Thursday, January 22, 2009

Talking to Hamas : from Fisk to Frum

Robert Fisk : So far, Obama's missed the point on Gaza...

"It would have helped if Obama had the courage to talk about what everyone in the Middle East was talking about. No, it wasn't the US withdrawal from Iraq. They knew about that. They expected the beginning of the end of Guantanamo and the probable appointment of George Mitchell as a Middle East envoy was the least that was expected. Of course, Obama did refer to "slaughtered innocents", but these were not quite the "slaughtered innocents" the Arabs had in mind.

There was the phone call yesterday to Mahmoud Abbas. Maybe Obama thinks he's the leader of the Palestinians, but as every Arab knows, except perhaps Mr Abbas, he is the leader of a ghost government, a near-corpse only kept alive with the blood transfusion of international support and the "full partnership" Obama has apparently offered him, whatever "full" means. And it was no surprise to anyone that Obama also made the obligatory call to the Israelis.

The friendly message to Muslims, "a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect", simply did not address the pictures of the Gaza bloodbath at which the world has been staring in outrage. Yes, the Arabs and many other Muslim nations, and, of course, most of the world, can rejoice that the awful Bush has gone. So, too, Guantanamo. But will Bush's torturers and Rumsfeld's torturers be punished? Or quietly promoted to a job where they don't have to use water and cloths, and listen to men screaming?"

An inaugural address is kind of like a birthday card, I guess - not really the appropriate venue in which to point out the recipient's various moral failings. And it's early days yet, although an Obama cabinet that includes Dennis Ross, Rahm Emanuel, Robert Gates and Hillary Clinton may never get further than promoting "blood transfusions".

Israeli writer David Grossman, front page of Tuesday's Haaretz :
"When the guns become completely silent, and the full scope of the killing and destruction becomes known, to the point where even the most self-righteous and sophisticated of the Israeli psyche's defense mechanisms are overcome, perhaps then some kind of lesson will imprint itself on our brain. Perhaps then we will finally understand how deeply and fundamentally wrong our actions in this region have been from time immemorial - how misguided, unethical, unwise and above all, responsible, time after time, for fanning the flames that consume us.

We must speak to the Palestinians : Instead of ignoring Hamas at this time, we would do better to take advantage of the new reality that has been created by beginning a dialogue with them immediately, one that would allow us to reach an accord with the whole of the Palestinian people. We must speak to them and begin to acknowledge that reality is not one hermetic story that we, and the Palestinians, too, have been telling ourselves for generations. Reality is not just the story we are locked into, a story made up, in no small measure, of fantasies, wishful thinking and nightmares."

Canada's creepy one-time speech writer for George Bush on talking to Hamas, Reuters :

"U.S. analyst David Frum said talking to violent men was "an invitation to more violence." He wrote: "Advocates of talks with terrorists often present themselves as pragmatists. Not so. They are guided by unstated biases and pure wishful thinking."

Surely the very definition of wishful thinking here is expecting to achieve any kind of peace by ignoring Gaza's democratically elected government and the people being collectrively punished for having electing them.

Cross-posted at Creekside

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