Sky News promotes myth of Hamas’s increasing ‘moderation’

An article at Sky News (Israel-Hamas ceasefire ‘will hold for now, but no peace with Israel until justice for Palestinains’,May 14) featured excerpts of an interview in Gaza by their Jerusalem correspondent Mark Stone with Mahmoud Zahar, Hamas’s co-founder.

The piece included some background and commentary by Stone, including this:

Since its original charter in 1988, Hamas has shifted its rhetoric away from being a hard-line Islamist group which saw this conflict as a religious war against Jews.

In 2017 a revised charter essentially called for a two-state solution along the 1967 borders and it claimed that its conflict was no longer with Jews but with Zionism.

Both assertions by Stone – that Hamas has shifted away of its antisemitic rhetoric, and that they accept a two-state solution – are false.

The latter claim is based on the fact that, in 2017, Hamas unveiled what it terms “A Document of General Principles and Policies” from Qatar.  As we noted at the time, though many media outlets bought into the Islamist group’s attempt to make itself appear more moderate, and framed the document as an acceptance of the two-state solution, the facts simply don’t support this framing.

As our CAMERA colleagues demonstrated at the time, the new charter doesn’t replace their original antisemitic charter, doesn’t accept the existence of Israel in any borders, continues to embrace the goal of eliminating Israel and does not repudiate terrorism.

The document, which may be viewed in its entirety here, includes the following:

Palestine, which extends from the River Jordan in the east to the Mediterranean in the west, and from Ras Al-Naqurah in the north to Umm Al-Rashrash in the south, is an integral territorial unit. It is the land and the home of the Palestinian people.

It continues:

Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine… and not one stone of [the city] can be surrendered or relinquished….The occupation’s plots, measures and attempts to judaize Al-Aqsa and divide it are null, void, and illegitimate.

. The document is also explicit in its refusal to accept the legitimacy or existence of any Jewish state:

The establishment of “Israel” is entirely illegal and contravenes the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people and goes against their will and the will of the Ummah…. There shall be no recognition of the legitimacy of the Zionist entity…. Hamas believes that no part of the land of Palestine shall be compromised or conceded, irrespective of the causes, the circumstances and the pressures and no matter how long the occupation lasts. Hamas rejects any alternative to the full and complete liberation of Palestine, from the river to the sea.

There is no alternative to a fully sovereign Palestinian State on the entire national Palestinian soil, with Jerusalem as its capital.

It also continues to endorse violence:

Resistance and jihad for the liberation of Palestine will remain a legitimate right, a duty and an honour for all the sons and daughters of our people and our Ummah. … Resisting the occupation with all means and methods is a legitimate right guaranteed by divine laws and by international norms and laws. At the heart of these lies armed resistance, which is regarded as the strategic choice for protecting the principles and the rights of the Palestinian people.

It’s also clear about the demand for millions of Palestinians it calls “refugees,” the overwhelming majority of whom are merely descendants of refugees, to be accepted into Israel:

The right of the Palestinian refugees and the displaced to return to their homes from which they were banished or were banned from returning to – whether in the lands occupied in 1948 or in 1967 (that is the whole of Palestine), is a natural right, both individual and collective..

So, whilst the ‘new’ charter clearly continues to promote violence and reject the continued existence of a Jewish state, media outlets have focused on this lone passage to back up their ‘acceptance of two-states’ narrative:

[W]ithout compromising its rejection of the Zionist entity and without relinquishing any Palestinian rights, Hamas considers the establishment of a fully sovereign and independent Palestinian state, with Jerusalem as its capital along the lines of 4th of June 1967, with the return of the refugees and the displaced to their homes from which they were expelled, to be a formula of national consensus.

The first words in the passage – making it clear that nothing in the new document should be seen as a shift from their rejection of the “Zionist entity – alone should make it clear that the subsequent text can be seen as cosmetic – a temporary public relations shift reflecting a desire for greater legitimacy.

Anyone suggesting that, based on that one passage in the new document, Hamas accepts 1967 lines whilst ignoring text demonstrating that they continue to call for the destruction of Israel, or the “total liberation of Palestine, from the river to the sea,” as well as the “inalienable” right for Palestinians”, is being dishonest.

Further, as our colleague Tamar Sternthal has explained, “the new document did not in any way revoke or obviate the 1988 anti-Semitic charter which calls for the destruction of Israel and the killing of Jews”, a their Charter is, by definition, more binding upon an organization than a policy document that was clearly written for Western ears.

In fact, even during Stone’s interview with Zahar, he asked the Hamas leader point blank if Israel had a right to exist, to which he clearly replied, (at the 2:30 mark), “no“.

Regarding Stone’s claim that Hamas has shifted away from its extremist antisemitic rhetoric, one which frames the conflict as a religious war against the Jews, he would no doubt point to this sentence from the new document:

Hamas affirms that its conflict is with the Zionist project not with the Jews because of their religion.

First, this is a largely meaningless distinction, as all it really mean is, as Richard Millett wrote in these pages, Hamas “wants to rebrand itself as a group which doesn’t want to annihilate Jews worldwide”, but ‘only’ those nearly seven million Jews living in Israel.

In addition to the fact that hate and incitement to terror still are consistently employed on Hamas controlled media outlets, the rhetoric of its leaders hasn’t changed a bit.

Here’s Hamas Political Bureau member Fathi Hammad during a July 12, 2019 speech (two years after the group’s new ‘moderate’ document) calling on Palestinians to slaughter Jews all over the world:

Here’s Hamas’s leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, in 2018, a year after their ‘moderate’ policy document, going truly medieval, in threatening to “eat the livers” of those Jews besieging Gaza.

The contrast between reporters’ extreme skepticism towards every word uttered by an Israeli official on one hand, and their stunning credulity in the face of a PR campaign by an antisemitic extremist group on the other, is more evidence of the institutional anti-Israel bias at play in coverage of the region.

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