Tough Questions for Hamas (Amira Hass) (Gaza 2014)


Would the IDF allow her back into Gaza from which she regularly reports, here are the skeptical questions veteran journalist Amira Hass would ask Hamas leadership about the putative victory that the leadership claim they won. They appear here. Coming from her, whose credentials are without stain, these questions mean more than they would if posed by a rightwing flack; because Hass has genuine and demonstrated concern for the people of Palestine. It’s often argued against Palestinian moderates that negotiations have led to nowhere. But Hass observes that the resistance model is as old as if not older than the negotiation model, and it’s hard to point to any great achievement.  All of it is too sad for words, both the occupation and the resistance. These are tough questions for all of us who care about the both people. One would have to ask a similar set of questions to Israeli officials about the nature of the old/new status quo and the political and moral cost, or even possibility of maintaining it.

These are the questions posed by Hass:

1. Are you still insisting that the past war ended in a victory for you?

2. A Palestinian victory or a Hamas victory?

3. You managed to confuse the strongest army in the region. Is that the victory?

4. Israeli tourism suffered losses. The Israeli education budget will be cut. The defense budget will increase. Residents of the “Gaza envelope” communities are frustrated, and feel betrayed and insecure. If that is the victory, was the price paid by Gaza and its inhabitants worthwhile, and why?

5. You knew in advance that the West would hasten to promise to bear the cost of rehabilitating Gaza and its inhabitants after the destruction caused by Israel. That’s what it has been doing since 1994 (in the West Bank as well), partly for humanitarian motives, and mainly for political calculations: In order to keep the Palestinian Authority in place (in the role of the agent of rehabilitation) in order to guarantee that the system of balances with Israel will not be overly shaken. Had you not known that the West and the United Nations would mobilize for rehabilitation – would you have acted exactly as you did?

6. You preserve the right to choose the path of war (the armed struggle) for the Palestinians. But for every civic task that must be carried out you reply: That’s the job of the reconciliation government. Isn’t that contradictory and hypocritical?

7. The cost of rent in the Strip has increased, due to the decline in supply (houses demolished by Israel) and the fact that at least 100,000 people have become homeless. The rates of poverty and unemployment have also increased. What is your plan for reducing them?

8. The combat skills of your fighters improved as compared to 2008-2009 (although at the time you boasted of such skills, and didn’t convince anyone except for Hamas followers). Clearly you learned from your mistakes and devoted a great deal of time to military exercises. Have improving your combat skills and developing your arsenal become an end instead of a means, and therefore when they were achieved – you consider that a victory?

9. You said that the cease-fire agreement with Israel is a great achievement. What exactly does it include that makes it such an achievement? We laymen fail to understand. Meanwhile the closure has not been lifted and Israel has no intention of lifting it, the Israel Navy continues to fire at Gaza fishermen and to arrest them when they sail out to make a living from the sea, and the inhabitants of Gaza are still living in the same prison that Israel created for them about 20 years ago.

10. Why did you give up the original demand for international guarantees to ensure that Israel would abide by its commitments?

11. The Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research found in its last survey that Palestinian support for you has soared. Do you think that the outcome would have been similar had you not managed to exempt yourself in advance from the burden of responsibility for civic rehabilitation and to impose it on the reconciliation government, which emerges very poorly in the sampling?

12. Your status before the war was at a nadir. Is that your victory – that support for you has soared?

13. When you were deliberating whether to begin a military escalation (in my opinion both you and Israel chose the direction of military escalation, not only Israel), did you have in mind the reasonable chance that your public status would be rehabilitated, as is always the case after military campaigns?

14. According to the survey, 43 percent of the residents of the Strip under your rule want to emigrate (as compared to 20 percent who want to emigrate from the West Bank). Are you shrugging off responsibility for this high rate of potential emigrants?

15. You presented the disengagement (the evacuation of the settlements in the Strip in 2005) as a victory for your military track. But what has happened is that Gaza has become totally cut off from the West Bank, a goal that that has been the pillar of Israel’s policy since 1990. Your military track only helped to realize Israel’s original intention of imposing a regime in Gaza that is different and separate from that in the West Bank. What is your reply to that?

16. Due to the disengagement, Israel permits itself to disseminate the lie that the occupation of the Strip is over (which it doesn’t permit itself to claim regarding the West Bank). Therefore, just as it did in its attacks against sovereign Lebanon, in the Strip too it is crossing borders and red lines: destroying, crushing and killing indiscriminately. Isn’t it your obligation to take into consideration the fact that the occupier that pretends to be attacked has no God?

17. You claim (rightly, in my opinion) that the path of negotiations chosen by the Palestine Liberation Organization and Palestinian Authority President Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas) has proven its futility and its failure. The World Bank screams that without Area C there is no Palestinian economy, and Israel could not care less. It continues to rob land, to demolish Palestinian homes. The army and police do as they wish: They kill young and older demonstrators who do not endanger the lives of their armed men. East Jerusalem is one huge slum. What do you propose to do instead of negotiations?

18. The military path and the militarization that you have chosen since the 1990s is older than the years of negotiations. What has it accomplished? During the first intifada you pushed for the use of firearms and explosives, but only in the occupied territories. After the massacre perpetrated by Dr. Baruch Goldstein in Hebron in February 1994 you began your suicide attacks against civilians in Israel. During the first decade of the millennium you greatly increased your militarization and began to improve your rockets. And still everything is worse than it was: The Palestinian territory is more fragmented. Not only have the settlements expanded, so have economic gaps among the Palestinians. There is great despair. So perhaps the conclusion is that your armed resistance has also proven its failure and futility?

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics.
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5 Responses to Tough Questions for Hamas (Amira Hass) (Gaza 2014)

  1. Mordy says:

    What does question #16 mean?

  2. dmf says:

    not sure we get very far thinking of (addressing) groups like Hamas as more traditional state-actors, we need some new approaches in so called “failed” states.

    • zjb says:

      with Hamas, i’d suggest semi-state actors.

      • dmf says:

        depends I suppose how they act going forward but there seemed something unnecessarily normative/conservative about that list of questions that may not help us to grasp where they are at and where they are trying to get to.

  3. Michael says:

    Sadly, this article as well as Hass’s “tough questions” are both in the wrong.

    You open with “Would the IDF allow her back into Gaza” – nothing prevents Hass from going to Egypt and trying to cross into Gaza from Rafah, or am I missing something? Why the otherwise so “independent” Hass follows IDF orders on this one?

    Hass closes with the bogus claim that is was due to the actions of Jewish terrorist Goldstein that Hamas started suicide bombings. As if Hamas is only “defending itself” against Jewish agression. That claim is of course a lie, as anyone with access to Wikipedia can find out. Goldstein’s massacre occured on February 25th, 1994. Already in 1993 there were at least 2 suicide bombings carried out by Hamas (which also claimed responsibility). Now a tough question to Amira Hass – why are you lying?

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