Updated: Forbes Features Radical Professor for Commentary

Update, June 29, 2010: More Evidence That Destroys Lustick’s Analysis

Forbes.com, the online edition of Forbes magazine, describes itself  as being “among the most trusted resources for the world’s business and investment leaders.” But the magazine’s June 17th online commentary, written by radical, anti-Israel professor Ian Lustick, was based in an alternate reality, so counterfactual and bizarre as to raise serious questions about the general editorial judgement at Forbes.

In his column, entitled  “Israel Could Benefit From Hamas,” Lustick redraws the nature of Israel’s battle with Hamas from an existential one threatening the Jewish state to a religious battle against Islam. He turns truth on its head, whitewashing the terrorist Hamas regime as a peace-seeking organization which a jihadist Israel seeks to destroy.

Lustick dismisses as Israeli “propaganda” the characterization of Hamas as a terrorist organization akin to Al Qaida, despite its designation as such by most of the Western world, including the U.S., Canada, Japan, the U.K., Australia, and the European Union. Although Hamas and Al Qaida similarly exemplify the definition of “terrorist” by targeting civilians in order to terrorize nations, Lustick apparently does not view terrorist attacks in the same light when their civilian victims are inside Israel. Explaining why he differentiates Hamas from Al Qaida, a group whose “terrorist” designation he evidently accepts, Lustick writes:

Hamas is not Al Qaida. Hamas has never carried out violent attacks outside of historical Palestine.

Lustick goes on to describe Hamas as an organization seeking peaceful, competitive coexistence with the Jewish state:

In a variety of Sunni Arab countries the Muslim Brothers and affiliated groups (Hamas is in this category) have agreed to compete peacefully in the social, cultural and ideological spheres while foregoing direct military or political attacks on the secular governments. In effect Hamas has offered Israel the equivalent – a generation long “hudna” (armistice) during which a Muslim Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza would exist alongside of a Jewish State in Israel. (Emphasis added)

Of course, this is false. Contrary to Lustick’s idealized version of events, there was never any genuine offer by Hamas to “exist alongside a Jewish state in Israel” for “a generation.”

While there have been periodic attempts by some Hamas leaders to appear pragmatic by expressing a willingness to entertain the possibility of a “hudna” (temporary truce) under certain terms, they are predicated upon conditions that would spell the end of an independent Jewish state (Israeli withdrawal to its indefensible borders of 1967and return of Arab refugees and their descendents into those diminished borders). These conditions are especially untenable given that Hamas’ truce proposals do not preclude the call for Israel’s destruction, nor the use of violence against Israeli civilians. The very same Hamas leaders who announce offers of a “hudna” on the one hand, issue statements that belie its supposedly peaceful intent. They describe their offers as temporary measures to establish a foothold from which to reach their ultimate goal of annihilating the Jewish state. Offers of a “hudna” are accompanied by continued incitement of the Palestinian public against Israelis and a promise that Israel will be ultimately eradicated. Often these ambiguous truce proposals come at times when Hamas is in a weakened position. They are thus understandably viewed by Israel as tactical maneuvers to allow militants to re-group and re-arm for future attacks.

For example, a 10-year truce proposal in return for the establishment of a “fully sovereign Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital ” in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza was announced in London’s Arabic language Al Hayat on January 24, 2004. In a telephone interview with Reuters the next day, Hamas leader Abd Aziz al-Rantissi explained that this temporary arrangement was offered because it is “difficult to liberate all our land at this stage, so we accept a phased liberation.”

But even this was repudiated by Rantissi himself just two days later in a statement published in Arabic on the pro-Hamas Palestinian Information Center. According to a Jan. 27 translation by the BBC, Rantisi accused Reuters of distorting his original statement and taking it out of context. He insisted “there will be no recognition of the so-called State of Israel and there will be no end to the conflict.” The Palestinian Information Center reported that Rantissi had emphasized the following principles upon which a truce would be based:

1. There will be no relinquishment of a single inch of Palestinian territory, because it is Islamic territory.

2. There will be no recognition of the so-called State of “Israel”.

3. Any solution that provides for a recognition of the so-called State of “Israel”, or for relinquishing a single inch of the historic territory of Palestine is unacceptable and null and void and non-binding to us.

4. The resistance option is the only option that can bring about a restoration of the usurped rights.

5. The negotiating process has proved futile and incapable of restoring the legitimate national rights.

Similarly, on January 29, 2006, Mahmoud Zahar, Hamas’ “foreign minister,” suggested to CNN that a hudna with Israel might be possible under certain conditions. Zahar refused to say how long such a hudna would last or to comment about how it would affect Hamas’ long-term call to eradicate a Jewish state. “We are not speaking about the future,” he said, “we are speaking now.”

At the same time (Jan. 25, 2006) he was interviewed on Al Manar TV to say:

We will not give up the resistance in the sense of jihad, martyrdom-seeking, sacrifices, arrests, the demolition of homes, and the uprooting of trees, at the same time, nor the shattering of the Israeli enemy’s honor in all the confrontations – the war of tunnels and of security against the Israeli enemy, which ultimately led to its withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and part of the West Bank…

“Palestine means Palestine in its entirety – from the [Mediterranean] Sea to the [Jordan] River, from Ras Al-Naqura to Rafah. We cannot give up a single inch of it. Therefore, we will not recognize the Israeli enemy’s [right] to a single inch….

…we can found a state on any piece of the land, and this will not mean we give up on any other part of the land.

Zahar had also announced on Palestinian television:

We do not recognize the Israeli enemy, nor his right to be our neighbor, nor to stay [on the land], nor his ownership of any inch of land. … Our principles are clear: Palestine is a land of Waqf [Islamic trust], which can not be given up. (Jan. 17, 2006 translated by Palestinian Media Watch)

And the Guardian quoted him as follows:

“It’s our land,” said Dr. Zahar. “Nobody among our sons and grandsons will accept Israel as a legal state. … Israel is a foreign body. Not in this generation, not in the next generation, will we accept it here.” (Jan. 18, 2006)

Zahar reiterated this position when he told the Chinese news agency Xinhua that “there is no place for the state of Israel on this land. ” (April 2, 2006)

Zahar’s announcement of a truce offer on  CNN was accompanied by a PR attempt by Hamas to present a pragmatic face to the Western world. In November 2006, Ahmed Youssef, advisor to Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, wrote an Op-Ed for a Western audience (published in the New York Times) explaining that Hamas’ offer of a 10-year “hudna” was a pause for peace, an opportunity to promote understanding among different people.

This was followed by the publication in the Palestinian media of a hudna document, offering –not a 10-year, but a 5-year– truce in exchange for Israel’s complete withdrawal from the West Bank, after which a Palestinian state would be established with its capital in Jerusalem. Arab refugees (and their descendents) would be granted the right to take up residence within Israel. Yousef was mentioned as one of the architects of this plan along with European representatives, but Hamas spokesmen immediately denied that they had anything to do with the document. At a press conference, Ahmed Yousef rejected the idea that the document constituted a Hamas offer, saying it was a European proposal that had not been discussed by the Hamas leadership. Yousef insisted that “a hudna does not in any way constitute recognition of Israel; it is a political proposal [presented] in return for termination of the occupation in the 1967 territories, release of all the prisoners, and securing of the right of return.” He explained he had been “presenting the hudna to the whole world as [Hamas’] political position and program…for achieving stability, security and prosperity in the region… ”

Contrary to his peaceful-sounding words in the New York Times, he argued that the hudna “rejects [the concept of] recognizing Israel…and maintains the right of our people to [continue the] resistance until the occupation withdraws.”

So what does Hamas really mean when it offers a “hudna”?

Mkhaimer Abusada, a political scientist at Egypt’s Al Azhar University, offers an explanation:

They [Hamas leaders] talk of hudna, not of peace or reconciliation with Israel. They believe over time they will be strong enough to liberate all historic Palestine.” (New York Times, April 1, 2008)

And Egyptian-born journalist Magdi Allam, explained in a May 2006 interview with Jerusalem Post‘s Khaled Abu Toameh:

From an Islamic point of view, the hudna only means a temporary cessation of war activities. It is based on the Hudaibiyah example, when the Prophet Muhammed preferred not to enter Mecca. He waited for one year to prepare new forces to invade Mecca and occupy it. This hudna does not mean recognition of the other side and its right to exist. It only means winning some time to prepare for achieving what they really want. When we examine Hamas’s ambitions, we see that its constitution calls for the destruction of Israel and the establishment of an Islamic state based on the sharia law. I don’t believe we can allow Hamas to reach its goal because this means the destruction of Israel. And it would also harm the Palestinians themselves. Hamas’s strategy won’t lead the Palestinians to statehood and peace based on coexistence alongside Israel.

Lustick’s “expert” analysis , however, fails to explore Hamas’ meaning of hudna, or the contradictory statements by Hamas leaders. It overlooks Hamas’ consistent refusal to renounce the use of violence against Jews or to forswear its ultimate goal of destroying the Jewish state. Lustick ignores Hamas’ charter and the fact that Hamas officials systematically reinforce its message with statements to the public, television shows for children, school lessons and sermons by Hamas-appointed imams. (See “In Gaza, Hamas’s Insults to Jews Complicate Peace“)

According to Hamas’ mission statement, its charter :

…our fight with the Jews is very extensive and very grave, and it requires all the sincere efforts. It is a step that must be followed by further steps;…(Hamas Charter, Preamble)

Israel, by virtue of its being Jewish and of having a Jewish population, defies Islam and the Muslims. (Hamas Charter, Article 28)

…the Islamic Resistance Movement aspires to realize the promise of Allah, no matter how long it takes. The Prophet, Allah’s prayer and peace be upon him, says: “The hour of judgment shall not come until the Muslims fight the Jews and kill them, so that the Jews hide behind trees and stones, and each tree and stone will say: ‘Oh Muslim, oh servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him,’ except for the Gharqad tree, for it is the tree of the Jews.” (Recorded in the Hadith collections of Bukhari and Muslim, Hamas Charter, Article 7)

[Peace] initiatives, the so-called peaceful solutions, and the international conferences to resolve the Palestinian problem, are all contrary to the beliefs of the Islamic Resistance Movement…For renouncing any part of Palestine means renouncing part of the religion; the nationalism of the Islamic Resistance Movement is part of its faith, the movement educates its members to adhere to its principles and to raise the banner of Allah over their homeland as they fight their Jihad….There is no solution to the Palestinian problem except by Jihad. (Hamas Charter, Article 15)

(For more information and statements by Hamas officials, see “The Facts about Hamas “)

In a further demonstration of Lustick’s alternate reality, he suggests that Islamists within Israel “may offer a model for a larger Israeli relationship with political Islam” because “Muslim citizens of Israel, including those active in the Islamic movement, act as law-abiding, though annoying participants in Israeli democracy.” What type of  annoyances would Lustick be referring to? Those of Israeli schoolboys shot dead in their study hall? Or those experienced by Jerusalem pedestrians suddenly forced to run for their lives or be killed and maimed by bulldozers determined to run them down? 

While the professor outrightly denies that Islamist citizens of Israel are responsible for terrorist attacks (“They challenge the ideological and cultural sacred cows of statist Zionism…without terrorism”) , hundreds have been arrested for their involvement in attacks ranging from the throwing of Molotov cocktails to suicide bombings and shootings that have killed hundreds of Israeli civilians and wounded thousands more. Lustick, however, seems blinded to any facts that might negate a world view where Islamists are peaceful and Israeli Jews are responsible for thwarting peace.

The professor thus suggests that Israel dominates Palestinians in the West Bank by denying them “political access to the Israeli political arena.” This is an absurd accusation. Is Lustick faulting Israel for not annexing the West Bank and for, instead, allowing Palestinians to govern themselves? Needless to say, it is Palestinians themselves who want to manage their own affairs and reject any recognition of Israeli sovereignty.

Another ludicrous suggestion by the professor is that Israel’s attempts to ensure its citizens’ security – its security fence, 1982 invasion of Lebanon, endorsement of the U.S. war in Iraq, for example– are simply manifestations of a “temper tantrum” indicating Israel’s “deeper desire not to be [in the Middle East] at all.” This theme that Israel does not really want to be there is repeated without any substantiation throughout Lustick’s commentary.

Can the professor truly be ignorant of the depth of the Jewish bond to the Land of Israel which transcends cultural nationalism to include historical, biblical, and religious components? Jewish reverence for the land long predates Israel’s sovereignty, the construction of the two Jewish Temples in 954 BCE and 515 BCE, and even bibilical events. According to tradition, Israel is the location of the foundation stone upon which the world was created and is considered to be the epicenter of Judaism. It is in this Jewish historic homeland that Jews cast out from Islamic and non-Islamic countries have found a safe haven.

Lustick’s bizarre theory that most Israelis wish “desperately” that their “country was somewhere else” can be construed as, in effect, lending support to Hamas’ aim to rid the Middle East of a Jewish state.

Indeed, Lustick proposes “non-violent competition” between the Jewish state of Israel and an Islamic state of  Hamas to determine “whose attachments to land and belief would prevail.” Given the reality of Hamas’ stated goal of replacing the Jewish state with an Islamic caliphate and its promotion of violent jihad to achieve that goal, and given Lustick’s belief that Jews do not really want to be there anyway, such a proposal is tantamount to suggesting that Israel just give up and concede the Jewish state’s right and ability to exist.

Remarkably, this man teaches students at the University of Pennsylvania, an Ivy League college, no less.

Update, June 29: More Evidence That Destroys Lustick’s Analysis

Just in case Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar was not clear enough in the past about Hamas’ purpose in agreeing to establish a Palesitnian state in the West Bank and Gaza, he further clarified it  in a June 15, 2010 interview with Lebanese Future News TV.  Below is a clip of the interview, provided and translated by MEMRI, followed by the  translation:

We have liberated Gaza, but have we recognized Israel? Have we given up our lands occupied in 1948? We demand the liberation of the West Bank, and the establishment of a state in the West Bank and Gaza, with Jerusalem as its capital – but without recognizing [Israel]. This is the key – without recognizing the Israeli enemy on a single inch of land.

This is our plan for this stage – to liberate the West Bank and Gaza, without recognizing Israel’s right to a single inch of land, and without giving up the Right of Return for a single Palestinian refugee.

Our plan for this stage is to liberate any inch of Palestinian land, and to establish a state on it. Our ultimate plan is [to have] Palestine in its entirety. I say this loud and clear so that nobody will accuse me of employing political tactics. We will not recognize the Israeli enemy.

As for the issue of a referendum – [the Palestinian Authority] is ready to impose its position on people by force. Whoever wants to hold a referendum, and believes that he can get all of Palestine for the Palestinians, can hold a referendum, but will not give up the platform of resistance, and the plan to liberate Palestine in its entirety. This is unequivocal.

If we could liberate the Negev now, we would continue [our military activity], but our capabilities dictate that after we got rid of the Israeli presence in Gaza, we must finish off the remnants of that occupation, and move on to the West Bank.

As for Lustick’s claim that Arab Muslims who live within Israel’s pre-1967 borders are uniformly law-abiding citizens who shun terrorism, it is further belied by new reports about the arrest of seven Israeli Arabs for establishing a terror cell inspired by Al Qaeda. According to Israel’s Shin Bet, the seven had planned attacks on both Christians and Jews inside Israel, after hearing speeches by Osama Bin Ladin Three were involved in the murder of an Israeli taxi driver. Others had planned to kidnap and behead a resident of Nazareth. (See reports in the New York Times, AFP, and Jerusalem Post).

Either Professor Lustick does not know of these current events, does not believe these reports, or does not consider such actions to be terrorist in nature because they took place within “historical Palestine.”

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