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Middle East Issues





London Review of Books Cheerleads for Hamas


The London Review of Books is nothing if not consistent in its contemptuous attitude towards the Jewish state. A recent article, "Why Israel Didn't Win" (Dec. 6, 2012), by Adam Shatz is illustrative. Ignoring a litany of violent provocations and repeated proclamations by Hamas leaders that "Palestine is ours from the river to the sea," Shatz grasps at the disingenuous figleaf of a "temporary truce" offered by Hamas in order to cast Israel as the villain responsible for last November's intensification of violence. Shatz's argument is shoddy, transparently reversing cause-and-effect. It typifies the diminished quality of analysis of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict coming from The London Review of Books.
 
A consistent theme running through Shatz's piece is that Israeli leaders are inveterate schemers intent on disrupting any Arab peacemaking attempts. Shatz seems convinced that Israeli leaders like the current Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, do not want peace. He imputes a sinister motive to Israel when it assassinated Hamas's expert bombmaker, Yahya Ayyash, and then blames Israel for the Hamas suicide bombings that followed. According to Shatz,  
 
"In 1996, during a period of relative calm, it [Israel] assassinated Hamas's bombmaker Yahya Ayyash, the 'Engineer', leading Hamas to strke back with a wave of suicide attacks in Israeli cities."
 
Shatz employs a frequently observed tactic of anti-Israel agitators in always pointing to an Israeli action as the starting point of any escalation in violence. In fact, Hamas's suicide bombing campaign was already well underway and the "engineer" Ayyash was targeted precisely because of his expertise in producing bombs to murder Israeli citizens. The implication that Hamas would have restrained itself from further terrorism if Israel had not acted is ridiculous in light of the Islamist organization's implacable commitment to annihilating the Jewish state through force.
 
Similarly, Shatz claims Israel attempted to assassinate Hamas political chief Khalid Mesha'al the following year to put an end to Hamas talk of a "hudna" or temporary truce. Shatz emphasizes the talk of hudna,while ignoring the preponderance of evidence that Hamas has no intention of accepting the presence of the Jewish state. Mesha'al recently visited the Gaza Strip and was widely reported to have affirmed, "Palestine is ours from the river to the sea and from the north to the south. There will be no concession on any inch of land." He also clarified that "The state will come from resistance [terrorism] not negotiation."
 
Despite the uncompromising stances voiced by Hamas and its allies, Shatz places great faith in the supposedly peaceful intentions of Israel's most determined enemies. In a review of a book about the aftermath of the 1967 Six-Day War, also published in The London Review of Books in October, 2012, after listing Egyptian President Nasser's steps precipitating the war – ordering the removal of the UN peacekeepers, blockading the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping, sending large forces into the Sinai – Shatz wrote, "Nasser's moves were intended to deter war, not start one..."
 
Shatz claims that Hamas was "cobbling together an agreement for a longterm ceasefire" and that Israel assassinated the Hamas military leader, Ahmed al-Jabari, this past November "only hours after he reviewed the draft proposal" for a long-term ceasefire. How he knows this and on whose word, he doesn't say. But according to Shatz, Israel's leaders ordered the operation because "then they would have missed a chance to try out their new missile defence shield, Iron Dome..." Right. So Shatz would like us to believe that the prime minister of Israel, who was coming up for election, intentionally launched an unnecessary military operation to provoke Hamas rocket fire at Israeli civilians in order to try out a new weapon system.
 
The logic here is astounding. Even assuming the most cynical motives on the part of the Israeli prime minister, which Shatz does without hesitation, the risk of civilian deaths and the possibility that the system might not work as intended, would certainly outweigh perceived benefits of "testing" a system, as would the possibility of employing it unnecessarily would reveal prematurely its capacity to Hezbollah and Iran.
 
Logic aside, another inconsistency in Shatz's conspiratorial narrative is that in the days prior to the Israeli action, Hamas had escalated its rocket fire into Israel and had carried out several attacks against Israeli soldiers at the border. So the Israeli attack was a response, not an initiating provocation.
 
Nevertheless, Shatz revels in what he calls Hamas's victory. He writes, "Not only did Hamas put up a better fight than it had in the last war, it averted an Israeli ground offensive, won implicit recognition as a legitimate actor from the United States...and achieved concrete gains." Two Israeli soldiers and four civilians were killed by Hamas's indiscriminate rocket fire into Israel. That is what Shatz characterizes as putting up a "better fight."
 
Shatz expresses a smugness in what he sees as Israel's deteriorating strategic position in the region. He writes, "the unraveling of the old Arab order, when Israel could count on the quiet complicity of Arab big men who satisfied their subjects with flamboyant denunciations of Israeli misdeeds but did little to block them, has been painful for Israel, leaving it feeling lonelier than ever." Others may recognize such a perspective as expressing Shatz's desire, regardless of the dangers the "Arab spring" presents for not only Israel, but other Western interests including Great Britain and the United States as well as the citizens of the Arab countries themselves.
 
The remainder of the two-page piece argues that the future advantage lies with Hamas. It recites conventional talking points of Hamas apologists. He depicts Israeli leader Netanyahu and then Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman as warmongers while establishing Hamas's bonafides as the legitimate democratically elected rulers of Gaza. Shatz posits that Hamas's "hatred [of Israel] might be stoked by a punishing economic blockade," again putting the cart before the horse – Israeli action followed by Hamas reaction. In fact, the economic blockade was imposed because of Hamas's refusal to renounce terrorism and abide by previous agreements between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. A review of the Hamas Charter reveals the longstanding intensity of Hamas hatred for Israel and Jews that predates the blockade. The hatred and anti-Israel violence came first, the blockade second.
 
Like many of Israel's detractors, Shatz laments the disproportionate casualty ratio in Israel's favor and considers this to be by definition evidence of Israeli aggression. The fact that Israel places a high priority on protecting its citizens and targets terrorists with effective military tools, while Hamas uses its subjects as shields and targets Israeli civilians with less effective capabilities is unimportant to Shatz; only the ratio matters.
 
Shatz's piece "Why Israel Didn't Win" is pathetic cheerleading for Hamas, devoid of serious retrospection. Apparently, that is what passes for intelligent analysis of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at The London Review of Books.
 

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