Hamas Contained - Tareq Baconi's - Excellent Book!

 

Columbia University’s: Edward Said Professor of Modern Arab Studies Professor Rashid Khalidi ( - incredible interview by Peter Beinart --- www.journalism https://.cuny.edu/faculty/peter-beinart/    ---   of January 19, 2024) - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0EDypq6cKDM), is the author of multiple excellent books on the Palestinian People, including: 

The Iron Cage: The Story of the Palestinian Struggle for Statehood  -------

(      https://www.georgemarx.org/2022/12/the-iron-cage-must-read-on-palestine.html )   .

On December 6, 2024 – I emailed both:  Peter Beinart and Professor Khalidi asking:  Do either of you know of any good resources- written, oral or visual (such as on YouTube) in English to learn from and share/refer others to?

Professor Khalidi responded suggesting: Tareq Baconi's book, Hamas Contained, and Sara Roy’s Hamas and Civil Society in Gaza. 

 

Baconi accomplishes a number of important things in:   Hamas Contained: The Rise and Pacification of Palestinian Resistance (written in 2017 and published in 2018).   As I write on Super Bowl Sunday, February 11, 2024, this book is a perfect introduction to understanding and putting into perspective what has happened from October 7, 2023, through the present day. 

I’m not optimistic!   I hope, against hope, that the Bidens and Blinkens and Schumers of this world will do an “about face” and sincerely:  read, listen and deeply hear – what I would call “Extremely Close to The Truth”.

Sitting in the darkness of the theater, I thought of Palestine.  Lacking the clarity of historical hindsight, the Palestinian struggle for self-determination seems frozen in time, in many ways an anticolonial struggle unfolding in a postcolonial world. …

“Palestinians have a culture of hate,” commentators blast on American TV screens.  “They are a people who celebrate death.”   These familiar accusations, quick to roll off of tongues, are both highly effective at framing public discourse and insulting as racist epithets.  On the other end of the spectrum, I recalled conversations with Europeans and Palestinians who critiqued my reference to Palestinian armed struggle as “violence.”  They saw this framing as a form of condemnation, casting armed struggle in a negative light.  (x - Preface)

During the summer of 2014, when global newsrooms were covering Israel’s operations in the Gaza Strip, I watched Palestinian analysts being rudely silenced on the air for failing to condemn Hamas as a terrorist organization outright. 1    This condemnation was demanded as a prerequisite for the right of these analysts to engage in any debate about the events on the ground. (xi – Preface)

In Peter Beinart’s January 19, 2024 interview with Rashid Khalidi, there is a “strange” parallel.  

Khalidi spoke on January 19, 2024 as to how No television networks or local stations or similar had sought his comments from October 7, 2023 through the (then) present.   I have heard Professor Rashid Khalidi multiple times on Amy Goodman’s show on: Democracy Now  - https://www.democracynow.org/ - which most readers of this have probably never heard of as well as on KPFA – perhaps the most alternative/radical leftist radio station in the U.S. (Berkeley).

It's not “censorship”.   Most people never hear – Khalidi – because:  MSNBC, CNN, FOX, PBS, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal +++ ignore – him and a lot of others who “dissent” in serious ways that are not based upon fear-mongering or profit.

Baconi summarizes the history of Palestine leading up to the founding of Hamas in an effective manner.   He notes as the first Intifada was building on December 9, 1987:

After intense discussions, it was decided that the brotherhood would finally leverage all its preparatory work and spin off a small militarized offshoot that would join the likes of Islamic Jihad in armed confrontation against Israel.  The Islamic Resistance Movement, HAMAS , was officially launched in January 1988 96 .  Although intended as an offshoot, Hamas rapidly subsumed the parent organization’s institutional infrastructure. (p.20-1)

The charter spoke of how such an Islamic polity would allow for Christians and Jews to live in peace and harmony under Muslim rule. 103 .  Despite this assertion, the rest of the charter shed light on Hamas’s understanding of Israel, Judaism, and Zionism at the time it was released. 104   The text was replete with anti-Semitic references that build on age-old stereotypes about the Jewish people, including their alleged accumulation of immense wealth, their treacherous and devious nature, and their ability to influence global media.  (p.22)

This book documents in detail the history of Gaza, Hamas, and the PLO (and later on The Palestinian Authority) in opposition to Israel.


Patterns seemingly repeat themselves over and over again.   The moderate forces – PLO/Palestinian Authority have sought a peace agreement with Israel with no success.   Whenever it seems at least faintly possible, Israel (not Hamas) attacks (generally) Gaza – breaking truces.   Islamic Jihad – and others – send rockets into Israel – and a purported chance for peace disappears.

Similarly, whenever Hamas and the PLO/Palestinian Authority are close to a binding agreement to work cooperatively, Israel and the U.S. and others refuse to continue working for peace because Hamas is “a terrorist organization”.

Hamas is not a simple, united organization with a clear, obvious basic structure.   Most commonly it has significant influence on other radical forces in Gaza.  At different times it both encourages, and discourages forces such as Islamic Jihad in their rocket attacks into Israel.   It has a “political” side and a side that is openly engaging in military or military-like efforts at “liberating” Palestine.

Commonly there are endless pressures upon Hamas, and the Palestinian People to compromise and: “recognize Israel”, “renounce claims to Palestine”, “renounce terrorism”, “renounce violence” and similar.

Where there are agreements, nearly uniformly they either are token or are broken by Israel (and sometimes by Hamas, particularly in response to Israeli duplicity and avoidance of clear agreements).

Critically, critically important in all of this are facts such as:

1.    The seizing of more and more and more Palestinian land in the West Bank and in Jerusalem,

2.    The stranglehold on Gaza – including making self-sufficiency impossible there, increasing destruction of residences, the power supply, and other possible ways Hamas could “succeed” in leading Gaza,

3.    Gaza is “independent” in the way(s) that a Native Reservation is in the U.S. is and/or in the ways that Black communities have been “free” in the U.S. over many decades.

4.    All – the – non-violent options – have been tried both by Hamas, and other Palestinian entities.   Appeals to the U.S, the U.N., filing lawsuits, negotiating with Israel, periods of no “terrorism”, unilateral “ceasefires” of Hamas itself and more - all have been tried.   Despite all of this, there has never been a “fair” or “close to fair” offer made for a lasting peace agreement which allows any type of true autonomy for the Palestinian People – whether de-militarized or not – etc. etc.

5.    As of the conclusion of the book’s writing in 2017 – there was both:

a.    A status quo – that – was not changing substantially beyond Palestinian land possession decreasing endlessly, as Israeli (illegal) settlements expanded, and as the author succinctly states,

b.   The increasing impossibility of the status quo remaining – endlessly – that at some point – significant Palestinian violence – such as from Hamas and/or other Palestinian causes or supportive others – such as from other Middle Eastern Nations – would – seek to break the status quo.

Israel has had a huge advantage in maintaining a split between Hamas in Gaza and The Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.   Israel has a difficult, long-term issue with its Jewish population becoming a minority in a “Greater Israel” including both Gaza and The West Bank.   Where Gaza is (allegedly) separate, its over two million population “severed” from The West Bank can maintain an illusion of “majority rule” of Jews vs. Non-Jews.

A simple example of the patterns follows with quotes below:

While the Palestinian leadership offered full support, the Israeli government boycotted the investigation and prevented the investigators/ access into the Gaza Strip 75  The UN’s investigation accused both Hamas and Israel of carrying out war crimes.  In response, Israel retaliated that the United Nations was “taken hostage by terrorist organizations” given its anti-Israel bias. 76

A domestic investigation by Israel’s state comptroller, released in 2017, highlighted troubling findings regarding this operation. 77   The report noted that in 2013, during the period of calm that Hamas had successfully instituted from Gaza, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government was warned explicitly and repeatedly that Gaza was on the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe, and that the situation had to be addressed to prevent another conflagration between Hamas and Israel.   Such warnings went unheeded.   Rather than meeting its obligations under the 2012 ceasefire agreement with Hamas, which necessitated easing the crossings into Gaza, Israel’s political leaders appeared willing to maintain the blockade while expecting calm to prevail in return.  (p.222)

As Tareq Baconi moved into his conclusions, his explanations became more and more significant for me as a reader.

 

 

Instead of Palestinian reconciliation, the outcome is two administrative authorities operating under an unyielding occupation.  The crucial difference between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, however is that Hamas performs its role of managing resistance in language that remains ideologically pure, leaving room for future escalation.  While in the West Bank the Palestinian Authority’s interim nature has effectively been made permanent, the situation is likely to be temporary within the Gaza Strip. 139  The Palestinian Authority’s permanence has been drive by the illusion of sovereignty and economic development that leaders such as former  prime minister Salaam Fayyad have cultivated.  There is no such illusion in the Gaza Strip, where there will more likely be an expiration date for Israel’s ability to manage what has become one of the globe’s bleakest humanitarian catastrophes. (p.234-5)

 

I would note that this by itself in 2017 – can be seen in retrospect as being relevant for October 7, 2023.

 

The author noted a number of times a clear issue that has been distorted by most of the media and politicians for some time   Hamas has fairly consistently in the past 10-15 years at least a willingness to recognize Israel and accept a permanent peace settlement if it would include a return to the pre-1967 boundaries allowing a Palestinian State to be established which would include:  Gaza, The West Bank and probably most significantly East Jerusalem including The Old City.

 

Israel has consistently responded that it will not negotiate with “terrorists” – which means Hamas.  It has also indicated that IF Hamas settles, that this will only be a starting point – quoting the original Gazan “charter”.   This plays on common fears – e.g. “From the River to the Sea”  and “Intifada” and similar.  Such fears are that Hamas and the Palestinian People will force its Jewish population either out of what is now Israel or attempt to kill all of them.

 

Obviously, the return to prior borders is made “unrealistic” in that:

1.     this would require Jewish Israeli’s to move out of the Settlements and much of the “expanded” Jerusalem,  or

2.    for many of these Jews to live within the to-be-formed Palestinian state.

In early 2017, Hamas issued a new “Political Document” after months of speculation that it was looking to revise its problematic charter.   … It demonstrated that on the most official level, Hamas accepted creatioin of a Palestinian state on the 1967 border, UN Resolution 194 selfor the right of return, and notion of restricting armed struggle to operate within the limits of international law.  Although not breaking any new ground in terms of political concessions, the document was a powerful intervention that restated more forcefully than before the position that Hamas has adopted since at least 2007, if not since the 1990’s. (p.245)

Hamas’s document was released without a formal renunciation of the movement’s charter, alluding to internal power struggles. (p.245)

One of Baconi’s 2017 – concluding written statements sounds, in retrospect to ironically “predict” October 7, 2023.

But there is little doubt that another conflagration is forthcoming.  This will mark the continuation of Israel’s strategy of “mowing the lawn” as well as the perseverance of the Palestinian struggle for self-determination.  The manner in which the next war unfolds will be event-specific, but the underlying drivers remain unchanged. 162 (p.248)

The book concludes aptly:

This status quo allows Hamas to sustain its power and Israel to maintain its colonization of the West Bank and its stranglehold on the Gaza Strip, where the besieged Palestinians continue to pay the highest price of all. (p.249)

This is an excellent book for anyone who is not extremely, extremely extremely knowledgeable about Hamas, and who is open to listening and hearing a lot.   I’m one of those people and I hope many others are as well!

 

 

 

 

 

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