NPR and talking with Hamas

Maybe I need to change the station on my clock radio.

A few days ago I awoke to an NPR interview with a Palestinian plumber, in which the usual complaints about checkpoints, humiliation, and above all the security barrier were rehearsed in personal, emotional detail. Israel’s point of view was represented in entirety by the following statement by NPR’s Eric Westerveldt:

Israeli officials insist the wall and checkpoints are needed to stop Palestinian attacks inside Israel.

NPR has been criticized for their biased coverage on numerous occasions, and they say that although one piece may present a particular point of view, there will be others expressing the other side. So I said to myself “they owe us one”.

Today I got what they probably consider the Israeli point of view: “Israelis, Government Divided on Dealing with Hamas“. Big surprise, the four minute segment is almost all Israelis who want to talk to Hamas. Perhaps 30 seconds is given to a government spokesman who claims that the government is opposed to such negotiations — except indirect talks about the release of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit, held by Hamas for over a year — and one woman who doesn’t trust Hamas.

NPR mentions a recent poll in which “two thirds of Israelis favored direct talks with Hamas“, but failed to explain that the question asked referred to talks intended to bring about the release of Shalit! So actually the government is in agreement with popular opinion on this issue.

Then they bring on Shlomo Brom, a former general who is far to the Left in Israeli politics, calling for a cease-fire, opening the crossings between Israel and Gaza, and for Israel to ‘supply the needs’ of Gaza’s population.

The impression is given that this position — which is held by only a tiny minority of Israelis — is actually popular, as opposed to the hard-line stance of the government. But of course this is not so.

The reasons to not hold direct talks with Hamas and especially not to negotiate a cease-fire are simple.

For one, Hamas is dedicated to the destruction of Israel. It’s not possible to reach an accommodation with someone whose goal and bottom line is wiping you out. There isn’t a middle path between being and non-being.

A cease-fire would be advantageous to Hamas and bad for Israel. Barry Rubin writes,

A cease-fire is riddled with problems, paradoxically bringing even more violence. Hamas won’t observe it, letting both its own members and others attack Israel while inciting murder through every institution. The ceasefire won’t last long; Hamas would use it to strengthen its rule and army while demanding a reward for its “moderation”: an end to sanctions and diplomatic isolation; even Western aid.

Hamas is not a ‘normal’ political organization, as NPR wishes us to think. Hamas was dedicated to destroying Israel when it was out of power, and continued to be so dedicated after it took control of Gaza. Hamas did its best to murder Israelis when Gaza was under occupation, and continues to do its best now that Israel has completely withdrawn. When Hamas could have had international recognition (and aid) simply by agreeing to recognize Israel, renounce violence and accept prior agreements between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, they refused.

Hamas today is funded massively by Iran, which uses it as one of its proxies (the other main ones are Syria and Hezbollah). Iran is very interested in eliminating Israel, as I recently wrote:

There are multiple reasons for Iranian policy towards Israel, which include religious motives, the desire to earn propaganda points in the wider Arab and Muslim world, and their understanding that Israel is a base for American power in the Mideast which must be neutralized in order to expel Western influence from the region.

Naturally, NPR and Shlomo Brom don’t mention the Iranian context at all.

Update [19 Mar 2008 1729 PDT]:

Soccer Dad points out that there is a new poll in which only 25% of Israelis and just 17% of Israeli Jews want to talk to Hamas. Why the difference from the Ha’aretz poll? Read his explanation here.

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