Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Love of the Land: Hamas in English vs. Hamas in Arabic

Hamas in English vs. Hamas in Arabic

Khaled Abu Toameh
Hudson New York
17 May '11


Hamas leaders have recently been sending conflicting messages about their policies and plans that have prompted some Westerners to argue that the movement has indeed changed and that this is the time to engage with it.

But the reality is that Hamas has not changed. All one has to do is listen to what Hamas says in Arabic to understand that it does not even have any intention to change.

This week, as Palestinians marked "Nakba Day" [the Day of Catastrophe] in protest against the creation of Israel. Hamas leaders reiterated their commitment to their movement's strategy, saying the fight against Israel would continue.

Not only is Hamas not prepared to change its charter, it also has no intention to accept the three conditions set by the international community for dealing with the Islamist movement, namely renouncing violence, recognizing Israel's right to exist and accepting previous agreements signed between the Palestinians and Israel.

On the one hand, Hamas leaders have been telling Western media outlets that they accept the two-state solution on the basis of the 1967 lines.

The Hamas leaders have also been telling Western journalists -- in English, of course -- that their movement has changed and is now willing to renounce violence.

In an interview with the New York Times earlier this month, for example, Damascus-based Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal declared: "The world must deal with what Hamas is practicing today. Hamas has accepted a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders including East Jerusalem, dismantling settlements and the right of return based on a long term truce."

Mashaal complained that it was "not logical for the international community to get stuck on sentences written 20 years ago." He was obviously referring to Hamas's charter, which calls for the destruction of Israel and vows to pursue the fight against the Jewish state.

Mashaal is not the only Hamas leader to send such conciliatory messages to Western audiences. Another one is Ahmed Yousef, an advisor to Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh in the Gaza Strip.

Yousef, who has been described by some Western correspondents as a "moderate voice" in Hamas, has been entrusted with marketing his movement to the outside world.

Listening to Yousef and reading what he writes in Western newspapers, one is left with the impression that Hamas is a peaceful organization whose only goal is to live in peace alongside its Jewish neighbors.

In an article entitled, "What Hamas Wants," Yousef wrote, also in The New York Times, that Hamas has been trying to engage the international community to explain its platform for peace.

"Hamas has consistently offered a 10-year cease-fire with the Israelis to try to create an atmosphere of calm in which we resolve our differences," he said.

Such messages, however, are almost never heard in Arabic. On the contrary, in Arabic Hamas's message has always been consistent and clear.

At the same time that Mashaal and Yousef are talking in English about accepting the two-state solution, most of Hamas's other leaders are vowing in Arabic that their movement would never recognize Israel's right to exist.

Following the signing of the Egyptian-sponsored reconciliation deal between Fatah and Hamas, the Islamist movement's representatives in Syria, Lebanon and the Gaza Strip reassured Palestinians and Arabs that their movement has not abandoned its goal of "liberating all of Palestine."

Also in Arabic, Hamas leaders have pledged that their charter would not be changed despite the rapprochement with Fatah.

If one really wants to know what Hamas thinks, one should listen to what Hamas leaders tell their supporters in mosques and public rallies in the Gaza Strip, not what they write in the New York Times or the Guardian.

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Love of the Land: Hamas in English vs. Hamas in Arabic

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