Saturday, July 21, 2018

Book Review of Tareq Baconi's Hamas Contained: The Rise and Pacification of Palestinian Resistance - Preface Only

1. Introduction of the Issue

Hamas Decontexualized

At long last. A book which finally understands the Israeli/Palestinian conflict by fairly and objectively analyzing the central and key relationship between Terrorism and Security Measures. Baconi carefully details the strong relationship between the two, how each effects the other. More terrorism leads to more Security Measures and vice-versa. A refreshing, timely and necessary alternative analysis to the routine type of unilateral criticism which ignores one side of the relationship…just kidding.

Baconi’s preface is just standard Palestinian propaganda. Baconi simply suggests alternatives to Hamas being a terrorist organization even though they clearly are under International Law. They don’t think they are, other countries don’t think they are, it’s unclear what a terrorist organization is and maybe they are but because they are “resisting” maybe they are not. 

Once Baconi has exorcised Terrorism from Hamas he postures that all we are left with are Security Measures from Israel and now, magically, there is a clear definition of terrorism which can be applied to Israel. In order to accomplish this Baconi has to be in denial regarding the history of the Conflict and make significant accusations against Israel that would be much easier to make against Hamas.

2. Discussion



1. The Background of the Conflict:

“Sitting in the darkness of the theater, I thought of Palestine. Lacking the clarity of historical hindsight, the Palestinian struggle for self-determination seems frozen in time, in many ways an interminable anticolonial struggle unfolding in a postcolonial world. It is a world that has confronted the carnage of decolonization. But the battle is still raging in Palestine, with ever-present urgency. The simplistic binaries that frame conversations of Palestinian armed struggle evoke the condescension expressed by colonial overlords”

There was never a colonial background to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict against the Palestinians. The prior owner was Great Britain which took control after it defeated the Ottoman Empire. The War of Independence was part Civil War. The Jews already lived there, they were not fighting for the benefit of any home/native country. To the extent there was an attempted colonizing effort the Jews in fact were on the defensive having to defend themselves from all surrounding Arab countries, most of who did have colonizing ambitions. 

Even worse, the subsequent history of Israel was Israel having to continuously defend itself against the colonizing efforts of these same neighboring Arab countries. The Palestinian role in the conflict since the beginning has been, now what’s that word that Baconi threw out? Oh yeah, terrorism. 

2. Definitions:

“Hamas’s actions fit into the definition of terrorism used by the U.S. Department of State, which notes that “terrorism is premeditated politically motivated violence perpetrated against non-combatant targets by sub-national groups or clandestine agents.”4 While Hamas itself admits that it has used such tactics, it vehemently rejects being designated a terrorist organization. The logic underpinning this seeming contradiction is the absence of a single definition about what constitutes terrorism.5 The term is malleable and subjective, and more importantly, it has been used as a tool of war.6 The definition put forward by the U.S. State Department has consistently and cynically been manipulated to justify illegal and morally reprehensible military measures, in this case by Israel. Furthermore, while the label of “terrorism” under this definition can be applied to Hamas, it fails to account for the terror caused by Israel’s relentless military regime over the Palestinians.”

There is an International definition of Terrorism and it is not just the United States that considers Hamas a Terrorist organization but also the EU as well as several Arab countries. Regarding Israel’s Security Measures they are a direct response to Terrorism. 

3. Assumptions:

“Furthermore, this study has proceeded from the premise that Hamas is at its core a political, not a religious, party. Of course, through its own declaration, Hamas is an Islamic movement by charter and by the faith of its leadership and its member base. While this book has addressed how this belief system impacts Hamas’s political outlook, it has not explored the theological underpinnings of the movement’s ideology. In other words, this is not a book about Islam, but Islam has a key presence within the book.”

You need nothing other than what Baconi has said above to conclude that Hamas is primarily a religious organization. Hamas is secondarily a military dictatorship as it does not allow any opposition or even criticism. Hamas is not a political organization as the word is normally used as there are no other significant political parties, no freedom of the press and no elections. There are other political parties but only those approved by Hamas. 

“Using this material, Hamas Contained offers an overview of the three decades of Hamas’s existence, primarily as narrated from the movement’s perspective.”

Hamas clearly lacks credibility as a source based specifically on its history and in general as since it is a Terrorist organization willing/wanting to murder innocent women and children, lying would fall well within its own range of “resistance”. 

“During the summer of 2014, when global newsrooms were covering Israel’s military operation in the Gaza Strip, I watched Palestinian analysts being rudely silenced on the air for failing to condemn Hamas as a terrorist organization outright.1”

Most of the countries in the world are publicly more sympathetic to the Palestinians than the Israelis as evidenced by the continuous lopsided UN votes. The US is more balanced with Conservative sources generally being more supportive of Israel and Liberal sources being more supportive of the Palestinians. Do a random search of the Internet and you will see a majority of hits (so to speak) being critical of Israel. Baconi’s footnote above refers to Sean Hannity which I have to confess was my biggest laugh of the day. 


1. Attitude

“Against the backdrop of flares and explosions lighting up Gaza’s night skies during Israeli military incursions, some Israelis trek up to raised viewing points, sit on couches, and eat popcorn while watching the “fireworks” over the beleaguered land.3”

Even if this was true, it’s generally the Israelis that regret all casualties in the conflict and the Palestinians that cheer not only Israeli casualties caused by terrorism, by compensating the terrorists and their families, but their own casualties caused by their own terrorism by passing out candy like it was Halloween and naming public areas after Terrorists. 

“The collective punishment of millions has become permissible, comprehensible, and legitimate. Destroying schools and targeting UN shelters, as Israel did in 2014, are military tactics that have been justified as essential for Israel to defend itself against terror. The killing of more than five hundred children during that same operation for many becomes little more than an unfortunate necessity.”

Israel is the side that takes extreme security measures targeting specific terrorist targets and it is Hamas that inflicts collective punishment on Israel with general random Terrorist attacks. It is also Hamas that makes schools and UN shelters targets by launching attacks and storing weapons in them and Israel that tries to avoid them as targets. The number of Gaza children killed is something to consider if only Baconi was considering the relationship of Terrorism to Security Measures. 

2. Definitions

“By eliding the movement’s political ideology, as was done to the PLO before it, Israel has maintained policies aimed at depoliticizing Palestinian nationalism, and sustained its approach of conflict management rather than resolution. Through a dual process of containment and pacification, Hamas has been forcefully transformed into little more than an administrative authority in the Gaza Strip, in many ways akin to the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. At the time of its thirtieth anniversary, the movement appears temporarily—if not conclusively—pacified, and Israel seems to have succeeded in maintaining the permanence of an occupation long deemed unsustainable.”

It is Hamas that has prevented itself from being a political organization by instead being primarily a theocracy and preventing freedom of speech. This is clearly demonstrated in practice as the only negotiation Hamas ever participates in are cease-fires. 

3. Conclusion

If a resolution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict was based on conscience all of Israel would be Jewish. As shown above there is no context of colonizing. The original and continuing context is the Holocaust and subsequent real genocide of the significant Jewish populations in all surrounding Arab countries justifying a Jewish country that protects Jews. In the real world though conscience does not create resolution, usually because the different sides have different consciences. Resolution is based on negotiation. The only thing that has prevented the Palestinians from the start from having their own country is terrorism. 
If Baconi did try a radical new approach to the Conflict and try to consider the relationship of Terrorism to Security Measures it’s possible that he might observe that there is a direct relationship. Once aware of this he may further note the direction of the relationship. Maybe, just maybe, less terrorism creates less Security Measures. At an extreme maybe no terrorism would lead to…I’m not kidding. 

In the meantime, even though Baconi is understandably sympathetic to the Palestinians, who should have their own country, he is ironically working against that, unwittingly helping to maintain the status quo by unilaterally criticizing Israel and exorcising Palestinian Terrorism from the discussion. Terrorism can be effective against Terrorism. Israel proved that in The War of Reprisals. But Palestinian Terrorism has not been effective against Israel. Israel has gotten better defending against it than Palestinians have gotten committing it. The majority of casualties now in terrorist attacks are on the Palestinian side. The world to some extent, especially the world powers, see Israeli Security Measures JUSTIFIED by Palestinian Terrorism. The most important country here, Israel, sees it to a large extent. In the meantime Israel gets stronger exporting oranges grown in the desert, high tech start-ups and nobel prize winners. Palestinians just continue exporting terrorism, sowing/reaping and controversy with former Arab allies. All the Palestinians need to do is drop the Terrorism to be like Israel. Really, if an Israeli and Palestinian were dressed the same and standing next to each other, could you tell the difference (other than the Palestinian being the one holding a knife)? 

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