Thursday, February 14, 2013

Hagel, Hamas and the US Senate


Hagel, Hamas and the US Senate


 
Former Senator Chuck Hagel, Barack Obama's nominee for US Defense Secretary will likely get confirmed by the Senate today when his appointment comes up for a vote.

Hagel supports US engagement with Hamas. He also allegedly received money from a Hamas-associated organization. 

In all the verbiage we are exposed to everyday, sometimes it is hard to understand the significance of positions like this. On its face, when taken in isolation from reality, calling for the US to engage Hamas seems like an eminently reasonable position. After all, Hamas won the 2006 Palestinian elections. It seized control of Gaza in 2007. It is powerful. Why should the US refuse to legitimize it? Doesn't America like the Palestinians? And didn't the Palestinians choose to be led by Hamas? How can America support the Palestinians and disavow their democratically elected leaders?

But then, nestled up next to these arguments is a little thing called reality. And beyond Harvard-styled pseudo-sophisticated pontifications, it is important to consider the actual significance of a position like that of the soon-to-be-confirmed US Secretary of Defense. Who and what is Hagel seeking to legitimize by adopting this position? What is Hamas?

So here is a clip from 2010 of a speech by senior Hamas leader, (and respected physician), Mahmoud al-Zahar. 


All the senators who plan to vote for Hagel, as well as those, led by Senator John McCain who refuse to filibuster his appointment, need to be asked whether they agree that Hamas should be engaged by the US. And if they don't agree, then how do they justify their support for a man who feels comfortable sitting down with Hamas? Do they think that Hagel's position is a reasonable, legitimate position that they respectfully disagree with? If so, can they explain what is reasonable and legitimate about his position?

Oh, and just in case they think that al-Zahar's position is somehow not that of Hamas's top leaders, here's a link to and interview last week with Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal on the BBC's Hardtalk. He categorically rejected the two-state solution. He made clear that at no time will Hamas agree to accept Israel. Rather, Hamas will continue to seek Israel's annihilation in accordance with the wishes of the overwhelming majority of the Palestinian people. 

In the interview, Mashaal also refused to disavow or in any way express regret for the speech he made in Gaza where he called for Israel's complete annihilation, in accordance with Hamas's covenant and the teachings of Hassan al Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, as Banna is quoted in the Hamas covenant. 

Here's that speech from December 27, 2012.