Accuracy in Media

Ever since Hamas won the most seats in the January Palestinian elections, the world and the media have struggled to deal with this development. Hamas has primarily been a terrorist organization, openly committed to the destruction of Israel, though it has also been engaged in providing social services to some of its constituents. Should they be isolated, or given a chance to prove themselves as representatives of their people who are willing to live in peace with Israel? The question for the media is, how should Hamas be identified and described?

Take the Washington Post for example. According to the watchdog group EyeOnThePost, the Post has been downplaying Hamas’s stated intentions toward Israel. The reports have stated that Hamas “doesn’t recognize Israel,” and “seeks the creation of a Palestinian state on land that now includes Israel,” but leaves out what Hamas has stated over and over again, and which has been in their charter since the founding of the organization in 1987?namely, that they are actively seeking the destruction of Israel.

Their covenant, or charter, says “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it.” And that “There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors.”

According to the U.S. State Department, Hamas started as an outgrowth of the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, and “have used both political and violent means, including terrorism, to pursue the goal of establishing an Islamic Palestinian state in place of Israel.” Also, they have “conducted many attacks?including large-scale suicide bombings?against Israeli civilian and military targets, suspected Palestinian collaborators, and Fatah rivals.” Hamas is also known to have close ties with the current Iranian government, led by a fanatical religious zealot who believes he is destined to bring about the end times.

In an exchange of emails with Post correspondent Scott Wilson, EyeOnThePost criticized Wilson for his unwillingness to use the word “destruction,” or even “elimination,” when describing Hamas’s intentions for Israel. Wilson responded to EyeOnThePost by email, which they posted on their site:

“Thank you for your note and valid question. I use several phrases to describe Hamas: does not recognize Israel, at war with Israel, designated a terrorist organization by the United States and European Union, and seeks the creation of a Palestinian state on land that now includes Israel. These usually appear all in the same story. I believe they give a good description of the group; the last, in particular, is in my opinion a more descriptive way of saying what you are recommending. But I will certainly keep in mind your recommendation and opinion on this as I continue refining this description.”

The fact that Hamas won the parliamentary elections, and will probably head up the next Palestinian government, has been viewed as the dark side of President Bush’s efforts to extend democracy to the Middle East. What if, the critics say, they have free elections and freely elect hard-line Islamists who are enemies of the West and seek the destruction of Israel?

In fact, in this case, Hamas is a more true reflection of what Israel has faced for years. The cat is out of the bag, so to speak. Under the decades of rule by Yasser Arafat, and to a lesser extent, the few years of Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian leaders would say one thing in English to Western leaders and media, and in Arabic they would be more honest about their real intentions. The teaching of kids to hate Jews was common in the schools and the media. Kids were brainwashed and sent out as homicide bombers, with a promise of martyrdom, and when Saddam Hussein was alive, $25,000 was sent by the Iraqi regime to each family. Promises of peace were always designed to mask the real objective: To “liberate” Palestine, for which they include all of Israel, not just pre-1967, or 1948 borders.

The double-talk was in action when journalist Lally Weymouth recently interviewed Ismail Haniyeh, the man who is considered the favorite to head a Hamas-led government in the Palestinian territories. Weymouth quoted Haniyeh as saying that Hamas would recognize Israel if Israel agrees to “recognize a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders, release the prisoners and recognize the rights of the refugees to return to Israel.”

But in an article in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Haniyeh denied having said that Hamas would recognize Israel even if they did meet certain conditions.

We believe Weymouth’s account. It seems clear that Haniyeh must have had second thoughts about sounding “moderate.”  But it is a useful example of the duplicity Israel faces.

Enough of the double-talk. Our media should tell the brutal truth: Hamas believes in the total destruction of Israel. That is the group’s official position. There is no reason for our media to sugarcoat the nature of this terrorist organization.

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