TCS Daily

The Sinn Fein-ication of Hamas

By David Vance - January 27, 2006 12:00 AM

When is it appropriate to negotiate with terrorists and then discreetly facilitate their entry into government?

Many people supported the Bush doctrine because it made clear that the answer to this question is; Never! In the aftermath of 9/11 the terror masters around the world were faced with the grim prospect that either they crawled back under whichever rock they came from or they would remorselessly hunted down and brought to justice. This policy was mercifully devoid of the obfuscation and cringing appeasement that had characterized the Clinton years. However the subsequent period has seen the moral clarity initially enunciated by President Bush gradually eclipsed and nowhere is this more obvious than in the Middle East.

Just consider what is happening to Hamas, the Islamist terror group that is dedicated to the utter destruction of Israel. The 25 January election has given Hamas significant electoral gains in both Gaza and the West Bank. The Palestinian people are turning to Hamas, en masse, in protest at the corruption of the Fatah movement. The mainstream media do not seem to think it odd that a gang of Islamic jihadists are now viewed as paragons of virtue by the Palestinian electorate.

Hamas remains quietly confident. In pursuance of its planned final solution for Israel's Jews, it has enthusiastically pursued a policy of (Ha)mass murder. Atrocities committed include the Passover Massacre in 2002, in which 30 people were killed in a terrorist attack while celebrating the Jewish festival of Passover; the Jerusalem bus massacre November 2002 (11 dead); and many more. Hundreds of Israeli civilians have lost their lives in Hamas suicide attacks between the 2000 and 2004. Hamas has even shown its own particular evil innovation by using female suicide bombers, including a mother of six and a mother of two children under the age of 10.

To any sane person the Hamas movement is evil incarnate. But could it also be a "partner for peace" with which Israel will be firstly cajoled and then strong armed into face to face negotiations? Might US State Department be smoothing the way for such negotiations between Israel and Hamas in order that the latter can find its way into the government of the PA?

Indications are that Condi Rice will not object to the US dealing with a Palestinian administration containing delegates from the murderous Hamas organization. If Hamas gains further electoral ascendancy over their terror-loving rivals in Fatah, how long before the State Department engages in direct dialogue?

What is currently happening to Hamas has a direct precedent; it is exactly what has happened to Sinn Fein/IRA in the United Kingdom. For decades, the IRA had gone about its daily business of slaughtering thousands of innocent men, women and children. It also pioneered terror tactics such as the creation of human bombs by chaining one of its unfortunate victims to the steering wheel of a lorry laden with explosives which it then exploded. The IRA is Western Europe's most successful terror organization and has spread its malign tendrils across the globe; from Cuba to Colombia, Libya to London, the IRA exported its terror expertise.

However under President Clinton appeasement of certain terror groups became a virtual article of faith and so it was that under the fictitious title of the "Peace Process" that Madeleine Albright argued that the political propagandists for the IRA, who operate as Sinn Fein, be treated as if they were regular politicians. In this way, we were told, the IRA could be "coaxed" into the democratic process.

The brutal truth is that the democratic process was then distorted out of all recognizable shape in order to deliver a seemingly endless series of concessions to Sinn Fein, such as the emptying of prisons of convicted killers, on the tacit understanding that the IRA remained armed, but mute. At one point Martin McGuinness, a self confessed former IRA "Commander", became education minister. This was hailed as "progress" by the US State Department.

If terrorism is wrong, why do those who represent depraved killers get a diplomatic invitation to the table of democracy if they happen to reside in Israel and Northern Ireland? Isn't it common sense that unless a coherent view is expounded, the war on terrorism will turn into a sad burlesque in which poor Bin Laden is the global fall guy whilst others get away with murder, literally? Those fortunate enough to survive decades of Irish terrorism and Palestinian Jihad look on horrified as the monsters in Hamas and the IRA get the velvet glove treatment.

While the debris of the World Trade Center still smoldered, President Bush pointedly told the world "You're either with us or against us in the fight against terror" Perhaps he needs to ask that same searching question of his own State Department which gives every impression of making even Neville Chamberlain seem resolute and principled.



The Sinn Fein connection
The comparison with Irish republicanism doesn’t really work.

If Hamas had been on ceasefire for the last 12 years and had destroyed all their weapons, would anyone doubt their fitness for government?

There is also the question of the context in which both movements operate. Sinn Fein were faced with a situation where the vast majority of Irish nationalists rejected violence and insisted on a united Ireland only by consent.

The political process in the north of Ireland has yet to succeed but the peace process continues to deliver.

The political process in the north of Ireland has yet to succeed but the peace process continues to deliver.

Appeasement or negotiation?
The word "appeasement" is one of those words, such as "racist", that almost wins an argument just by being used. No one dares to argue against it and it forecloses detailed and rational debate.

Clearly some conflicts have been made worse through reluctance of the good guys to take a stand - Munich 1939 gets trotted out almost by rote. But there are countless others where the conflict has only been concluded by some kind of negotiation and compromise between the parties and some of these involve terrorist organisations. In fact it is hard to think of a terrorist movement that has come to an end without negotiation and compromise, typically leading to the terrorist group eventually becoming politicised - examples include Sinn Fein and also the Stern gang and Irgun (both of which eventually provided leaders of Isreal). The only exceptions I can think of are terrorist movements with little popular support such as the Bader-Meinhof gang.

Like all terrorist organisations, Hamas has done terrible things - but politicising it may be the best/only way out of this mess and we shouldn't let emotional rhetoric prevent us for evaluating the best strategy. Luckily I think Rice has the brains and sophistication to realise this. Hamas may well be following the route of Sinn Fein but the situation in Northern Ireland is much better than it has been since the 1970s. It may offend our sense of justice but it works.

attacking the USA for fun and profit.
I once went to pick up my father at the airport. He was a Navy officer in WWII, directed antiaircraft fire at Japanese bombers attacking the ship. I realized the Toyota I was driving could have been manufactured by the sons of those who were attempting to kill him.

When I pointed this out to him he just chuckled and said he did not blame the Japanese for trying to kill him and his shipmates because "we were trying to kill them.... and SUCEEDING AT IT."

This was 40 years after WWII.

Maybe if we can provoke an Islamist federation of sufficient size to attack the US and its allies on the scale of a world wide conventional war, 40 years from now we can be driving luxury vehicles manufactured in the middle east.

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