Wednesday, 4 July 2007

Gaza again

So, the captors have finally released Alan Johnston, meaning - amongst other things - that I no longer have to struggle to put the banner at the bottom of this blog. It's brilliant news, and I'm really pleased to see a positive headline for once, especially in so deserving a cause.

But what does this mean for Gaza? Well, its best journalist is free again. Will he work there still? I hope so, but I wouldn't blame him for choosing otherwise, especially given his family's concerns. But what does it mean for Hamas? It's an enormous propaganda success: one of the very highest order. It is no coincidence that Alan Johnston was taken to the home of the Hamas leader Ismail Haniya, sacked recently as PM. The propaganda message is enormously clear: that Hamas is in charge of Gaza, and that they can keep control in a respectable manner. Moreover, that in doing so, they have achieved what others cannot. So the question is this: when does a coup become a revolution?


Gavin said...

Today's editorial column in the Telegraph makes exactly the same point as you do: Hamas has gained international kudos, and will no doubt use the incident to put pressure on the British to recognise them. I'm not certain whether total exclusion of Hamas or an attempt at inclusion (as has seemed to work in N. Ireland) is the best strategy, but I do think that Sinn Fein and Hamas are different kettles of fish. OK, so Sinn Fein are a Left-wing republican political party, and the IRA, at its height, was essentially a criminal mob and is now more akin to the mafia than an ideological paramilitary, but the ideals being sought - an independent, united Ireland and an end to British rule - were not totally unacceptable. In contrast, Hamas refuses to recognise Israel and is made up of Islamic militants and terrorists who seem to want to kill all Jews and Westerners. The aims are different. I don't really see how the inclusion of Hamas in peace talks can bear fruit. Ideally I think the West should support Fatah as much as possible and try to come to some sort of Israeli-Palestinian accord without reference to Hamas. Should this happen, the militants would be seen as an irrelevant force. It doesn't matter whether they were democratically elected or not, an Islamist terrorist organisation should not be recognised as a government. But then again, we said that about Sinn Fein, didn't we?

Phil' said...

I'm actually not sure I agree. Is it wrong not to recognise Israel? Are the aims actually all that unreasonable? A united Ireland? A united Palestine? Granted, their methods are awful, but they have a mandate to rule legitimately.

Gavin said...

The aims are very different. Sinn Fein/IRA want a united Ireland, not the destruction of the United Kingdom. Hamas want to wipe Israel off the map. The IRA had to be treated as a terrorist organisation - it had to be infiltrated and defeated. The same should apply to Hamas, who by your own admission make no distinction between their political and militant wings. However, the grievances of Catholics in Northern Ireland also had to be addressed, and the issues could never be resolved until successful inclusion of nationalist interests was established. Similarly, the needs of oppressed Palestinians also need to be addressed, and this really has to involve a degree of inclusion of Palestinian political forces. However, progress cannot be made in relations between Israel and the Palestinians with Hamas in the way. Sinn Fein have settled down to a constitutional way of doing things and Catholics in Ulster have benefited hugely. The same could happen if Hamas adopted a constitional approach, but they won't. That's the difference.