While European Union and American officials are aghast at the electoral victory of the terrorist organization Hamas, London’s Guardian newspaper wasted no time in burnishing the image of the group sworn to Israel’s destruction and treating its victory as a positive development. First there was the analysis by diplomatic editor Ewen McCaskill parotting the organization’s rhetoric and touting its election victory as an opportunity to achieve real peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Then commentator Jonathan Steele devoted an entire column to lauding the Palestinians’ choice, declaring “Hamas’s triumph in Wednesday’s Palestinian elections is the best news from the Middle East for a long time.”
How does Steele explain his cheery assertion? He justifies Hamas’s violence, putting a heroic face on suicide bombers who blow up children and elderly people in cafes, buses and hotels. Hamas backers are described as “supporters of armed resistance to Israel’s expansionist strategies” and the terrorist organization is praised for its “uncompromising hostility to occupation and its record in fighting it.” As for the massive show of support for the violent Islamic fundamentalist group, in Steele’s view “few voters were unaware of Hamas’s uncompromising hostility to occupation and its record in fighting it… . Wednesday’s election was remarkable also in owing nothing to Washington’s (selective) efforts to promote democracy in the Arab world. Instead, it was further proof that civil society in Palestine is more vibrant than anywhere else in the region.”
The columnist then offers a fawning portrayal of Hamas leader, Muhammad Zahar:
Among several Hamas leaders I met in Gaza last summer, Mahmoud Zahar, one of its last surviving founders, exuded the clearest sense of inner steel…This is no mosque-driven revolutionary or wealthy jihadi… motivated by ideology or a desire for adventure…
Zahar is, of course, the physician-cum-terrorist leader who sent young Palestinians to kill themselves and Israeli civilians with the promise of a reward in the hereafter. Steele suggests that Zahar should be “credited” by foreign diplomats for “[taking] the lead last year in persuading colleagues that Hamas should declare a truce or period of ‘calm’ with Israel” despite his being a victim of “occupation” which according to the columnist is “no mean achievement.” The escalating missile attacks from Gaza against Israeli civilian targets are ignored by Steele.
According to the Guardian columnist, Hamas’s objective for Palestinian society is to “build a new sense of unity, revive its inner moral strength and clean up its institutions.” He advises the EU to avoid the “manipulative” US approach of threatening to stop financial aid to the Hamas-led government because “any cut-off in EU aid would only be a gift to Israel’s hardliners.” In other words, Western aid should flow freely without any requirement for Hamas to moderate.
Steele dismisses Hamas’s violent agenda and its refusal to recognize the right of Israel to exist:
Above all, Europe should not get hung up on the wrong issues, like armed resistance and the ‘war on terror.’ Murdering a Palestinian politician by a long-range attack that is bound also to kill innocent civilians is morally and legally no better than a suicide bomb on a bus. Hamas’s refusal to give formal recognition of Israel’s right to exist should also not be seen by Europe as an urgent problem.
His equating Israel’s targeted assassinations of terrorist operatives, whom he describes as “politicians,” with Hamas’s intentional murder of innocent civilians is indicative of undiguised contempt for Israel.
That the Guardian considers Steele’s column a reasonable point of view worthy of publication is disturbing, but in light of the paper’s consistent demonizing of Israel, not surprising. The column is no doubt indicative of a looming campaign to legitimize Hamas.