Hamas is trying to project a new image. At a news conference in Doha, Qatar, on Monday, May 1, it announced a purportedly moderate new document—without indicating in any way that it was abrogating its notoriously anti-Semitic 1988 charter.
The New York Times—at least on the face of it—quickly took the bait. That day its lead headline read: “Hamas Tempers Extreme Stances in Bid for Power”—later revised to “In Palestinian Power Struggle, Hamas Moderates Talk on Israel.”
The article quotes Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum: “The document gives us a chance to connect with the outside world…. We are a pragmatic and civilized movement….”
Yet, elsewhere in the report, even the Times is unable to get too enthused about the new “Document of General Principles and Policies.”
The Times notes that it “reiterates the Hamas leadership’s view that it is open to a Palestinian state along the borders established after the 1967 war, though it does not renounce future claims to Palestinian rule over what is now Israel.” Or in the document’s more emphatic words:
Palestine…extends from the River Jordan in the east to the Mediterranean in the west…the establishment of the Zionist entity therein do[es] not annul the right of the Palestinian people to their entire land and do[es] not entrench any rights therein for the usurping Zionist entity.
The Times also notes gingerly that the document “does not renounce violence.” Or as the document puts it:
The liberation of Palestine is the duty of the Palestinian people in particular and the duty of the Arab and Islamic Ummah in general…. Resisting the occupation with all means and methods is a legitimate right guaranteed by divine laws and by international norms and laws.
And the Times says the new document “specifically weakens language from [the] 1988 charter proclaiming Jews as enemies and comparing their views to Nazism.” The new document, however, says: “Hamas does not wage a struggle against the Jews because they are Jewish but wages a struggle against the Zionists who occupy Palestine.”
In other words, no problem with the Jews, as long as their state is destroyed.
And finally, the Times—which, despite all these bows to reality, gave the Doha press conference top billing as if it heralded a major change—acknowledges what all experts confirm: that the new document “does not replace the original charter,” which remains fully in force.
Why did Hamas makes this bid for a better image at this time? The Times of Israel’s Avi Issacharoff notes that Hamas is in financial trouble:
Gulf states are closing the funding taps one by one and income from inside Gaza is dropping.
It is for this reason that the need arose to present a “friendlier face” to the world via this document of principles.
That and the intra-Palestinian struggle for power and influence; with Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas set, at that time, to meet with President Trump in Washington on Wednesday, Hamas wanted to keep itself in the public eye and try to boost its respectability.
In what appears to be bad timing for the group, however, on Tuesday Human Rights Watch released a report that puts the “pragmatic and civilized movement” in a very negative light.
Significantly, Human Rights Watch is no friend of Israel. As NGO Monitor notes, HRW exhibits “a deep-seated ideological bias against Israel,” regularly accuses it of war crimes, calls for the boycott of Israeli communities in the West Bank, and much else.
In “2 Israelis Who Entered Gaza Held Incommunicado,” however, even HRW is unsparing in its criticism of Hamas.
The two Israelis are Avraham Mangistu, of Ethiopian Jewish background, and Hisham al-Sayed, of Muslim Bedouin background. Mangistu is believed to have wandered into Gaza in September 2014, Sayed in April 2015.
Both men, HRW notes, have “serious mental health conditions”;
Sayed was diagnosed with schizophrenia, and Mangistu spent time in a psychiatric hospital.
And while Hamas claims the men are soldiers, HRW found that they “were not combatants or affiliated with the Israeli government when they entered Gaza.” Mangistu was found unfit to serve, and Sayed, also found unfit, volunteered for service but was discharged after three months.
But none of that has availed the two unfortunate men, who have been held incommunicado since straying into Gaza. There have been no visits from rights groups, no contacts with their families, no indications about their condition.
Hamas’s “price”—just for information about the men—would be Israel’s release of 54 Hamas security prisoners.
Hamas is also holding the remains of two Israeli soldiers, Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, who were killed in the 2014 Gaza War; on April 20 it released a “ghoulish” video taunting their parents.
Notwithstanding the ever so slightly spruced-up prose of its new document, it is, of course, the same Hamas as always—existing at the lowest depth of human depravity while claiming divine sanction for all its actions.
It would be nice to say the opposing Palestinian Authority/Fatah stream of the Palestinians is a lot better; but that is a different subject.