One party that wasn’t celebrating Osama bin Laden’s killing on Monday was Hamas. Ismail Haniyeh—head of its administration in the Gaza Strip, and seen by some super-sophisticated commentators as leading its “political” (as opposed to “military”) wing—told reporters:
We regard this as a continuation of the American policy based on oppression and the shedding of Muslim and Arab blood…. We condemn the assassination and the killing of an Arab holy warrior. We ask God to offer him mercy with the true believers and the martyrs.
Haniyeh’s statement comes hard on the heels of last week’s announcement of a unity pact between Hamas and Fatah, the leading force in the Palestinian Authority and widely seen as Israel’s peace partner. The formal signing of the pact is set to go ahead in Cairo on Wednesday. Representing Fatah will be Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority; representing Hamas will be the Damascus-based terrorist kingpin Khaled Mashaal, whom Israel tried to assassinate in Amman in 1997.
Last week’s announcement appeared to most Israelis a brazen act by Abbas and Fatah of open unification with an unregenerate, openly genocidal, Islamist terror organization. It seemed all the more brazen for being aimed at increasing the Palestinians’ chances of getting a recognition of statehood at the UN in September—by presenting a united Fatah-Hamas front.
Yet, apart from some members of Congress who laudably condemned the move and threatened a cutoff of aid to the Palestinian Authority, otherwise it hardly stirred up a storm abroad. As Jerusalem Post editor in chief David Horovitz wrote:
I waited for the global condemnation of the Palestinian Authority and its president, Mahmoud Abbas, for choosing to tie their fate to an organization ideologically bent on wiping out the Jewish state…. But I waited in vain….
Instead, what was heard were sounds well short of condemnation. While White House chief of staff William Daley called Hamas “a terrorist organization which targets civilians,” he left a door open by adding that “the United States supports Palestinian reconciliation, provided it is on terms which advance the cause of peace.” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was positively jubilant, saying through a spokesman that he “welcomes efforts being made to promote Palestinian reconciliation.” And the EU’s reaction was that “we have consistently called for reconciliation and peace under the authority of Abbas as a way to end the division between the West Bank and Gaza.”
“Reconciliation” and “peace”—the sweet cadences are reminders to Israelis that the word “Hamas” hardly carries the resonance abroad that it does in Israel. Hundreds of suicide bombings and rocket attacks, a charter that says, “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it,” don’t seem sufficient to give “Hamas” the same ring that “Al-Qaeda” has. It would be nice to think Haniyeh’s eulogy to Bin Laden will finally be enough to turn the tide. Precedent suggests otherwise.
Not that Haniyeh’s statement should have come as a surprise. Hamas and Bin Laden, along with other major Al-Qaeda figures like Ayman Zawahiri and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, have a common origin in the Muslim Brotherhood. Both organizations, Hamas and Al-Qaeda, are ideologically fanatic movements sharing a murderous hatred of the United States, the West, Israel, and Jews. Both see themselves as commanded by their deity to drown the West in blood and fire.
The difference, though, is that while the killing of Al-Qaeda’s leader is welcomed, Hamas’s advent to the political stage is seen by not a few in the West as somehow auguring peace. Israel will keep trying to convey the organization’s true nature, the significance of the wide support it enjoys in the Palestinian Authority, and of “moderate” Abbas’s readiness to mend fences with it. It looks like an uphill battle.
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