There’s always a lot of chatter about Hamas, and how Israel can’t deal with Hamas (pro-tip: it does, where do you think those ceasefires and prisoner swaps come from?), and if Hamas wasn’t there, this would all be over anyway because the problem is hummus, I mean Hamas (watch the fun short musical West Bank Story for some jokes about this).
A lot of wiser security experts now are actually warning that not engaging with Hamas, a broad political movement that seeks some level of international legitimacy, could lead to much worse — like an ISIS presence that Hamas has worked to prevent. Here’s the former head of Israeli Mossad warning about this.
Where did Hamas first come from, anyway? After all, the Palestinian movement was led for almost half a century by secular nationalists, some of them atheist Marxists, others Christians, others left-wing Muslims, certainly not the Islamist-tinged variety Hamas comes from.
This article from 1988 explains a little bit how Israel, then trying to refuse to even talk to Yasser Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), was cracking down on Palestinian protesters of the first Intifada but purposely avoided the then-much more extreme Hamas:
The Israeli authorities have taken no direct action againt Hamas despite repeated crackdowns and roundups that Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin says have seen some 18,000 Palestinians in custody at various times since the protests began last December. A Toleration Is Seen
Many Palestinians maintain that the fundamentalists are being tolerated by the Israeli security forces in hopes of splitting the uprising, noting that such tactics have been used in the past in the Gaza Strip to set Islamic fundamentalists against Palestinian leftists.
”It certainly is remarkable with all these arrests, that someone like Sheik Ahmed Yassin, who just goes on saying the most awful things about Jews, isn’t touched,” said a Western diplomat, citing the fiery Gaza clergyman who is regarded as the spiritual leader of Hamas.
How did that work out for Israel (or for anyone else, for that matter)?
Those in Israel who argue they have to keep Gaza under permanent inhumane siege and never seriously talk to Hamas about anything else than occasional prisoner swaps might want to imagine what happens when Hamas is usurped by a group that lacks any desire to talk or endorsement of the international consensus that Hamas has been moving towards.
Something else on the topic. Remember Ned Lamont, the netroots-driven candidate who almost defeated Joe Lieberman? During his 2006 run, he stood shoulder to shoulder with Lieberman (and against the wise words of Chuck Hagel) in supporting Israel’s side of the Israel-Lebanon conflict.
It turns out when you’re not running for office in the United States, trying to court donors close to the Israel lobby, you can actually speak your mind and be a decent person. Lamont recently took a trip to Gaza City with a relief organization. You can read about his experience here. Here’s a picture of him with Gaza fishermen, who he explained were upset that Israel does not allow them to fish more than 5 kilometers away from seashore, even though fish start running at ten kilometers.
Can you imagine this picture surfacing in an ugly attack ad during Lamont’s 2006 run for Senate or 2010 run for Governor? Sadly, I can.