Does Moammar Gadhafi's reformation from terrorist sponsor to the leader of a country with whom the United States can do business serve as a model for Hamas?
This is a question often asked of me by those who know of my 12-year pursuit of Libya on behalf of the victims of the greatest single mass-terrorist attack against Americans before September 11, 2001 -- the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, on Dec. 21, 1988.
Unfortunately, I have to disappoint my earnest questioners looking for some glimmer of light in Hamas' rise to power in the recent Palestinian elections. "No," I answer, "there is no connection between the two. Col. Gadhafi is a God unto himself, although to be sure his popularity is staked on a close affinity with the masses and fidelity to the Koran."
But his is a loose interpretation of Islam: liquor is forbidden, but secularism and pragmatism prevail; Israel and world Jewry are not cast as villains with whom there can be no compromise. Along these lines, Col. Gadhafi has accepted all U.N. Security Council conditions for resumption of normal relations: (1) renouncing terrorism; (2) accepting responsibility for the Pan Am 103 bombing; (3) and paying just compensation.
By contrast, Hamas has inexplicably been allowed to rise to power without any demands that it renounce terrorism, accept responsibility for its terrorist acts, and pay just compensation. Apparently, both the U.S. and Israel assumed the Palestinian pre-election polls were necessarily correct in showing Hamas had little-to-no chance of winning.
Moreover, Hamas is not only distinctly different from Libya's Col. Gadhafi, it is distinctly different from South Africa's African National Congress, the ANC, which was condemned by the United States as a terrorist organization until the rise of Nelson Mandela as a great conciliator.
And Hamas is inherently different from Sinn Fein, which has sown terror in Northern Ireland but has shown signs of reform. By contrast, Hamas is inalterably locked into the position it fervently claims for itself as the leader of the Islamic Resistance in Palestine by virtue of its ability to preach the word of God as it interprets it: sternly, with no room for compromise with Israel, nor the capacity to permit emergence of a secularist populist society among the Palestinian people.
And yet, there is some wishful thinking in Washington and other capitals that Hamas' victory in the recent Palestinian elections is not altogether bad news. The good news, as they see it, is that putting Hamas in a position of real responsibility might cause it to alter its radical aims and enable its leaders to follow the ANC model. Never mind that there is no precedent of such a conversion by a fundamentalist terrorist organization.
In fact, anyone who believes in the prospect of Hamas' conversion belittles its integrity and commitment to its oft-stated God-given goals. The Constitution of Hamas -- the Covenant of the Islamic Resistance Movement of Aug. 18, 1988 -- reflects a commitment certainly no less profound than that of Americans to the U.S. Constitution.
Indeed, Hamas campaigned on affirming its Covenant, and its choice of candidates reflected that commitment. It promoted candidates like Ekhlas al-Seid, wife of Abbas al-Seid, the Hamas military commander who planned and commanded the March 27, 2002, terrorist attack on the first night of Passover at the Park Hotel in Netanya, Israel, indiscriminately killing 30 and wounding 140 innocent men, women, and children.
From the outset of the campaign, Hamas focused on the candidacy of Maryam Farahat, well known in Palestinian society as the "Mother of Martyrdom" (Um al-Shuhada) for posing with one of her sons in his videotaped "last will" just before he departed on his March 7, 2001, suicide bombing attack on the Israeli high school at Atzmona, an attack that killed 5 Israelis.
Even a cursory review of Hamas' Covenant reveals its religious zeal. It begins stating Hamas' sole purpose is eradication of Israel and replacing it with an Islamic state. All Palestinian efforts are to be geared toward that end.
Article 19 of the Covenant provides art is no exception: "The book, the article, the bulletin, the sermon, the thesis, the popular poem, the poetic ode, the song, the play, and others" can have only one function: "ideological mobilization in the battle of liberation." In this battle, Jews and Christians will not necessarily be exterminated; according to Article 31, they can coexist, but only "under the wing of Islam."
All means, including terrorism, are deemed permissible because the Jews and the "Zionist Nazis" are depicted as subhuman in their aspirations for world conquest. Thus Article 22 reads: "They [the Jews] were behind World War I. They formed the League of Nations through which they could rule the world. They were behind World War II, for which they made huge financial gains by trading in armaments and paved the way for the establishment of their state. It was they who instigated the replacement of the League of Nations with the United Nations with the Security Council to enable them to rule the world through them. There is no war going on anywhere without having their finger in it."
Lest anyone think things have changed since 1988, they might listen carefully to the voice of Islam's "moderate" leader, Mahmoud al-Zahar, interviewed by Wolf Blitzer on CNN on the Jan. 29. Asked to describe the sort of Palestinian state he envisions, he responded: "Do you think the secular system is serving any nation? Secular system allows homosexuality, allows corruption, allows the spread of the loss of natural immunity, like AIDS. We are here living under Islamic control. Nothing will change. Islam is our constitution. It's controlling our relationship among the Palestinian society, among the Arabic, and also with the international community." Asked whether Hamas would under any circumstance recognize a two-state solution involving Israel and Palestine living side by side, he refused to give an affirmative answer.
On questioning, Hamas does not hide its true face, although an effort at cosmeticize it is under way. Those who would suspend disbelief and go along with the chimera that Hamas' "charitable" side is distinct from its jihadist component should realize the price: a breathing spell for Hamas to transform votes into real political and military power and legitimization in the international community. Already, countries like Iran hail Hamas' rise as a sign Islamic fundamentalism can prevail without ever giving up terrorism.
The Palestinians knew what they were voting for. Others should not delude themselves by failing to take Hamas and its Covenant at its word.
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