In an interview last week with Ismail Haniyeh, the head of Hamas' parliamentary slate, Ha'aretz's Amira Hass scolded the Hamas leader for his upbeat assessment regarding the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. The exchange follows:
HANIYEH: "We're very optimistic. The occupation is gone from Gaza, and today they are talking about leaving a large part of the West Bank. These are steps on the way to realizing the Palestinian people's rights. The situation is better than it was, and that is due to the armed resistance."
HASS: "Gaza is more cut off from the West Bank than ever; the West Bank is divided into several separate, disconnected units; the settlements are expanding; Israel's diplomatic position in the world is better than ever. Where's the improvement?"
HANIYEH: "We're not powerless. The people want some relief in their lives. We will insist on our people's rights and the connection between the West Bank and Gaza."
HASS: "What practical steps will you take to succeed where others failed?"
HANIYEH: "We've said that we won't give in to this situation. We conducted an intifada that lasted five years en route to obtaining our rights."
HASS: "But the situation worsened."
HANIYEH: "Not true. And even if it were true, the situation in Israel is also difficult: economically; from the standpoint of the crisis in Likud and [Ariel] Sharon's departure from it; the lack of security. All this is due to the stamina of the Palestinian people and the costs of the occupation.
HASS: "The Palestinian people is tired of the slogans that Fatah mouthed. It expects more than slogans."
HANIYEH: "These aren't slogans. We're talking about things that happened. Why is the occupation gone from Gaza? Was is not the stamina and the resistance; did these not cause losses to the occupation?"
(It should be noted that Hass' interview with Haniyeh appeared as a news item on page one of the English print edition.) According to the Jan. 20 Guardian newspaper
, Hamas hired a media consultant to help spin the group's message and polish their image with Americans and Europeans. Perhaps the consultant was shrewd enough to realize Hamas could be made to seem relatively
moderate to Western news consumers if paired with Hass.