I was wrong about Hamas and I admit it. For years, I have consistently said that Hamas is a radical terrorist organization that must never be negotiated with. After much reflection, I now realize that Hamas has moderated its positions and can be an ally in peace.
Consider the dramatic changes in rhetoric by Hamas leaders. Back when he was a extremist in 2007, Hamas parliamentary Deputy Speaker Ahmad Bahr said that Jews were “apes and pigs” and should all be killed. “O Allah, vanquish the Jews and their supporters,” he cried out. “O Allah, vanquish the Americans and their supporters. O Allah, count their numbers, and kill them all, down to the very last one.” But weeks ago, Bahr moderated his position and now calls Jews the “siblings of monkeys and pigs.” He hasn’t called for genocide against Jews in months and now simply urges his brethren to “sweep them out of our land.” From genocide to ethnic cleansing in just four years? Imagine what 2012 might hold! Perhaps calling merely for the enslavement of Jews? Indeed, anything is possible if we remain hopeful.
Back in 2008 when Hamas parliamentarian Yunis al Astal was an extremist, he called for the conquering of America and Europe. In a moment of youthful indiscretion -- and who hasn’t had a few of those? -- he termed Jews the “brothers of apes and pigs.” Today he has changed his tune almost entirely. In May, on Al Aqsa TV, he said, “All the predators, all the birds of prey, all the dangerous reptiles and insects, and all the lethal bacteria are far less dangerous than the Jews.” Jews, he added, have been brought to Palestine so that Muslims “will have the honor of annihilating the evil of this gang.” Notice how he entirely dropped the global conquest rhetoric? Today he speaks modestly and moderately of slaughtering Jews only.
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In 2008, Hamas parliamentarian Fathi Hammad berated the Arab world for allowing 300 million people to be subjugated by a few million Israelis -- the “brothers of apes and pigs” in Hammad’s then radical words. Fast-forward to today and Hammad, as interior minister, has had to deal with the realities of governing Gaza. His rhetoric has seen a commensurate shift toward moderation. “The Jews have become abhorred and loathed outcasts, because they live off corruption and the plundering of the peoples -- not only the Arab and Islamic peoples, but all the peoples of the world,” he said last December on Al Aqsa TV. Who can doubt that “abhorred and loathed outcasts” is a step forward from “brothers of apes and pigs”?
When Hamas Culture Minister Atallah Abu al-Subh was a radical back in 2008, he spoke of the “evil of the Jews, their deceit, their cunning, their war-mongering, their control of the world, and their contempt and scorn for all the peoples of the world ...” Today, Subh, too, has moderated his message. “The Jews are the most despicable and contemptible nation to crawl upon the face of the Earth,” he said in April on Al Aqsa TV. “Allah will kill the Jews in the hell of the world to come ...”
If Hamas keeps up this dramatic transformation, one can imagine a world in the not too distant future in which Jews are no longer hatefully called “apes and pigs” but rather moderately called “second cousins once-removed of apes and pigs.”
David Keyes is the executive director of Advancing Human Rights and co-founder of CyberDissidents.org. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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