Reading Hamas II

Responses to Forward's Interview With Mousa Abu Marzook

ahmed esmaill/kurt hoffman

Published April 30, 2012, issue of May 04, 2012.
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The Forward’s interview with Mousa Abu Marzook, a top Hamas official, elicited a wide range of different reactions, all of them important to the discussion going forward.

In this week’s print edition, we presented responses from eight prominent observers of the Middle East peace process. We strove to spark dialogue and to get readers thinking about aspects of the interview that they may not have previously considered.

We purposely chose commentators with different backgrounds and political positions. Today we publish pieces by Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League; Arab-American activist Hussein Ibish; David Keyes of Advancing Human Rights; and political scientist Nathan Brown.

Excerpts appear below. Click through for the full response.

Yesterday, we published responses by Laura Kam of The Israel Project; Israeli security analyst Yossi Alpher; Lara Friedman of Americans for Peace Now; and Princeton University Prof. Daoud Kuttab. Read all of them here.

A Lack of Morality
By Abraham Foxman

The Forward’s interview with Mousa Abu Marzook raises important questions about who currently speaks for the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas, while confirming the organization is in no position to be recognized as a legitimate Palestinian interlocutor.

Abu Marzook’s statements are further evidence that Hamas lacks a cohesive voice. While some point to apparent statements of moderation by certain leaders, Hamas’s basic tenets of rejecting the Jewish state, embracing armed conflict, and perpetuating anti-Semitic conspiracy theories remain constant.

Crafty Electioneering
By Hussein Ibish

While the Forward’s unprecedented interview with Hamas leader Mousa Abu Marzook didn’t demonstrate any shift in Hamas’s policies, it provides some insight into Hamas’s internal politics.

The organization is now badly divided because its Political Bureau, including Abu Marzook, had to abandon its long-standing headquarters in Damascus. The external leadership has been attempting to reintegrate Hamas into the mainstream Sunni Arab political sphere by cultivating ties with states like Qatar, Jordan and Egypt. The Gaza-based Hamas leadership has been strongly pushing back against these efforts and attempting to keep ties open with Iran.

The Road Ahead
By Nathan J .Brown

One year ago, I sat in the Nablus living room of the late Shaykh Hamid al-Bitawi, a leading religious figure in Hamas. We were joined by one of his sons, a man in his 20s. As an academic specializing in Islamist political movements, I was interested primarily in how (or if) Hamas was operating in the West Bank.

But the conversation turned quite naturally toward al-Bitawi’s views on a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The solution was simple, he genially explained, since an Islamic state in all of Palestine would naturally provide for the rights of all inhabitants. His combination of excessive politeness with an extremely pugnacious position prompted his (even more polite) son to pipe in: “What my father says is absolutely correct from a religious point of view. But from a political point of view, Hamas accepts a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders.”

What Interview Revealed About Jews
By David Keyes

The Forward’s interview with senior Hamas leader Mousa Abu Marzook was astounding, though surely not for the reasons intended. The terrorist leader said little of interest; it was boilerplate rhetoric — a mix of fanaticism and deceit to fool gullible Westerners. What was shocking, however, was what the interview revealed about some Jews.

Abu Marzook affirmed that Hamas will never accept Israel, nor will he conclude peace with it. He interpreted the hadith calling for genocide of Jews as applying only to Israelis. The response of some Jews? “I think the mere fact of his speaking to you, independent of what he said, is almost more important than the specifics,” Israeli journalist Shlomi Eldar opined. Activist Gershon Baskin termed the interview a “historic landmark” and gushed, “The amount of time he gave you is amazing.”


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