Monday, March 19, 2007

George Soros on "The Blunder"

George Soros's article "On Israel, America and AIPAC," which advocates "demolishing the wall of silence that has protected AIPAC," is receiving a lot of attention currently in the blogosphere. The following excerpt, describing "The Blunder," will give you the flavor of it:
[...] Then came the blunder I am talking about. Israel, with the strong backing of the United States, refused to recognize the democratically elected Hamas government and withheld payment of the millions in taxes collected by the Israelis on its behalf. This caused great economic hardship and undermined the ability of the government to function. But it did not reduce popular support for Hamas among Palestinians, and it reinforced the position of Islamic and other extremists who oppose negotiations with Israel. The situation deteriorated to the point where Palestine no longer had an authority with whom it would have been possible for Israel to negotiate.

This was a blunder because Hamas is not monolithic. Its inner structure is little known to outsiders but according to some reports it has a military wing, largely directed from Damascus, which is beholden to its Syrian and Iranian sponsors and a political wing which is more responsive to the needs of the Palestinian population that elected it to power. If Israel had accepted the results of the election, that might have strengthened the more moderate political wing. Unfortunately the ideology of the "war on terror" does not permit such subtle distinctions. Nevertheless, subsequent events provide some ground for believing that Hamas has been divided between different tendencies. It was not willing to go so far as to recognize the existence of Israel but it was prepared to enter into a government of national unity which would have abided by the existing agreements with Israel. No sooner was agreement reached than the military wing engineered the kidnapping of an Israeli soldier, Corporal Gilad Shalit, which had the effect of preventing such a government from being formed by provoking a heavy-handed military response from Israel. Hezbollah then used the opportunity to stage an incursion from Lebanon across the internationally recognized border, kidnapping several more Israeli soldiers. Despite a disproportionate response by Israel, Hezbollah was able to stand its ground, thereby gaining the admiration of the Arab masses, whether Sunni or Shia. [...]
The idea of a division into a "political wing" and "military wing" suggests specialization and this notion is often used to try to absolve terrorist leaders of responsibility for terrorist acts. Soros's novel twist on the "wings" idea is to present it as factionalism. I suppose Soros would associate Mashaal with that "military wing" which is "directed from Damascus," but he is usually described as the "head" or "chairman" of the Hamas "political bureau." Oh well.

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