Commentary: Criticism of Hamas shouldn’t surprise

Last week, Mohammad Junaid Alam wrote a commentary deriding The New York Times for being critical of Hamas (“Hamas’ rise gave Times editorials bite,” Feb 8). Much of his reasoning is fallacious and he presents half-truths as fundamental facts. The New York Times is not in the business of supporting Israel. In fact, editorials often deeply criticize the Jewish state. Of course, The New York Times “can’t stop lashing out at the Palestinians,” nor can it stop “lashing out” against Israel, the United States and Iran. The Times has a diverse readership to please and will run editorials critical of any country.

Alam continues by trying to whitewash Hamas’ brutal record of unrepentant and indiscriminant violence against Israeli civilians because Hamas has refrained from trying to kill the maximum number of women and children lately. In a 1994 interview, deceased Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin explains why.

“It is impermissible for Muslims to stop jihad as long as an Islamic territory is occupied, only in [i.e. except for] cases of truce with the enemy and until a sufficient force for liberation is gathered.”

In other words, Hamas is rearming and gathering forces in the interim. Peace isn’t a desirable end, but only a means to continue violence.

According to the Hamas Charter, also known as the Covenant of the Islamic Resistance Movement, “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.” Hamas clearly states for anyone willing to listen that a truce is an opportunity to rearm and that the only way to solve the Arab-Israeli conflict is through holy war.

As for the accusation that Israel doesn’t recognize a Palestinian state, that is completely true. However, neither does the United Nations. According to the United Nations, a Palestinian state does not exist. Ariel Sharon has said Israel is willing to grant the Palestinians a state if they are willing to live peacefully next to Israel. Sharon’s most direct successor, Ehud Olmert, is favored to win the upcoming Israeli elections. That is the true sticking point of negotiating with Hamas or even Fatah. Until the children in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip are educated for nonviolence instead of martyrdom, there cannot be peace.

Before the second intifada began in September 2000, the Palestinian Authority (PA) had control of the major cities in the West Bank and Gaza. In April 2002, a suicide bomber walked into the Park Hotel in Netanya during a holiday festival attended by many elderly Holocaust survivors. He detonated himself, killing 30 people and injuring over 100. Israel was forced to retake control of cities in order to destroy terrorist infrastructure and to prevent more tragic incidents like the Park Hotel bombing. I imagine that if suicide bombers began coming into Minnesota from Canada, the United States would respond militarily.

Alam also attempts to explain the Arab-Israeli conflict through misleading statistics. He comments that the fatality ratio in October 2000 was 10 Palestinian deaths for every Israeli killed. The notion that fatality numbers directly correlate to the morality of a conflict is simply outrageous. In World War II, Nazi Germany lost over three million soldiers, while the United States lost less than 300,000. The Allies also had considerably more military hardware than the Axis powers. By reading these facts, we learn absolutely nothing about either side in that war, but it sure seems like the United States and the Allies acted viciously and reprehensibly. Obviously, war deaths and weapon counts tell us nothing of which side is “right” or has a moral high ground.

There is a genuine difference between Israel and Hamas in terms of policy on civilian deaths. Israel, like most Western-style democracies, brings anyone who intentionally kills a civilian to a court of law. Mean-while, suicide bombers are glorified in Gaza and the West Bank. Palestinian children trade cards of their favorite martyrs. In December 2005, PA President Mahmoud Abbas approved a law that will provide monetary rewards to the families of suicide bombers who kill Israeli civilians. As documented by the Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace, Palestinian children’s textbooks glorify martyrdom and jihad. Violence and hate are taught in the Palestinian schools from a young age.

This sort of propaganda is not surprising in a place where people celebrated and handed out candy to children on September 11, 2001. It is apparent that Hamas and the PA are more than deserving of a little editorial criticism.

– Joe Tarkoff is a senior electrical and computer engineering major.

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