Is Hamas a terrorist organization? Funnily enough: no.

31/03/2010

My recent post on the documentary film “Children of Gaza” has provoked a couple of comments from someone calling him/herself “Facts First” (both to the post referred to above and an earlier one also about the Israel-Palestine conflict). While “Facts First” is most eloquent in his/her support for Israel and dismissal of Hamas, he/she has basically restated the US and Israeli position that Hamas is a terrorist organization and has no legitimacy as a government. This has persuaded me that I need to state the truth about Hamas’ legitimacy both in the Palestinian territories and the wider world.

In 2006, Hamas beat its opposition party Fatah in a free and fair election. This resulted in Hamas forming a government with Fatah. Unfortunately, supporters of both parties continued to fight each other.

As well as this factional conflict, Hamas’ position as a legitimate government partner was undermined by the USA and EU’s refusal to recognize a government that contained Hamas – their view is that Hamas is a terrorist organization and therefore unqualified to govern.

Matters came to a head when Fatah seized control of the West Bank territory and Hamas did the same in the Gaza Strip. Israel and Egypt, with US and EU support, then imposed a political, economic and humanitarian blockade on the Gaza Strip, again because Hamas is a terrorist organization.

Many critics of Hamas, including the US, the EU and “Facts First” make much of Hamas’ terrorist status. They tend to claim that Hamas’ status as a terrorist organization is a fact.

They are wrong. It is simply their opinion that Hamas are terrorists. There is an equal argument that Hamas is a legitimate political party qualified to govern the Palestinian territories.

For instance the Council on Foreign Relations says of Hamas:

Is Hamas only a terrorist group?

No. In addition to its military wing, the so-called Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigade, Hamas devotes much of its estimated $70-million annual budget to an extensive social services network. Indeed, the extensive social and political work done by Hamas – and its reputation among Palestinians as averse to corruption – partly explain its defeat of the Fatah old guard in the 2006 legislative vote. Hamas funds schools, orphanages, mosques, healthcare clinics, soup kitchens, and sports leagues. “Approximately 90 percent of its work is in social, welfare, cultural, and educational activities,” writes the Israeli scholar Reuven Paz. The Palestinian Authority often fails to provide such services, and Hamas’s efforts in this area—as well as a reputation for honesty, in contrast to the many Fatah officials accused of corruption—help to explain the broad popularity it summoned to defeat Fatah in the PA’s recent elections.

Although the USA, the EU, Israel, Canada, Japan and others call Hamas a terrorist organization, there is not an international consensus on this matter. The United Kingdom and Australia consider Hamas’ independent military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, to be terroristic, but accept that Hamas does have legitimacy. Norway is resolute in its position of recognizing Hamas as a legitimate party, and Russia also refuse to regard Hamas as terroristic because Hamas was elected democratically.

Considering the above facts, one has to wonder what exactly Israel was trying to achieve when it attacked Gaza in Operation Cast Lead, and with its ongoing blockade on the region. Israel claims its goal is to remove Hamas’ ability to operate as a terrorist organization. But this has involved the destruction of civil infrastructure in Gaza, including police stations, prisons, power and water supplies, roads, communications, commerce – and hospitals, schools and residential buildings have also been attacked. This all looks like an attempt to destroy Hamas’ ability to provide the services mentioned by the Council on Foreign Relations in the passage quoted earlier – and as no one else can provide those services, this means Israel is trying to destroy Gaza as a functional territory. Exactly who are the terrorists in this scenario?

“Facts First” has criticized my use of Wikipedia as a source of information on this subject. And I’m well aware of Wikipedia’s problems. But I think the article on Hamas is well researched, with a large and diverse number of references, and is very balanced in its presentation of the facts. In fact, I believe it is the article’s thoroughness and neutrality that makes “Facts First” dislike it so much – he/she would prefer to use US or even Israeli sources of information instead as they are more likely to present the “facts” the way he/she likes to see them. But don’t take my word on the Wikipedia’s Hamas article’s balance and thoroughness – read it and decide for yourself. And please, feel free to comment here on what has been said (and also what has not been said). All I ask is that you take “Facts First’s” pseudonym as advice: let’s stick to the facts rather than deal in opinion. And I contend that one simple fact is: Hamas is not a terrorist organization just because some governments think that’s so.


Burmese demonstrations continue… as does the murder of dissidents

28/09/2007

Just a quick post, while I have a spare minute – I’ll post more later on, when I’m home from work – but I thought I’d point anyone who’s interested in the direction of the Democratic Voice of Burma; a site that tells true news about what what’s going on in Burma/Myanmar. The site is based in Norway, so the Burmese government censors have no way of closing it down… as they have done to the media in Burma.

Oh yeah: the link above takes you to the English language version of the site – but from there you can get to other languages too.

See ya soon!

—–

UPDATE

The Burmese security forces seem to be winning their battle against dissent. They have arrested hundreds of monks – and many of them will probably be murdered by the army. Monasteries have been sealed. And hardly any news is getting out of Burma – nearly all internet links have been severed; and all privately-owned newspapers and magazines have ceased publication rather than carry the propaganda that the authorities ordered them to print, the Democratic Voice of Burma has reported:

“They are forcing us to publish their announcements and propaganda in our publications and we can’t let them do that to us,” said a Rangoon journalist.

The journalist compared the current situation with that during the 1988 uprising.

“In 1988 journals published news about the riots and shootings, but it is not as easy to do that now. The situation has changed – soldiers are shooting at everything now – so we can’t do it,” said the journalist. [from the DVB]

Now that the generals have taken the monks out of the picture, the demonstrators are losing spirit. The monks were a moral beacon, an example, and a form of leadership. But the Burmese civilian population have been ruled over tyrannically for decades – they are subservient by nature, disobedience has been beaten out of them – whereas the crowds numbered tens of thousands before, now just small crowds are gathering – and being savagely attacked by the army.

Horrific images have been shown all round the world. Japanese photographer Kenji Nagai, who worked for AFP, was shot dead by Burmese security forces – and, according to the Guardian, it looks like the army deliberately targetted Mr Nagai.

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AFP photographer Kenji Nagai, murdered in the street by Burmese soldiers.

It looks like the Burmese dictators’ tactics have worked – without the Buddhist monks, the demonstrations are petering out, and soon things may well be back to “normal” – whatever the fuck passes for normal in that fucked up country. The state media have reported 10 deaths – obvious bullshit. Gordon Brown has said he believes the casualty rates are much higher (according to BBC Radio 4 news), and he’s been talking to President Bush about the situation – but the Burmese generals don’t care. They have always ignored international opinion. The only other government they have “friendly” relationships with is the Chinese – and it looks like the army has been careful not to alienate China.

A group of 5,000-10,000 protestors assembled at around 3.30pm in the Chinatown area at the junction of Strand road and Keile road, also cursing government security forces. No government troops, guards or supporters were seen at this location.

“It’s like they’re trying not to upset the Chinese. We’ve seen an army truck passing by Chinatown, but no troops have been deployed.” [as reported by DVB]

So, what are the USA and UK going to do about this? The “free world” always make a big noise about the sanctity of democracy – liberating the Iraqi people from the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein is constantly used as an excuse for the invasion of Iraq. Well, the Burmese generals are worse dictators than Saddam ever worse – so will we invade?

Ha ha ha ha ha!!!

There’s no oil in Burma.  Just poverty and injustice.  Our political leaders may huff and puff, but at the end of the day they’ll do fuck all.  The military dictators of “Myanmar” have nothing to worry about.

Incidentally, what is this “Myanmar” crap all about?  The whole world seems to call Burma Burma.  Maybe by using the other name, the generals think that no one will realise what a shithole the place is.

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Buddhist monks in Burma – they led the demonstrations, now they’re probably dead.


Japan shoots for the Moon!

15/09/2007

kaguya-launch.jpg

Yesterday morning, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) launched an unmanned flight which brings Japan’s goal of a manned moon-base by 2025 that much closer.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/space/article/0,,2169428,00.html

The space craft, nicknamed “Kaguya” after the moon princess in a Japanese fairy tale, will release 2 smaller satellites when in the moon’s orbit. These 3 satellites will then survey previously unmapped areas of the Lunar surface and conduct other experiment. This is all part of a plan to build a manned moonbase by 2025.

There seems to be a rush of interest in the moon. India and China have plans for moonshots, and the USA intends to launch a lunar orbiter next year.

It’s a pity that the US Government decided to abandon moon missions after the Apollo programme and focus on the space shuttle instead. Sure, we gained many wonderful technologies thanks to the shuttle and satellites – GPS and satellite TV to name just two – but they would probably have been developed anyway if NASA had pressed on with plans for moon bases and missions to Mars.

japanese_mooncraft.jpg

Developing bases on the moon would be very handy in planning missions to Mars and the outer planets. The moon would be an excellent place to site a space ship factory – they could take off much more easily from there than from the earth, as the moon’s gravitational pull is only about a sixth of that here. Of course, such a factory would only be possible if there were some easy way to get raw materials to the moon. But who knows what resources are waiting to be discovered up there? Already there have been reports of water ice in some craters. Beneath the lunar surfaces there could be metal ores and other elements needed for space flight.

Many people think that space exploration is a waste of time and money. They say we should sort out the problems here on earth before reaching for the stars. But I disagree. For one thing, “necessity is the mother of invention” – great technological advances have been made because of war, for example. I think that space exploration is a much better spur to development than world war.

And exploring other worlds will help us to understand more about our own. For example, Venus’s atmosphere contains a high proportion of carbon dioxide – and the greenhouse effect is strikingly evident there.

All in all, I think the launch of Kaguya is A Good Thing. I really do hope that the Japanese manage to get their moonbase built by 2025… and I’d love to go there when it’s done!


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