Further to my exchange with the BBC on their labelling of Hamas as "militants" comes this reply to another Media Lens contributor:
"Hamas and the recognition of Israel
Posted by Sonmiani on April 1, 2008
The following is a copy of Helen Boaden's reply to an e-mail I sent her following up John Hilley's correspondence with her concerning the BBC's repeated misrepresentation of Hamas not being prepared to recognise the State of Israel:
The quotes attributed to Khaled Meshaal, may indeed be a straw in the wind, but they are strikingly similar to comments by previous leaders which have not led to any change in the organization's stance and they do not, per se, seem to indicate formal recognition of Israel.
For example, on 17 June 2003, Abdul Aziz alRantissi gave an interview to the English language Israeli newspaper Haaretz in which he suggested that a 'long term truce' could be possible without recognition of Israel: "'No one can guarantee that Hamas will be able to bring about tha land's liberation within 100 or 200 years. Without dramatic changes in the region, it will be impossible. We can't tell our people to continue in an unequal struggle But we also can't tell them to give in.'
This led Rantissi to a view that has hitherto been associated with those defined as the movement's "moderates" - if Israel would withdraw from all the land it captured in 1967, dismantle all the settlements and enable an independent Palestinian state, 'there will be an end to the struggle, in the form of a long-term truce.'"
But the signals from Hamas are not, and have never been, unambiguous. For example, in December 2002, Sheik Yassin predicted Israel's destruction by the year 2025 (see BBC News Online, 6 June 2003).
Since forming the government, Hamas has been under intense international pressure to recognise the state of Israel. The international community, led by the Quartet (the US, UN, EU and Russia) issued the Hamas government with three obligations - to renounce violence, recognise Israel and recognise all past agreements with Israel. Hamas certainly appeared to accept the vision of a Palestinian state based on the territories occupied since 1967 in a 'National Conciliation Document' agreed in June 2006. But it has not fulfilled the other demands made upon it, nor indeed renounced its charter which, for example, declares that the "liberation (of Palestine) is an individual duty, binding on every Muslim wherever he may be."
pp Helen Boaden Director,
"Clearly she has missed the vital point about the timing of recognition, which Hamas has made clear must be dependent upon negotiations, and she has made no mention of the UN's recognition of the right of an occupied people to resist their occupiers, or, consistent with all BBC reporting on this subject, of Israel's far greater use of violence. Furthermore, her claim that Hamas' stated position (that it is prepared to recognise Israel subject to conditions) is ambiguous is not the point. The BBC consistently fails to report the position - indeed misrepresents it as being opposite to that stated, irrespective of any ambiguity."Indeed. These replies seem determined to demonise Hamas as an unambiguous enemy of peace. There's a similar blanket refusal to countenance the idea that Hamas might be reluctant to 'recognise' - in Israel's and the West's demanding use of the term - a state engaged in the ethnic cleansing and continuing oppression of the Palestinian people.
That doesn't mean Hamas are unprepared to negotiate a peace deal with an oppressor it is seeking to resist. Indeed, Hamas has consistently offered a long-term truce, or hudnah, to set the process in motion, an offer rigidly refused by Israel. Nothing of these mediations and nuanced politics appears to distract the BBC from its one-dimensional view of Hamas as terrorists beyond the 'diplomatic' pale.
It is also notable that the above reply makes no mention of the assassinations of Al-Rantisi in 2004 and Sheik Yassin just before him - Israeli actions condemned by then UN Secretary Kofi Annan. Yes, Al-Rantisi advocated armed resistance. But the key contextual word here, "resistance", has no apparent place in discussing the strategy he advocated.
Besides failing to note the background reasons for Al-Rantisi's thinking, it's also disingenuous and lazy to portray his and Yassin's past statements as indicative of Hamas's evolving situation.
Much of this relies on the BBC's and wider media's spurious and selective interpretation of the 1988 Hamas Charter, an effectively rhetorical document released to coincide with the movement's formation, but which took little account of the group's wider feelings, the changing political environment or the more practical factors involved in any proto-negotiation process.
These critical points are specified by Azzam Tamimi in his definitive book Hamas: Unwritten Chapters (Hurst & Co, 2007). Tamimi describes how the Hamas leadership:
"are increasingly convinced that the Charter as a whole has been more of a hindrance than a help. Many would admit that insufficient thought went into the drafting and publication of the Charter. Once it had been drafted, Hamas institutions inside and outside Palestine were never adequately consulted over its content. According to Khalid Mish'al [head of the Hamas political bureau] the Charter was rushed out to meet what was perceived at the time as a pressing need to introduce the newly founded movement to the public. Mish'al does not view it as a true expression of the movement's overall vision...He sees the Charter as a historical document, which gives an insight into Hamas's original philosophy at the time of its establishment. However, it 'should not be regarded as the fundamental ideological frame of reference from which the movement derives its positions, or on the basis of which it justifies its actions.' " (pp 148-149)None of this more complex and revealing picture can be detected anywhere in the BBC's version of the Hamas 'worldview'.
I've already sent two notable illustrations of Hamas's more mediated position to the BBC. Here's a more recent statement to that effect from Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal:
"Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal said that his movement supports the united Palestinian position that calls for the establishment of a fully sovereign state within the 1967 borders, including Jerusalem, and refugees’ right to return.(Also carried by Haaretz.)
In an interview published yesterday in Palestinian daily Al-Ayyam, Meshaal referred to the 2006 prisoners’ document as proof of this. “There is a Palestinian document and in it all organizations say they agree to a state in the 1967 borders.”
The prisoners’ document, also known as the National Reconciliation Document, was drafted by members of different Palestinian factions held in an Israeli prison, including Fatah and Hamas. It calls for the “establishment of an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital on all territories occupied in 1967.”
The Damascus-based leader said the Palestinian position had received a vote of consensus during the national accords of 2006 and that this position is considered acceptable to the Arab world. He called on ordinary Israelis to pressure on their government to stop aggression against the Palestinians in light of this document."
Why, then, does the BBC (in contrast to Al-Jazeera) persist in its own use of extremist language to castigate Hamas? Why is it so eager to embrace and promote the 'non-recognition' agenda set in stone by Israel, the US, EU and Quartet? And why does it refuse to employ appropriate and consistent language to characterise the much more crucial issue of Israel's illegal occupation and campaign of terror?
Serious, honest answers to these questions are unlikely to be forthcoming from the pp Boaden sanctum. And that makes the BBC a complicit party in prolonging the conflict and suffering of the Palestinian people.