Steven Erlanger's Latest Whitewash of Hamas

Erlanger: The anti-Israeli terrorist Hamas is "in its way, pragmatic," the Palestinian terrorist leader Yasir Arafat was a "charismatic man," and Israel and the U.S. are responsible for the Palestinian civil war.

Times Jerusalem bureau chief Steven Erlanger has long been notorious for his pro-Palestinian reporting, and his Sunday magazine profile of Gaza's Khaled Abu Hilal, who went from the "mainstream" Palestinian group Fatah to the overtly anti-Israeli terrorist group Hamas, certainly fit the pattern.

Erlanger began with this cloying, sorrowful harangue: "Palestinians never used to do these things to one another. Putting bullets in the back of the heads of men on their knees. Shooting up hospitals. Killing patients. Knee-capping doctors. Executing clerics. Throwing handcuffed prisoners to their deaths from Gaza's highest (and most expensive) apartment buildings. There is a madness in Gaza now."

Is there not "madness in Gaza" when Palestinian terrorists blow up Israeli citizens in markets and pizzerias? Palestinians may have "never used to do these things to one another," but they do them to Jews, yet Erlanger failed to confront Hilal about terror attacks on Israelis or even address such terrorism.

As usual, Erlanger also failed to designate Hamas as a terrorist group, merely stating that it is "classified as a terrorist organization" by Western powers.

"Hamas - a religious political-military organization that dominated the last Palestinian elections - claimed it was fighting infidels, with a holy sanction to kill. Fatah - the largest group in the Palestine Liberation Organization - was nearly as brutal as Hamas and claimed it was fighting the Nazis. Poor young men from the squalid, stinking refugee camps of Gaza, their heads filled with religious slogans and revolutionary cant, took off their knitted black masks to pose in front of the gilded bathrooms of the once-powerful and rich men of Fatah. Then they stole the sinks, toilets, tiles and pipes, leaving the wiring and the metal scraps for the ordinary, unarmed poor.

Erlanger even blamed the current civil war in Gaza on Israel and the U.S.: "Gaza today is so far from the hopes of people like James Wolfensohn - the former World Bank president who tried to coordinate economic redevelopment in the 140-square-mile territory between Israel and Egypt after the Israelis withdrew nearly two years ago - as to seem like the other side of the earth. Rather than a model for a future Palestinian state, Gaza looks like Somalia: broken and ravenous. The civil war that Palestinians insisted could never happen just has, a civil war abetted by Israel and the United States in the name of antiterrorism and stability - another policy that has failed, at least here, where a burning smell still fills the nostrils and where a masked Hamas gunman with an AK-47 recently sat at the abandoned desk of the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, lifted up the phone and said: 'Hello, Condoleezza Rice? You have me to deal with now.' But the military victory of Hamas may also bring a welcome measure of quiet and security to the 1.5 million people of Gaza, nearly 70 percent of them refugees, who have been living a nightmare of criminal gangs, street-corner vendettas, clan warfare, absent police, corrupt officials, religious incitement and unremitting poverty."

Once again, Erlanger treated former PLO terrorist leader Yasir Arafat as some kind of hero: "Fatah lost touch not only with the grass roots but also with its soul, and when it largely traded armed resistance against Israel for negotiations that failed to produce either peace or a better life for Palestinians, it seemed to lose a certain amount of self-respect. When Arafat died, it lost its defining symbol, the one charismatic man who combined the idea of war and politics in his tiny, uniformed self, his kaffiyeh carefully tied in the shape of British Mandate Palestine, and who could gather together the many strands of Palestinian politics."

(That paragraph recalled Erlanger's notorious January 6, 2005 statement: "[Palestinian candidate Mahmoud] Abbas, with no heroic history like that of his predecessor as chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization, Yasir Arafat, has been campaigning in Mr. Arafat's footsteps if not in his clothes.")

And notice which trait of Hamas was emphasized last: "Hamas, working to Islamicize Palestinians and recruit them, combined religious fervor, well-financed charitable and social work and an effective strategy of military confrontation and terrorism. It is classified as a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union, and both try to disrupt its financing through charitable contributions and bank transfers."

Though Erlanger's article made clear the thuggery of Hamas, he still doesn't shine the focus brightly on the terrorism that is Hamas' reason for existence.

"Hamas has a religious foundation, but it is also an intensely nationalist movement, with Palestine as its focus. Hamas continues to refuse to recognize the existence of Israel. But it has none of the grand ambitions of Osama Bin Laden or Al Qaeda to drive the 'U.S. crusaders' out of the Middle East, nor does it aim at Americans; instead, Hamas sees Washington as a reality and wants the Americans to push Israel to leave lands it occupied after the 1967 war, although Hamas refuses to endorse a permanent two-state solution. Hamas is secretive and severe but also, in its way, pragmatic. (For example, it stopped carrying out suicide bombings inside pre-1967 Israel as of September 2004, judging them to be counterproductive.)"