Peter Beinart and the Hamas Question

By Jeffrey Goldberg

Yesterday, I took note of the Forward's interview with a senior Hamas leader, in which he reiterated his organization's stance that, at best, the group, which ultimately, by charter, seeks the destruction of Israel, could offer Israel a "truce." And I noted that this interview should give pause to people like Peter Beinart, who have argued that Hamas is moderating itself. I received an email from Peter this morning, in which he included a tweet on the subject he issued after the Forward interview:

@PeterBeinart: Note to Hamas: hudna is not peace, and you'll get nowhere till you ditch former + start talking latter.

Then he asked, "Kind of unfair for you to ignore it and use forward interview to attack me for my naivete about hamas, no?"

My response is as follows: One tweet marks a policy change? Seriously? Not even a series of tweets?

Peter Beinart has been arguing for several years, in columns and speeches and in his recent book, that Israel and the "American Jewish establishment" are willfully ignoring Hamas' turn to moderation in large part because they seek to prevent the emergence of a Palestinian unity government, which might force them to make (and endorse, in the Americans' case) concessions for peace they don't want to make. 

Here is something Peter wrote on the subject last year: "(A) shift in U.S. and Israeli policy towards Hamas is long overdue. The organization has been basically observing a de-facto cease-fire for two years now, and in the last year its two top leaders, Khaled Meshal and Ismail Haniya, have both said Hamas would accept a two-state deal if the Palestinian people endorse it in a referendum."

Peter's willingness to extend the benefit of the doubt to Hamas, I think, is a sign of naivete.   Hamas might one day change. It will cease to be Hamas when it does, but it may keep the name and change the theology. But right now it is an anti-Semitic extremist organization that has the blood of hundreds of Jewish children on its hands, and an organization, by the way, that is also the sworn enemy of precisely the sort of moderate Palestinian leaders who are apt to make an actual peace deal. No one should be surprised by the recent Forward interview with Moussa Abu Marzook, the Hamas number-two leader. As for Peter, I just wish he would fight Muslim fundamentalism with the same ferocity he brings to the fight against Jewish fundamentalism.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/04/peter-beinart-and-the-hamas-question/256304/