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No Peace with Hamas

Jeff Goldberg’s insightful-as-usual op-ed the New York Times, while filled with informative anecdotal nuggets aplenty, could actually have been trimmed to consist of only the headline, "Why Israel Can’t Make Peace With Hamas," and this: "A man who believes that God every now and again transforms Jews into pigs and apes might not be the most obvious candidate for peace talks."  Boiling down the entire conflict isn’t this simple, but boiling down Hamas is.  Either one believes that God transforms this or that group of people into zoo rabble or one does not.  One who does cannot be credited with having the faculties necessary to carry out negotiations meaningfully.   To go one step further, the above formulation also answers those who would have us believe that the superstitious extremism of Hamas is so much rhetorical garnish on what is actually a material struggle for justice by people who would be more moderate if only they were treated better.  Suppose it is.  In that case, what would have to be admitted is that Hamas cynically utilizes the most abhorrently racist passages available to them in order to rouse the people into a righteous anger in the hopes it will beget insurrection.  In which case could one devoted to the cause of justice for the Palestinians endorse or defend such a group?  If the choice is between column a.) cartoonish ignorance, and column b.) calculated hate-peddling, why not choose column c.) neither?   Again, this is why the Arab-Israeli conflict is so often misconstrued by those who portray it through the lenses of tolerance or sophisticated liberal theology.  Goldberg points out that what exists in the Gaza conflict is a hotbed of envy, sectarian schism, one-upsmanship and proxy influence.  If each of these is a fire burning out of control, taking seriously God’s having turned Jews into pigs is but one of many (on both sides of the divide–remember there are raving messianic Jews as well) ideas that function like the equivalent of kerosene mixed with gasoline mixed with napalm jelly.    Talking seriously about real solutions requires people on all sides to subscribe wholeheartedly to reality.  Who among us has seen a Jew turned into a swine, a sea divided for a fleeing tribe, or believes that any similar supernatural feat designed to favor one or another ethno-religio-cultural group took place?  The first prerequisite for negotiations should be that whomever is allowed at the table answers each of these in the negative.  Neither the disqualification of the likes of Nizar Rayyan from the proceedings, nor the skepticism of his ilk, should sadden anyone.

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