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Hamas, Fatah equally dangerous

By Alan H. Stein

Published in The Sunday Waterbury Republican
February 12, 2006

This is a slightly edited version of the original commentary submitted to the newspaper. Click here to view the original version.

About the author
Alan Stein, an associate professor of mathematics at the University of Connecticut and a Waterbury resident, is president of Promoting Responsibility in Middle East Reporting (PRIMER-Connecticut).
The results of the recent elections in the Palestinian Authority surprised many. The Fatah party was trounced by the Islamic Resistance Movement, generally known by the acronym Hamas.

Conventional wisdom is that Fatah is "moderate" while Hamas is an extremist terrorist group pledged to the destruction of Israel. The peace process is on the verge of collapse. Our American government is now appropriately insisting Hamas renounce the use of violence and accept the existence of Israel or else we will cut off assistance to, and contact with, the Palestinian Authority. The nations of the European Union are taking a similar position.

Some commentators and government spokespersons are looking for signs of moderation in Hamas, apparently seeking wiggle room that might enable our government to continue to prop up the Palestinian Authority.

A look at the Hamas Charter, as well as the countless terrorist acts and rejectionist statements made by its leaders, seems to indicate this election has turned the Arab-Israeli conflict resolution exercise upside-down.

Among the highlights of the Hamas Charter are the following:

"Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it." This is a clear call for the destruction of Israel.

"There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors." In other words, for Hamas, victory is not enough; it must be achieved through violence.

"After Palestine, the Zionists aspire to expand from the Nile to the Euphrates. When they will have digested the region they overtook, they will aspire to further expansion, and so on. Their plan is embodied in the 'Protocols of the Elders of Zion,' and their present conduct is the best proof of what we are saying." Here we see clear evidence that Hamas does not merely oppose some actions of the state of Israel, or even just the existence of Israel. The movement is infused with anti-Semitism, invoking that Czarist fraud that, at first reading, sounds like a laughable absurdity except for the fact that it has successfully been used to further hatred toward Jews.

Conventional wisdom is correct about the extremism of Hamas, but not about the "moderation" of Fatah.

For the better part of a decade, from the start of the Oslo process in 2003 until the capture of the ship Karine A financed by the Palestinian Authority and laden with weapons destined for terrorists, we Americans convinced ourselves that Yassir Arafat had turned over a new leaf, abandoned terrorism and reconciled himself to coexistence with the Jewish state he had pledged to destroy.

We ignored the buildup of a terrorist infrastructure in the Palestinian Authority territories. We simultaneously excused the "inaction" of the PA against terrorism (which it was actually promoting), convincing ourselves the PA did not have the power to adhere to its commitments.

We ignored the way the Palestinian Authority inculcated hatred in its children's classrooms and sent teenagers, and even younger children, to camps where they learned to be terrorists. That was naive and counterproductive.

When Arafat died, we heaved a sigh of relief as he was succeeded by the "moderate" Mahmoud Abbas.

We paid little attention when Abbas repeatedly insisted he would not dismantle the terrorist infrastructure in the disputed territories, despite that action being the first and most important step in the road map the Palestinian Arabs supposedly agreed to.

We paid little attention when Abbas pledged he would never compromise on the demand for a "right-of-return," code for the destruction of Israel through the emigration to Israel of millions of hostile Arabs who were not really even refugees and had never lived in Israel.

We paid little attention to the fact that the terrorist group reportedly responsible for murdering more Israeli civilians than any other, the Al Aksa Martyrs Brigade, was a branch of the PLO affiliate Al Fatah. Abbas is not only the chairman of the PLO, but he is effectively in charge of Fatah. (The nominal leader of Fatah is Farouq Qaddoumi, but it is Abbas who chairs the meetings of Fatah's central committee.)

As America implicitly supported the "moderate" Fatah during the Palestinian Authority election campaign, we paid no attention to the fact that its charter calls for the "eradication of Zionist economic, political, military and cultural existence" and says "armed struggle is a strategy and not a tactic." For a dozen years, we've imagined Palestinian Arab leaders meant the moderate words they sometimes uttered while we were listening, even as their messages to their own people in Arabic said something else.

We convinced ourselves the PLO had amended its charter when it voted to appoint a committee to draft changes, despite the fact that the version of the charter on the Palestinian Authority's own web site remains unchanged a decade later. Article 9 still states "armed struggle is ... the overall strategy, not merely a tactical phase," while Article 15 still calls for "the elimination of Zionism in Palestine."

We Americans are not the only ones who have fooled ourselves; the Israelis also let their yearning for peace blind them while the Palestinian Authority violated every important commitment it undertook in the Oslo Agreements and then launched the seventh Arab-Israeli war after rejecting peace in 2000. The result is that hopes for peace are less realistic today than they were in 1993.

If the election of Hamas serves as a wake up call leading us to finally take our heads out of the sand and stop making excuses for corruption, incitement and terrorism from the Palestinian Authority, it may actually prove to be an impetus leading towards a real peace process. To bring that day closer, we need to stop making excuses for Palestinian Arab terrorism, intransigence, and perfidy; we need to stop funding their corruption and, since money is fungible, indirectly funding their terrorism. If and when the Palestinian Arabs are ever ready for peace, their leaders can pick up the phone and call Jerusalem and Washington. They know the numbers.

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