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Monday, June 16, 2003

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Communique: 16 June 2003

Dear HonestReporting Subscriber,

On Sunday, four days after Hamas confessed to the Jerusalem bus massacre that left 17 dead and more than 100 injured, President Bush defended IDF anti-terror actions: "The free world and those who love freedom and peace must deal harshly with Hamas and the killers."

Hours after the President deliberately situated Hamas at the source of the ongoing violence, The New York Times published a kindly profile of Hamas entitled "Defining Hamas: Roots in Charity and Branches of Violence."

The tree metaphor in the headline suggests that a little pruning will leave Hamas merrily doling out schoolbooks and clothing in Gaza City. This is, in fact, the article's central claim: Hamas, established according to The Times on three "pillars" — "religion, charity and the fight against Israel" — has at its historical and moral "roots" concern for Palestinians' health and education. Given this benevolence, therefore, it's reasonable to expect that Hamas "could be persuaded to renounce violence" and accept a two-state solution.

Does communal charity really lie at Hamas' historical "roots"? The Times article offers absolutely no evidence to this effect, stating only that founder Sheik Ahmed Yassin established a social welfare group before launching Hamas. The very name Hamas is an acronym for "Islamic Resistance Movement" — no hint there of communal charity.

And though Hamas does provide certain social programs, its essential, overarching goal to destroy the State of Israel has never wavered since day one. As Hamas declared after Wednesday's bombing: "We call on all military cells to act immediately, like an earthquake, to blow up the Zionist entity and tear it to pieces." "I swear by God," said Abdel Aziz Rantisi last week, "we will not leave a single Jew in Palestine."

The Times characterizes Hamas as having "three pillars: religion, charity, and the fight against Israel." This segmentation mirrors the mistake the media make in calling Sheik Yassin "Hamas' spiritual leader" — implying he is a holy man and not a terrorist. In the same vein, the media commonly label Rantisi Hamas' "political leader" — implying he's a statesman and not a terrorist.

The U.S. State Department classifies Hamas as a terrorist organization, and has frozen all Hamas assets, across the board, without distinction.

The Times' distorted portrayal of Hamas undermines Israel's and America's determination to eliminate this murderous organization — the largest roadblock to regional peace, rooted not in charity, but rather in terrorism and the furious rejection of Israel's very right to exist.

Comments to: letters@nytimes.com


Some media outlets see Hamas clearly for what it is:

-- Toronto Globe and Mail: "Hamas is the exact analogue of al-Qaeda, an extremist group whose aim is not to change the policies and practices of its enemy, but to annihilate and exterminate. There can be no parley with such a foe. No nation would do differently than Israel has done when faced with the sustained terrorist assault that it has endured over the past three years."

Comments to: comments@globeandmail.ca

-- St. Louis Post Dispatch: There is no "moral equivalency between Israeli and Palestinian attacks. Hamas' bombing of innocent civilians on the Jerusalem bus is a savage act of terrorism. Israel is justified in attacking Hamas leaders as armed combatants, just as the United States is justified in attacking al-Qaida."

Comments to: letters@post-dispatch.com

HonestReporting encourages members to monitor their local media for a straightforward portrayal of Hamas, the greatest enemy to Mideast peace.

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