December 4, 2012 | New York Daily News

Yes, Hamas and Iran are Still the Best of Friends

Ignoring their collusion is dangerous
December 4, 2012 | New York Daily News

Yes, Hamas and Iran are Still the Best of Friends

Ignoring their collusion is dangerous

“To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle,” George Orwell wrote in 1946. He was describing a midcentury inclination to avoid “facing unpleasant facts,” one that manifested itself in the hypocrisy of those who claimed to be against Nazism while failing to support the military conscription needed to deter it. Today, the recognition of plain facts remains no less of a struggle for those analyzing world politics.

The willful denial of reality is apparent in the way many in the West continue to delude themselves about the ideology and behavior of authoritarian regimes and sub-state groups. A prime exemplar of this tendency is Robert Wright, a Pulitzer Prize-finalist author of books about religion and evolutionary psychology who has lately taken to polemicizing about foreign policy.

In a recent item for The Atlantic, where he is a contributing editor, entitled, “Is Hamas Really a Surrogate of Iran?” Wright set out to dispute what he dismissively terms “The Hamas-as-Iran-puppet narrative.” This “motif” is promoted either by unscrupulous figures like Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (who hypes the alliance between the two so as to “justify” his “uncompromising stance” towards the Iranian regime) or unthinking stenographers like journalists at The New York Times, who lazily refer to the Gaza-based terror group as “Iran’s surrogates.”

The claim that Hamas is an Iranian proxy is “oddly out of touch with recent developments in the region,” Wright asserts; we have in fact witnessed a “slack in Hamas’s relationship with Iran.” As evidence, he cites Hamas’ break with the Assad regime in Syria, one of its erstwhile patrons and Iran’s only Arab ally. Then there was the remark by a middling Hamas official in March that the group would not take part in an Iran-Israeli military conflict. Finally, Hamas’ closer relationship with Egypt and Qatar, “members of the global establishment,” indicates that the terrorist organization is slowly weaning itself off Tehran’s teat.

Yet Hamas’ break with Assad (a cynical move necessitated by the Syrian civil war, not an altruistic objection to the regime’s depravity) does not seem to have dampened its partnership with Tehran. “The relations between the Hamas movement and Iran has been effected by events in Syria,” Hamas official Mousa Abu Marzook conceded to an Egyptian newspaper last month, “but we desire our relations to remain as they were in the past and it is better if we can we make these relations more active.” Similarly, Khaled Ghadoumi, Hamas’ political bureau chief based in Tehran, affirms that Iran and Hamas enjoy a “strategic relationship.”

Actions speak louder than words, yet Iran’s supply to Hamas of missiles that can hit Israel’s main population centers — no minor feat considering the blockade of Gaza and the international isolation this policy engenders — does not faze Wright. He cites an Israeli academic who wrote that, “Iran’s role has mainly been that of a weapons supplier and not much else,” which is like arguing that the Taliban’s role in 9/11 was mainly that it hosted Al Qaeda and not much else.

Wright also ignores the anti-Western and anti-Semitic ideology that unites Hamas and Iran as members of the regional “resistance block.” Improving relations with the relatively more moderate regimes in Egypt and Qatar and serving as Iran’s proxy army are not mutually exclusive. “I thank everyone who provided us with arms and money, especially Iran,” Hamas’ leader in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh says.

As for Wright's insistence that Hamas would not retaliate were Israel to strike Iranian nuclear facilities, he ignores statements by the group’s leaders that its barrage of Iranian-supplied rockets was intended precisely to demonstrate the potential consequences of such an Israeli move. “The Jews will think twice” before attacking Iran, Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar said last month.

Wright’s obfuscations are not naïve, but pernicious. In a 2002 debate over the impending Iraq War with the journalist Jeffrey Goldberg, Wright denied the latter’s claim that Saddam Hussein had committed genocide against the Kurds. “My dictionary defines genocide as ‘the deliberate and systematic extermination of a national, racial, political or cultural group,’” Wright wrote. “Obviously, Saddam hasn’t ‘committed genocide’ in this strict sense of the term.”

Never mind Wright’s noxious nitpicking over whether Saddam’s gassing tens of thousands of Kurdish men, women and children constitutes genocide; his claim was factually false. The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide defines genocide as “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part , a national, ethnical, racial or religious group,” (my italics). By excising that crucial phrase, Wright would also have to absolve the Nazis of genocide, since they did not exterminate every Jew.

Surely, Wright thinks his motives are benign. “When the prospect of war is real — as it was with Iraq in 2002, as it is with Iran now — journalists have a particular responsibility to resist incendiary oversimplification,” he wrote last week. But Wright isn’t forestalling human suffering by his denial of reality. He is simply making excuses for tyrants and terrorists to continue their murder and mayhem with impunity.

Such is the argumentative tic of a new species of foreign policy pontificator, the progressive neo-realist, who doesn’t seem to have any values other than setting himself apart from those he labels “neocons,” “hawks” and “warmongers.” Invariably, this tendency leads them into arguing on behalf of the world’s authoritarians, whether defending Saddam Hussein from accusations of genocide or the Iranian regime of expressly calling for one.

This tendency isn’t anything new. Indeed, it has a long and diverse ideological pedigree, whether it was those on the left who denied the evil of the Soviet Union or those on the isolationist right who argue that America has no enemies and should withdraw from the world.

In his 1946 essay, Orwell traced the “contradictions and absurdities” of the political pundit class to “a secret belief that one’s political opinions, unlike the weekly budget, will not have to be tested against solid reality.” His assessment is no less accurate a description of today’s self-defined “realists” whose — worldview is the furthest thing from reality.

Kirchick is a fellow with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.


Iran Palestinian Politics Syria