Here we go again !
Hamas has a semi-annual ritual where they pretend to moderate in order to gain a concession or to score some political points, only the show their true colors a few days later. Usually these “moderation sessions” happen around a visit from a famous terrorism supporter like Jimmy Carter or Desmond Tutu.
Last week the former President announced a double whammy as he will be joining Tutu on a trip to Gaza. And lo and behold the terrorist group announced a softening.
Today Hamas announced that it is
…prepared to deal “positively” with US President Barack Obama’s Middle East peace plan, a top political aide to Ismail Haniyeh, the organization’s prime minister, said Thursday.
“We have an initial readiness to accept it and deal with it positively, but we will also reject it if it doesn’t include an American recognition of the Palestinian rights,” Yousef Rizka told the Chinese Xinhua news agency.
He said that Hamas now accepts a two-state solution “but only in exchange for a long-term truce” with Israel.
But it is only words, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy reports that Hamas might be speaking words of moderation but its actions are that of a terrorist group:
Despite talk of a ceasefire and pursuit of a peaceful resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, Hamas’s military wing, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, continues to engage in terrorist activities. Shooting attacks are still common along the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip, including the firing of rocket-propelled grenades and mortar shells. In late July, two Qassam Brigades operatives were killed in a “work accident” while placing explosives along the border fence near the al-Buraij refugee camp in central Gaza. A few days later, Israeli defense officials revealed that Hamas has been digging tunnels — often used by the group to smuggle weapons and conduct kidnapping operations — next to UN facilities, including one near a UN school in Bait Hanun that had recently collapsed. The placement of the tunnels near UN facilities was purportedly intended as a preventive measure against an Israeli attempt to destroy the tunnels.
Meanwhile, over the past several months, Palestinian security forces in the West Bank have seized at least $8.5 million in cash from arrested Hamas members who plotted to kill Fatah-affiliated government officials. Palestinian officials reported that some of the accused had “recently purchased homes adjacent to government and military installations, mainly in the city of Nablus” for the purpose of observing the movements of government and security officials. Security forces also seized uniforms of several Palestinian security forces from the accused Hamas members.
In Gaza the group is working to ensure that the population becomes even more radical:
For Hamas, mutating the predominantly ethno-political Palestinian national struggle into a fundamentally religious conflict is critical to the group’s ideology and its continued ability to inspire Palestinians to reject compromise or peaceful solutions to the conflict. Recently, Hamas embarked on a large public relations campaign using culture and the arts to glorify violence and demonize Israel. In a telling example, Hamas produced a feature-length film in 2009 that celebrated the life of Emad Akel, a leading Hamas terrorist who was killed by Israeli troops in 1993. Written by hardline Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar, Emad Akel was first screened in July 2009 at the Islamic University in Gaza City and described by Hamas interior minister in Gaza Fathi Hamad as the first production of “Hamaswood instead of Hollywood.”
In addition, despite Mashal’s statements, Hamas’s continues its campaign of radicalization targeting Palestinian youth. This summer, more than 120,000 Palestinian children attended Hamas-run summer camps that focused not only on Islamic teachings, but also on “semi-military training with toy guns.” Hamas campers recently staged a play reenacting the Gilad Shalit abduction before an audience that included Hamas officials such as Usama Mazini and Sheikh Ahmad Bahar. For Hamas leaders like Bahar, this is business as usual. In July 2003, a Hamas camp run by Bahar, the al-Aqsa Intifada Martyrs Summer Camp, conducted classes in radical Islam that exposed campers to images of suicide bombers plastered on the camp’s walls. As explained by Bahar, teaching children the history of Islam while surrounding them with pictures of martyrs instills “seeds of hate against Israel.”
Exposing Palestinian children to such radical messages at a young age has been a tactic employed not only in recreational institutions but also in schools. In 2001, the Islamic Society (al-Jamiyah al-Islamiyah) in Gaza held a graduation ceremony for the 1,650 children who attend its forty-one kindergartens. Photographs of the ceremony show young, uniformly dressed children carrying mock rifles. In the photos, a five-year-old girl dips her hands in red paint to mimic the bloodied hands Palestinians proudly displayed after the lynching of two Israelis in Ramallah, and another child, dressed as Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, is surrounded by other children costumed as suicide bombers. Hamas does not keep its reason for these ceremonies a secret. After his capture, Hamas activist Ibrahim Abd al-Fatah Shubaka told Israeli authorities that the Islamic Charitable Association in Hebron maintains two orphanages and schools that “instill the pupils with Hamas values, and their graduates include operational Hamas activists.”
….Hamas’s tactical flexibility should not be mistaken for strategic change. Even in his recent interviews, Mashal was clear that Hamas has not rejected terrorism, but has put it on hold due to current circumstances. “Not targeting civilians,” Mashal explained, “is part of an evaluation of the movement to serve the people’s interests. Firing these rockets is a method and not the goal.” In the context of discussing the sharp drop in Hamas rockets fired at Israeli civilian population centers, Mashal added, “The right to resist the occupation is a legitimate right, but practicing this right is decided by the leadership within the movement.”
Even as Hamas advances its public-relations blitz for tactical gains, the group continues to advance its strategic goals through ongoing terrorist activities, robust radicalization, and the election of militant hardliners to leadership positions. Until Mashal’s softened political statements are matched by parallel changes on the ground, his rhetoric amounts to little more than empty words crafted for Western consumption.