be a lie by the UN and human rights organizations).

You admired Buttu. I was trying to show you that not is she not admirable - she's a sly, disgusting propagandizer who is driving the wedge of mistrust between the Palestinians and Israelis.

Do the Palestinians need foreign-imported propagandists to do their lying for them? Is that what they want?

If it is, then we Israelis simply don't believe them when they talk about "peace", but keep launching attacks on unarmed civilians.

Let's see Buttu sent packing back to Canada where I hope she will do less damage to the peace process.

Or let's have people like you call her on the carpet, play the clip for her and ask her to her face why she purposefully lied on live tv. If she apologizes and expresses some kind of remorse, then she'll have rebuilt some credibility. Until that happens, I look at her as representing the current wave of Palestinian mis-information aimed at extorting "peace", not negotiating it.

Jeff Tone said...

I “admired” Buttu? I did admire her condemnation of Hamas in my original post. Other than that, I expressed no admiration of her in our “dance” (and I doubt that any other “readers” are reading our comments here on a post dated Jan. 9. We might as well be e-mailing). Regarding the comments by Buttu that you mentioned, I referred to them as “stupid and false.”

I’m not sure what box you’re trying to put me in with your reference to “people like you.” Throughout our discussion, I’ve been corresponding with Joe, an individual.

Yes, if I had the opportunity to interview Buttu, a “person like me” would argue with her about the warheads–much more vehemently, in fact, than I’ve argued with you.

On the other hand, if I had the opportunity to interview an Israeli military spokesperson, I’d ask why they closed an investigation into allegations of charges made not by Buttu or Erekat, but by IDF soldiers.

B’Tselem–perhaps a “fringe, anti-Israel” group in your estimation–pointed out that the military is not the best group to investigate the military. Just as the CIA is not the best institution to investigate practices of torture under the Bush administration. B’Tselem, among other Israeli groups, called for an independent investigation into possible war crimes in Gaza regarding civilians, harm to medical teams and hospitals, the use of white phosphorous and the destruction of homes and infrastructure.

Without an independent investigation, we could have a cover-up of these issues. We could have–and perhaps already do, in the Israeli military–“propagandists” who are lying about war crimes and then talking about peace (although, in the case of Netanyahu and Lieberman, I’m not sure that they are talking about peace). Certainly the refusal of an independent investigation does not look trustworthy.

So do you, a fair-minded fellow, agree with me that Buttu and Erekat and Israeli spokespersons should be sharply questioned? Or is it only Palestinians who should be questioned, on the grounds that, as you’ve continually asserted, they’re all alike?

If Israel were found to have committed war crimes, would I then conclude that all Israeli spokespersons are liars? No, I would not.

And, by the way, if Israel talks about peace and continues to expropriate private Palestinian land, is such talk about peace believable? It is not–but I still would not conclude that all Israeli spokespersons are liars.

I agree that “the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is deeply mired in mutual mistrust, justified and unjustified assertions…” Again, I sense that you only criticize one side. Such blanket condemnation is one reason for the conflict’s being “mired in mutual mistrust.”