Jack Straw on Hamas: double-tongued and hard-tongued but not conciliatory

During a visit to Saudi Arabia, Straw justified the recent EU decision to cut funds to the PA by raising the problem of Hamas's link to terrorrism and accountability. It is ironic that when the PA under Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas used to divert the money aid from the Palestinians to the pockets of few in the government, nobody in the EU asked for accountability, Straw included.

''The UK's Telegraph reported today that British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said in Saudi Arabia that "recognition" of Israel did not mean a formal declaration by Hamas, but just a practical acceptance of the "reality" of the Jewish state.''

What is exactly a practical acceptance of the reality of the jewish state ?
What is the reality of the jewish state ? There are many realities to the jewish state.

If Straw is alluding to the geographic reality then he is asking Hamas too much, even much more than formal recognition of Israel. If he is not talking about geographic reality then what the hell is he talking about ? He says: ''There has to be some continuity of Government and that includes a recognition of the fact that Israel exists, not a celebration of that by any means, and to a continuation of the agreements that the Palestinian Authority’s entered in to."

In Straw's language, a 'formal declaration' about the acceptance of the existence of Israel is then a 'celebration' and a practical acceptance is 'a recognition of a fact'. A 'recognition of a fact' without celebration could only be achieved by Hamas by changing its chart as to include Israel as a fact. In my opinion, for a movement that sees itself as a resistance movement, a 'recognition of Israel as a fact' is equal to recognizing the futility of their resistance. For a movement that defines itself as a ressistance to a fact, recognizing this fact is actually recognizing its own disintegration. This is a logical issue where A and non A cannot coexist as both facts and both true. And Hamas knows very well that once it recognizes Israel as a fact, Israel will be no more willing to accomodate itself as to please a non fact. This has a precedent and it is what happened actually to Fatah after the Oslo process.

I believe Straw's declaration, which was made during an official visit to Saudi Arabia, was meant to please the host, give Saudi Arabia some legitimacy to serve as an intermediary between the West and Hamas and legitimacy at home. It was also meant to disinform and deceive.
Ironically, Straw's declaration was interpreted by the Telegraph and the Arabic news web site as lenient toward Hamas while the rest of his talk was recycling the US clichés about Hamas:

He says for example about Hamas's responsibilities :''those responsibilities include an understanding you can not have a democratic Government which at the same time is sponsoring and supporting terrorism.''
The government elected by the Palestinian people cannot fight an occupation force because it is considered by the west as terrorrist. It is like telling French during second WW that they cannot fight Germans because it is considered as terrorrism ! Israel and the US wanted so much to put this label on Hamas in order to deligitimize the resistance to the Israeli occupation. How are the Palestinian supposed to defend themselves from the agressive Israeli occupation ? Of course, there is the problem of suicide attacks and civilian killings and I recognize that Palestinian resistance movements if, for some reasons that might be understood because they are fighting one of the best equipped armies in the world, they cannot stick to a resistance targeted at the military, should renounce definitely violent resistance because attacks on civilians have been damaging for the Palestinians. This has been for a long time now a difficult problem for Palestinians. They know very well that if they didn't practice violent resistance they might have disappeared from the international political agenda just like Tibetans. After all, it is armed resistance that decided Israel to withdraw from south Lebanon and it is armed resistance that gave Fatah a negotiating tool in Oslo.
By asking Hamas to recognize Israel as a fact and to renounce resistance because it is considered as terrorrism, we are asking Hamas and similarly, every other Palestinian resistance movement to negate both its foundation and its actions. By doing so without international guarantees and international military protection, we are denying Palestinians both their history and their future.

UPDATE: Read this piece
by Sam Bahour (Electronic Intifada website) on Hamas, the Palestinians and the West.


Cosmic Duck said...


It is obviously his master's voice speaking.

About recognition of Israel: Perhaps you use too much classical logic here. A recognition of Israel would probably help the peace process along. In some way you have to accept that those 7 mio. people live there, and they must be accommodated in some way or other.

Also, there doesn't seem to be any doubt that Hamas is going to move on this point. It is rather lofty, religious language in their charter, and the election campaign programme did not speak of elimination of Israel.

But of course, it is also a question of what "Israel" should Hamas recognize. It must be the Israel behind the borders of 1967.

Oleh Yahshan said...

I happen to agree with you on the recognition point. I think Hamas has a problem (well more than one but that not for now), and they cannot give an inch of doubt as to what they want to do. They have stated time and time again that they want all of Israel (the land from the river to the sea), and recognizin Israel would mean giving up that idea. Also they would be labled badly in the PA by the other Terrorist groups (yes those who aim at killing Civilions are terrorists), and they would loose street support.

The problem, as you have stated, is that terrorism doens't work. Killing random people in Tel Aviv, does not get the palestinians closer to a state of thier own. In fact at the moment it seems to be moving them further away. So even without recognition, a stupid concept anyways, who are they killing?? who is occupying them? who are they Refusing to speak to?? it all Diplomatic Nonsense..
even without it, we all seem to agree that the continued violence will not work.

Gert said...

Straw's statement would have been more useful had he referred to Israel as "Israel behind pre-1967 borders". If the Israelis were more unambiguous about how they see the borders of Israel proper, it would be more easy for Hamas to make more noises in the direction of recognition.

Nonetheless, however much I dislike this "barricade throwing student cum conservative Zanu Labor politician", Straw isn't the worst of them: he clearly has shown some serious second thoughts on Iraq, e.g.

Re terrorism, you are of course right. You know I support renouncing Palestinian violence unilaterally for tactical reasons. But the lumping together of what is essentially a resistance movement with the loaded term "terrorism" is a deliberate tactic in say, "semantic terrorism" (lol).

I wrote a post about this linguistic erosion and its role in the conflict some time ago

Sophia said...

Gert, That,s a great post of yours on 'Definig Terrorrism'. I agree all the way. I was surprised however to find in it this Bush citation:

''Mr Bush said that terrorism, fed by anger and despair, passed easily across oceans and borders.
"There can be no safety in looking away or seeking the quiet life by ignoring the hardship... of others," he said.''

Clearly, in the National Security document (March 2006) he signed he says the contrary.

Elizabeth said...

I have been puzzling over this myself. I sort of think Hamas should make some sort of statement indicating that they have no interest in killing the Jews, that they will allow Jewish residents of Israel to continue to live there--something to that effect. Something focusing on the people rather than the statehood. They could say something like: "We have been accused of seeking the destruction of Israel, but we have no desire to rid the land of Jews or to make it impossible for Jews to live in this land."

Sophia said...


On the web site you sent me a while ago, Hamas makes it clear that they have nothing against jews and that they are fighting zionists. The problem of zionism is that its policy is no more securing a country for jews. its policy is litterally agressive expansionnism, apartheid and the likes.

Elizabeth said...

Precisely why they should reiterate that.

Since March 29th 2006