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Hamas: Myth vs Fact

10/23/2008

My last article about the Hamas, Palestinian Unity and Peace Paradox drew comments that showed plainly that a lot of people take the absurdities disseminated by Hamas groupies as gospel truth. These untruths have won a wide audience and now are now "accepted wisdom" in the "best" circles. Some debunking is in order.

Assertion: Hamas won a landslide victory in the 2006 elections. - Repeated over and over in numerous places. For example: here (Ynet news) and here - sfgate. But it ain't necessarily so. Hamas one a sweeping victory in winner take all district elections, where Fatah split voters among several warring candidates. Hamas won only a bare plurality of the popular vote. Here is an analysis of the vote, one of many similar ones:

"Palestine used a "mixed" system of representation to elect the PLC. Sixty-six seats, or one-half of the total, were elected using a system of proportional representation...each voter selected a single political party and each political party won a share of the seats roughly proportional to their share of the votes. Hamas and Fatah were closely matched in this part of the election, with Hamas winning 44 percent of the vote and 29 seats to Fatah's 41 percent and 28 seats. These totals are probably the best reflection of how popular the two parties' polices and platforms are with the voters, and they show a closely divided electorate.

The other 66 seats were elected from 16 districts...

...Fatah had more than three candidates running for every seat. A similar calculation for Hamas shows just under one candidate for every seat. Fatah's inability to agree on a single group of district candidates caused Fatah supporters to splinter their votes over many different candidates.

The consequences were tremendous. Fatah and Fatah-affiliated candidates won 44 percent of the votes in the districts to Hamas and Hamas-affiliated candidates' 45 percent, but Fatah won only one-third as many seats."

Assertion: Hamas came to power democratically - So did Hitler, so what is the point? But it is not true either. Hamas did not officially run in the elections. The Hamas stand-in party called for an end to corruption, clean government and other nice things. We were told, over and over, that that is what Palestinians voted for, and that the vote did not reflect Palestinian opinion about the peace process. Certainly Hamas did not campaign on a platform promising to throw people off rooftops and slice them into steaks. In any case, the current government in Gaza did not take power democratically. They took power in a bloody coup.

Assertion: Polls show Hamas enjoys the support of most Palestinians - There is no factual basis for this one at all. This is the latest Khalil Shikaki Poll. It states:

"If new presidential elections are held today, and the only two candidates were Abbas and Haniyeh, the former would receive the support of 53% and the latter 39%. If the competition was between Marwan Barghouti and Haniyeh, the former would receive 61% to Haniyeh's 34%.

If new parliamentary elections are to take place today, Hamas would receive 29% and Fateh would receive 43%. Percentage of those who would vote for other factions and parties stands today at 11% and the undecided at 16%."

If you don't believe Shikaki, here is the latest An-Jajah poll:

...As for political affiliation respondents gave the following results:

People's Party

0.7%

Democratic Front

1.0%

Islamic Jihad

2.1%

Fateh

36.0%

Hamas

14.4%

Fida

0.1%

Popular Front

3.5%

Palestinian National Initiative

0.7%

I am an independent nationalist

6.7%

I am an independent Islamist

2.9%

None of the above

30.8%

Others

1.0%

...76.9% of respondents said that they will participate in the coming presidential elections. From among those who said they will participate, 38.5% said that they will give their votes to Fateh's candidate; 17.4% said they will give their votes to Hamas' candidate."

The polls may be wrong, or meaningless, but they certainly do not support the idea that the Hamas has the overwhelming support of the Palestinians.

Assertion: The Hamas Gaza coup was undertaken because of a USA plot to overthrow Hamas by military force. - A widely quoted and imaginative article by Billy Rose in Vanity Fair magazine of April 2008 asserted that the coup perpetrated by the Hamas was undertaken to foil a plot by the United States to support armed overthrow of the Hamas by the Fatah. The magazine asserted that a stray US memo left behind conveniently by US envoy Jake Walles "proved" their contention:

"We need to understand your plans regarding a new [Palestinian Authority] government," Walles's script said. "You told Secretary Rice you would be prepared to move ahead within two to four weeks of your meeting. We believe that the time has come for you to move forward quickly and decisively."

The memo left no doubt as to what kind of action the U.S. was seeking: "Hamas should be given a clear choice, with a clear deadline: ...they either accept a new government that meets the Quartet principles, or they reject it The consequences of Hamas' decision should also be clear: If Hamas does not agree within the prescribed time, you should make clear your intention to declare a state of emergency and form an emergency government explicitly committed to that platform."

Walles and Abbas both knew what to expect from Hamas if these instructions were followed: rebellion and bloodshed. For that reason, the memo states, the U.S. was already working to strengthen Fatah's security forces. "If you act along these lines, we will support you both materially and politically," the script said. "We will be there to support you."

Of course, the United States categorically denied the claims of the Vanity Fair article, but we would hardly expect them to do anything else. However, the story itself is not plausible. Of course the U.S. was working to strengthen Fatah's security forces. There is nothing suspicious in sinister in that. It is part of the plan to allow Palestinians to take over responsibility for security from Israel. It is announced US policy. Nothing quoted from the memo supports the idea that the United States was urging Abbas to use military force, and it is obvious the the Fatah forces were not ready to use military force. If the deadline for contemplated action was less than two weeks (two to four weeks after the last meeting with Rice), there would certainly be no time for the US to supply arms to Fatah or train them, and Fatah Preventive Security Chief Muhamad Dahlan would still be abroad recovering from surgery. That is not a good time for a coup or a rebellion!

In support of their story, Vanity Fair provide a copy of one page of the memo that supposedly calls for Fatah military action against Hamas. (That's our copy. The Vanity Fair copy is here). But there is not a word about any military action in this page. Read it please and see for yourself. The memo notes that "Key Arabs (sic) states are willing to help you along this path." If "this path" meant military action and breakup of the unity government, what Arab states would help Abbas? Not Syria, as they support Hamas. Not Egypt or Saudi Arabia, which had just moved Heaven and Earth to form the unity government. Not even Lebanon, which is under the control of the Hezbollah. Perhaps Jordan would support military action, but they are not "states" and not "key." Thus, it seems obvious from the internal content of the memo that the US only expected Abbas to show leadership and take a firm stance. The contention that key Arab states would help him seems to definitively rule out military action. There is also no proof anywhere that Mahmoud Abbas had agreed to any US proposal about the matter or acted on it in any way. It will be recalled that Abbas had been vacillating for a long time about the problems of the Palestinian government, threatening each time to take some decisive step and then evading the ultimatum. So it was logical for US officials to remind Abbas of what had been agreed, and what he himself had stated on many occasions.

Most of the Vanity Fair story is taken up with "revealing" that the Preventive Security Forces used torture. That proves nothing. Does the Palestinian Mukhabarat use torture? Does Madonna use eye liner? Of course they do. But it is hardly news. Neither Vanity Fair nor any of the Hamas groupies who spread this story can explain why, if the Hamas had information about this planned coup, they did not announce it on the day after their own actual coup, when they were suffering near-universal condemnation? Why did this vital "information" remain a secret for so long? Surely, if they had information, or even if they had no information, they could have gotten some Fatah operative to "confess" to the Fatah-USA-neocon Zionist plot before they threw him a roof or chopped him into steaks.

Assertion: Israeli concessions to Hamas are vital to the peace process. - For example, IPCRI head Gershon Baskin insists that Israel should make Hamas an offer they cannot refuse, as in the novel and film, The Godfather. He explains that he means that Israel should offer to free thousands of prisoners in exchange for kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit. Of course, that would render the Fatah and Mahmoud Abbas irrelevant and raise the stature of the Hamas. The Hamas Charter states that they will never recognize Israel and that international conferences and the like are a "waste of time," and insists that their goal is to wipe out Israel. They have repeatedly reiterated that they will never make peace. They want no process and no peace. Therefore, Baskin's proposition, if accepted, would mean the end of the peace process. Professor Baskin forgot that the "offer he cannot refuse" was given to a man with a pistol pointed at his temple, and the offer was something like "Either your signature is on the contract, or your brains are on the contract."

We have by no means exhausted the commonly believed myths about the Hamas, but the complete list would require a book.

Ami Isseroff

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Original text copyright by the author and MidEastWeb for Coexistence, RA. Posted at MidEastWeb Middle East Web Log at http://www.mideastweb.org/log/archives/00000721.htm where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Distributed by MEW Newslist. Subscribe by e-mail to mew-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Please forward by email with this notice and link to and cite this article. Other uses by permission.

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Replies: 2 comments

Great article... when's your book coming out??

Posted by BraveJeWorld @ 10/25/2008 01:29 PM CST

You do a good job of addressing commonly held myths, but you repeat one. It is this: "The Hamas Charter adopted during the first Intifada is an accurate reflection of their current mission and political practice." It is similar to the 'fake' argument over the PLO charter, which was a dead letter resurrected only Israeli efforts to change it.

If you disagree.... maybe someone can show us a recent statement or document from Hamas leaders making reference to the Charter. And by leaders, I mean serious folks, not random hotheads with guns.officials referring to the Charter in conversations about their current issues and initiatives.

Posted by Charles @ 11/07/2008 02:07 AM CST


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