This item is available on the Militant Islam Monitor website, at http://www.militantislammonitor.org/article/id/2798
April 2, 2007
Matthew Levitt Gets It Wrong On The Origins Of Palestinian Radicalism
March 28, 2007 - San Francisco, CA - PipeLineNews.org - On March 19th, Matthew Levitt the director of the Washington Institute's "Stein program on Terrorism, Intelligence and Policy" spoke at the Foreign Policy Research Institute [FPRI] in Philadelphia at an event billed as a "Briefing on Hamas, Fatah and Israel" it was by his own admission an exercise in "self promotion" for his book "Hamas, Politics and Terrorism in the name of Jihad."
Levitt opened his 30 minute talk by announcing a Q&A session with the caveat that "as someone who until January was deputy in chief of one of sixteen intelligence agencies there will be some things I can talk about and some things I can't."
However, what Mr. Levitt chose not to speak about was at least as revealing as what he said.
Levitt believes that Palestinian radicalism and the relative success of terrorist groups such as Hamas is derived from the suffering endured by those who occupy the Palestinian refugee camps.
He sees Fatah and the PLO in a different light, as moderating forces essentially legitimate and only prevented from making peace with Israel by the presence of Hamas.
Despite the drawing of such meaningless distinctions, the history of all of the organizations involved shows that there are zero degrees of separation between the Palestinian Authority, Fatah, the PLO, Hamas and murder.
According to a March 22, 2007 press release by the Israel Law Center [Shurat Ha Din]:
"[the] Israel Law Center condemns the decision by the United States State Department and European Union governments to maintain diplomatic contacts with PLO officials in the new Palestinian Authority (PA) unity government. The newly stated policy includes the decision to meet with recently appointed PA Security Advisor Mohammed Dahlan, a high-ranking official of the Fatah terrorist organization.
Shurat HaDin accuses Dahlan, a former boss of the Gaza Preventive Security Service and his former deputy, Rashid Abu Shabak, of being the chief perpetrators of the November 20, 2000, bombing of an Israeli school bus outside of Kfar Darom.
In the attack two Israeli teachers, Miriam Amital and Gabriel Biton were killed and many school children were seriously injured. American citizen Rachel Assraf was also badly wounded in the attack.. The bombing of the school bus, which crippled three young children from the Cohen family, shocked Israelis and brought international condemnation of the Palestinian Authority."
Levitt fails to understand the dynamic under which Palestinian radicalism occurs and is promoted, having adopted the harmful myth that it stems from the poverty of its people and acting as if they have no control over their destiny, as if they did not freely choose to be represented by Hamas.
One might ask with all of the billions of aid made available to the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza why the squalor of the refugee camps continues to exist?
The answer is two fold; one is that much of the money has been skimmed off, stolen from those it was intended to aid and deposited in the bank accounts of terror leaders such as Yasser and Suha Arafat.
Secondly, those who claim to speak for the Palestinian people force those living in the camps to continue to exist in such a barbaric state of poverty and despair because it serves as a public relations engine which is then used to fulminate against Israel, whom these groups wish to destroy.
Levitt engages in a semantic exercise, one which grants Hamas legitimacy on the basis of word games. To say that Hamas is not corrupt, simply because they skim less off the top than Fatah did is indefensible. Such attitudes recast Levitt in the role of apologist.
"Again, say what you will about Hamas, but they are not corrupt. Mahmoud Abbas, Abu Ala, I've been to some of their homes they are extravagant in the extreme, and Sheik Yassin, [leader of Hamas] until he was killed, lived in a cinderblock hut and that resonates with the people who are suffering on the street."
Levitt also misidentifies the expenditure of funds by Hamas calling it charity:
"Lets set the baseline, Hamas does engage in charitable activities some of which benefit a variety of Palestinians from a variety of walks of life. …It is an extremely powerful incentive when you are living in that kind of dire situation to be able to get that kind of support…Foreign aid organizations have a lot to learn from Hamas. Because what Hamas has done particularly well is provided more money to its own people and then just enough to the vast majority of other people who even with the assistance of the United Nations still are falling just short of the threshold of making it for that week or that month. So actually they are able to get a tremendous bang for their buck by helping people with just enough money to get over that threshold and that makes people very, very grateful."
The distribution of this funding, blood money really, within Palestinian society functions as bribery designed to promote Hamas and help recruit future jihadists. It is adamantly not charity and labeling it as such betrays ignorance at best or duplicity at worst.
Despite Levitt's claims to the contrary, legitimate foreign aid services have nothing to learn from Hamas, whose real power extends from the barrel of AK-47s and suicide bombers; to suggest otherwise is to engage in historical revisionism.
Possibly even more disturbing than Levitt's lauding of Hamas' charitable activities was his depiction of its suicide operations as being constrained by humanitarian considerations:
"Say what you will about Hamas, it's the real deal. They are not Rasputin looking as I found when I interviewed some of the characters involved this attack. Nor are they willing to conduct an attack under any circumstances. The second bomber came down with a common cold and it is Hamas's belief that since they are doing gods work and this is a holy act there a ground rules. And one of the ground rules is that it is unacceptable to dispatch someone who is sick."
Levitt seems to offer nothing new outside the tired prescriptions which have come out of the United Nations and the U.S. Department of State now for 30 years, all of which have failed. What these programs have produced is heightened radicalization, a Hamas government having been elected to replace the PA, consequentially less security for Israel and an intensified level of misery and hopelessness for the Palestinians.
What is called for is implacable opposition to Hamas and its radical Islamist partners not endless negotiations, talking ad infinitim or pointless searches for "moderates."
One is reminded of the recent testimony by Dr. Daniel Pipes before the Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia of the House Foreign Affairs Committee on February 14, 2007:
"there should be no - absolutely no - discussion of final status before the Palestinians have accepted Israel. No rewarding of their irredentist ambitions; no discussions with them while they still have this, while they are still engaged in murder, while they are still attacking their neighbor. While their children are still being taught in schoolbooks and the television and the wall posters and the mass sermons and the media and the politicians speeches all agree that there can be no Israel. So long as that's the case, there can be no discussion of final status."
Hamas propagandists and their Saudi [note the Saudis are still in a technical state of war with Israel] and Iranian backers are given comfort by the type of statements that Levitt made consistently at this meeting. Such ill-considered remarks have the opposite effect than he might have intended, with the terrorists seeing in them more proof that their perpetuation of a manufactured refugee crisis continues to pay dividends. Hamas knows it has hit PR pay dirt when Levitt announces that "I keep a picture on my wall of three Palestinian boys filthy, barefoot, playing with a tennis ball that I wouldn't let my kids anywhere near."
In like manner Levitt's claim that "there are elements in Hamas that are more moderate then others" serves the same end; while it is undoubtedly true that there are relative degrees of evil within all terror organizations with some members being less cruel than others, can one reasonably deduce that constitutes grounds for hope or justifies anything but untempered opposition?
In the end Levitt's critique seems to primarily aimed at the culpability of Israel, inferring by his disinclination to hold all of the radical Islamist organizations involved accountable that the policies of the Jewish state towards the Palestinians fuels the popularity of Hamas and stokes the Intifada.
Levitt's statement granting moral equivalency between political Islam on one hand and Judaism and Christianity on the other is breathtaking in its degree of multicultural leveling and deeply offensive, "Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying Islamizing in a sense that being Muslim is bad or even that being a faithful observer of traditional Islam is bad. That is a good thing and is no different than if someone is a practicing Christian or an observant Jew."
Christianity and Judaism in the Middle East is not the problem; the same cannot be said for radical Islam.
Levitt also engaged in touting Salam Fayyad - "a highly respected man...we'd very much like to be able to work with him."
He sung Fayyad's praises because he had asked that people not "start funneling money through him because he can't handle it in a transparent manner. To his credit."
Unfortunately within days of voicing this support, Salam Fayyad's first act in overseeing the finances for the Hamas/Fatah coalition was to ask donor countries for more money.
According to a March 25 article in the International Herald Tribune:
"Fayyad, a former World Bank official, is leading Palestinian efforts to end international sanctions imposed a year ago when the Islamic militants of Hamas won an election and set up a government," meaning that Fayyad is actively soliciting additional funding, despite his statements to the contrary [source http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2007/03/25/africa/ME-GEN-Arab-Summit-Palestinian-Aid.php]
Levitt's portrayal of Fayyad as a paradigm of honesty raises the question as to how he should be judged on his previous record given that he has been directed finances for Fatah since 2000, was part of terrorist Arafat's inner circle and the man chiefly responsible for explaining and accounting for the pilfered millions - potentially billions - in aid which has disappeared.
Levitt is engaged in double-speak. If he wanted to advance a plan to combat terrorism that might have a possibility of succeeding, he would reject the ruinous State Department's failed "peace process" now in its umpteenth iteration with the Mecca Accords, instead of labeling them a "mixed blessing" and wringing his hands over terrorists killing each other:
"The Mecca Accord that was just recently negotiated...and was signed and sealed by the Palestinian parliament is at best a mixed blessing. The only thing that is good about it, as a human being who wants to see as few people die as possible there is a good chance that the Mecca Accord in the near term could reduce the intra Palestinian violence that has been waging in Gaza in particular where over a 130 people have been killed in Fatah Hamas violence."
He should also cease his campaign to convince U.S. politicians and the public that there are moderate members within these terrorist groups while acknowledging the real reason why after all these years nothing has been done by the Palestinians to eliminate the need for the refugee camps - a constant source of rage - which is then promoted by the Islamists as a public relations weapon against Israel and the West.
This item is available on the Militant Islam Monitor website, at http://www.militantislammonitor.org/article/id/2798