Slouching towards Hamas: A tale of two Guardian editorials

In less than a week we have seen two Guardian editorials published hailing the recent Hamas-Fatah reconciliation as the greatest thing since sliced bread.  Clearly, this represents the monochrome Guardian view of this development; a view which has no room for anything other than an almost religious acceptance of the merger and does not even attempt to discuss alternative views or potential pitfalls.

On April 29th as initial news of the Hamas-Fatah pact emerged, a nameless editor insisted that “tectonic plates start to shift“.  The really interesting aspect of this editorial was the extent to which it aimed to justify the Guardian’s own positions on the subject of the Middle East. We were told that the Hamas-Fatah agreement is a result of the ‘Arab Spring’ which the Guardian has been extremely busy promoting over these last few months.

Firstly, it was claimed that the publication of the ‘Palestine Papers’ – of course courtesy of the Guardian itself along with its leak-buddy Al Jazeera – had been instrumental in weakening the Palestinian Authority to such an extent that it had no choice but to do a deal with Hamas.  The second factor cited was the fall of Mubarak in Egypt and the third, Abbas’ disappointment with the US over its recent veto of a proposed UN motion.

Some of this may be true; certainly the deliberate misrepresentation of the ‘Palestine Papers’ by the Guardian and Al Jazeera as a ‘sell out’ of the ‘Palestinian cause’ on the part of the PA did plenty of damage (almost certainly pre-planned, deliberate and co-ordinated) to the ability of Mahmoud Abbas to negotiate and compromise, and even called the continued existence of the PA into question.

That, of course, suited Hamas and the other factions which reject negotiations very well indeed and a further clue to just how close the Guardian sails to Muslim Brotherhood ideology can be seen in the statement that “a future environment composed of free Egyptians, Jordanians and even possibly Syrians could well fashion Israel’s borders”.

As any informed observer of the regional events is aware, the Muslim Brotherhood appears to be set to make considerable headway in the elections to be held in Egypt in September. If that turns out to be the case, Egyptians will regrettably still be far from free. In Jordan the main opposition to the government is also instigated by the Muslim Brotherhood and that movement is also active in the uprisings in Syria.

In other words, when the Guardian editor says ‘free’, he does not use that word in the context in which the majority of readers would understand it. For him, ‘free’ means ruled according to sexist, homophobic and racist Islamist principles which just happen to align with the political ideologies to which he subscribes.

In the second editorial of May 5th, we see the (same?) editor trying to persuade us that the Hamas-Fatah agreement has the “capacity to change the scenery” in the Middle East. Predictably, the editorial blames Israel alone for the failure of peace negotiations, totally ignoring the Palestinian refusal to come to the negotiating table despite a plethora of confidence-building measures, concessions and a 10 month building freeze. Equally predictably, the editorial tries to raise the false flag of “territory” and “settlements” as the “core” issues of the conflict, blithely dismissing the subject of Palestinian rejection of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state.

Continuing down the standard Guardian route whereby Palestinians can do no wrong (unless they try to negotiate with Israel), this editorial then goes on to invert the facts completely by pretending that Abbas was never offered a realistic treaty.

“Had Mahmoud Abbas been given a serious and imminent possibility of signing an agreement that established a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, with its capital in Jerusalem, and one in which the Palestinian right of return had not been erased unilaterally from the reckoning, Mr Netanyahu might have had a case when he accused his counterpart of walking away from peace.”

Apart from the fact that Mahmoud Abbas was offered precisely such an agreement in 2008 by Ehud Olmert, as the whole world – despite the Guardian’s efforts – knows, what is really hilarious about this statement is that not only was it just a few weeks ago that the Guardian was chiding Abbas and his team for negotiating that very agreement, but the Hamas-Fatah merger which the Guardian is now so earnestly promoting will, by Hamas’ own declaration, put the lid on any chance of further negotiations taking place.

Both of these editorials are so off the wall in that they basically parrot Hamas propaganda  (just without the signature medieval-style rhetoric) that one cannot but suspect that they were penned by Seumas Milne, or at least by someone who has spent far too much time with him in an Islington wine-bar over a bottle of organic Chardonnay.

And if one wonders how a once respected liberal newspaper reached such bizarre depths, it may be worth taking into account that in addition to the Guardian’s long history of providing a platform for various Hamas members and sympathisers, members of its staff have also met with them annually at the Al Jazeera Forum in Doha for at least the past three consecutive years.

At this year’s conference in mid-March a session was held entitled “Palestinian National Strategy in the New Middle East” with the speakers CiF contributors Karma Nablusi and Osama Hamdan of Hamas, Mustafa Barghouti, Mahdi Abdul Hadi and Robert Malley who, interestingly, takes up many of the same themes as employed in these two Guardian editorials in his recent  commentary on Palestinian unity.

Live blogging of the discussion gives an idea of the prevailing mood within the rejectionist camp which preceded and possibly contributed to the Hamas-Fatah reconciliation.

(All typos in the original)

Karma Nablusi: In every palestinian gathering, under occupation, in the homeland the same question is being asked… “Is this not our moment too?” but how do we get over teh internal divisions and the repression which has kept us divided and unable to unify?

Karma Nablusi: Make no mistake, the one thing we need is all our sectors at this moment. No one can lead but the people themselves.

Osamah Hamdan: The PLO regime has failed, the revolutions which have taken place in the region, we need to be positively careful since they have not succeeded yet but are on the right track. We have to wait for these people to reach their demands.

Osamah Hamdan: We have to go directly to our project which is the ending of the occupation , the liberation of the Palestinian land and then the Palestinian people can decide how to govern themselves.

Osamah Hamdan: The Palestine Papers are over now, we should move over to a new sqaure and talk about National Unity for the Palestinian people, wherever they are.

Osamah Hamdan: We want an initiative coming from Palestinian Will… we have started a discussion with the various Palestinian factions to bring a national consensus of leadership which will be accountable to the Palestinian people., it’s called the Palestinian National Project and is about Liberation and Return.

Osamah Hamdan: The Palestinian people who launched the intifadah in 2000 is capable now to develop its tool and political identity to achieve the goals of this project.

Mahdi Abdulhadi: We were at the centre of it with the Intifadah, and now we are at the centre of this movement. We need ot move up to the level of revolution or regress and move back. The Palestinian issue is nothing new, there are too many divisions internally.

Mustafa Barghouti: The Youth of Palestine want Freedom.We need 4 things 1) Resistance – we need all forms of resistance, particularly the popular palestinian resistance. We need to stop buying Israeli products. Third Intifada is what we need. The Arab revolutions have highlighted the strength of popular revolution

Mustafa Barghouti: 2) we need to awaken Popular Arab Revolution and co-operation to work with the Palestinian people to stop buying Israeli Products and boycotting Israeli products.

Mustafa Barghouti: 3) We need to heed the call to end Palestinian Division and Arab Division. This means regaining the role of the people. We have more than 5 million people in the diaspora, we have to bring them back to the womb of the country. We need a unified national strategy through an election. Al the parties have to review their positions, some political leaders must now open the doors to change for the Palestinian people. We don’t need patchwork, we need real change.

Rob Malley: Culture, – A movement that is divided, cannot prevail. Fatah is based on negotiation, Hamas is based on Fighting and right now Fatah is not negotiating and Hamas is not fighting!

Rob Malley: Those who have risen up in the revolutions were united. This is something that needs to be taken into account by the Palestinians.

Azam Tamimi: WE have to have a revolution against the Palestinian Authority as we have seen in Tunisia and Egypt. The PA was imposed on the Palestinians and they didn’t want one!

Participant: I believe the door is open and we don’t need any more discussion, we need to topple PA and really push the liberation. We also need to fight the settlers. They need to withdraw from the South of Gaza and of Lebanon.

Mustafa Barghouti: Nobody is negotiating at the moment so consequently there is nothing left except we built a national struggle which is organised and destroy the occupation

Ehab Bessaiso: We cannot when talking about the problem of resistance, we need one unifying base for resistance but we need to define what resistance is… We have apolitical demands. If we all agree that resistance is the right way with the option of dismantling the PA then we should not have an elitist conversation and get on with it.

It is more than apparent that the Hamas-Fatah merger needs to be looked at not only from the point of view of the Fatah weaknesses which undoubtedly contributed to its creation, as these two editorials do, but also from the aspect of the Hamas (and other rejectionist groups) strategy behind it. On that subject the Guardian is less keen to elaborate, but what is chillingly clear is that the way the Guardian is championing is directly opposed to negotiation, compromise and peace.

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