By P. David Hornik*
Asked about former president Jimmy Carter’s planned meeting in Damascus with Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said, “I find it hard to understand what is going to be gained by having discussions with Hamas about peace when Hamas is, in fact, the impediment to peace.” She also said, “Hamas is a terrorist organization.”
Meanwhile last week, Israel cleared for publication that two West Bank Palestinians had been arrested by Israel’s General Security Service for plotting to poison patrons of a restaurant in Ramat Gan, a city bordering Tel Aviv.
The two, who came from the West Bank city of Nablus, had been employees of the restaurant and “had planned to lace dishes served (there) with a powerful toxin without odor or taste, in the hopes of killing as many patrons as possible.… The white substance is virtually undetectable and affects its victims approximately four hours after being ingested.”
The two, Eihab Abu Rial and Anas Salum, also had plans to bring a suicide bomber into Israel.
They were not, however, members of Hamas but rather of Fatah – specifically of its “military wing” the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, which recruited them “under the guidance and funding of Hezbollah.”
Rice has had nothing to say publicly about this incident nor about its Fatah provenance. But if Hamas is a terrorist organization and an impediment to peace and hence it is pointless to meet with one of its leaders, what does that make Fatah and why is meeting with its leaders, particularly Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas, something Rice does all the time?
It could be replied that Mashaal is known to have masterminded suicide bombings whereas Abbas, at least since becoming PA president, is not known to have directly ordered terrorist attacks. It could also be claimed that Abbas is head of Fatah’s “political wing” and not its “military wing.”
But it could similarly be claimed, for instance, that current Hamas political leader in Gaza and international op-ed writer Ismail Haniyeh is not necessarily giving direct orders for Hamas’s rocket-firing and other terrorism. Indeed, some, like the New York Times and various European officials, consider Haniyeh a “pragmatist” or even a “moderate” who is worth meeting with.
Whether or not Haniyeh is currently directly involved in terror, though, the Bush administration rightly refrains – at least officially and openly – from dealing with him because he is part of Hamas – a terrorist organization.
Somehow, though, the connection between Abbas and the Martyrs Brigades of his Fatah gets finessed out of existence. If, after all, Abbas is a moderate leader eschewing terrorism and favoring peace with Israel, his movement’s involvement in things like trying to mass-poison Israelis and working with a known terrorist organization like Hezbollah should be intolerable to him.
Abbas should at least be denouncing such activities if not moving to eradicate the Martyrs Brigades from his organization. Some, of course, claim that Abbas would be only too glad to do that if it weren’t for his weakness – and that his weakness is what justifies the U.S. continuing to shower him with aid money and train his forces to eventually take over the West Bank.
According to this version of things, it’s not that Abbas wanted, for instance, the recent would-be assassins of Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert – members of Fatah and his security apparatus – to be released scot-free from PA prison last September; or wanted the terrorist murderers of two Israeli hikers last December – members of Fatah and his security apparatus – to be allowed to “escape” from PA prison in March; or wants Martyrs Brigades and other Fatah terrorists to keep planning, attempting, and perpetrating terror attacks against Israelis – he wants to put a stop to all this and just needs to be strong enough.
The problem, though, with that assumption is not only that nothing substantiates it but also that Abbas’s own words and actions indicate otherwise. It’s not just, for instance, that Abbas declared to the summit of Islamic countries in Senegal on March 13 that “Our people in Jerusalem are under an ethnic cleansing campaign…. (Palestinians) are facing a campaign of annihilation (by Israel)”; or to the Arab summit in Damascus on March 29 that “Israel pursues its aggression and occupation” and perpetrates “barbaric attacks, causing hundreds of defenseless victims.”
These are not the words – especially not when spoken to such audiences – of someone who regrets his “military wing’s” activities and is sincerely seeking peace.
But Abbas further told the Arab summit in Damascus not only that he favors Fatah-Hamas reconciliation but also that the PA uses its Western aid money to support Hamas, channeling 58 percent of its budget to Gaza and paying the salaries of 777,000 employees there.
In other words, Abbas – the leader whom Rice meets regularly while castigating Carter for planning to meet Mashaal – is not only, like Mashaal, a leader of a terrorist organization, Fatah, but works to strengthen Mashaal’s terrorist organization, Hamas.
How far does America have to sink into this pit of hypocrisy and moral squalor before something constitutes a red light? And if Abbas’s words in Damascus about the aid money – a large part of which comes from the U.S. itself – don’t constitute one, what could?
* P. David Hornik, freelance writer and translator living in Tel Aviv.
1. Front Page Magazine – April 14, 2008