This article was originally published as a sidebar with "Reporting Israeli Assault Through Israel's Eyes."
In the aftermath of the deadly Israeli assault on the international flotilla bringing humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip, the establishment press has repeatedly distorted the political positions of Hamas, the Islamist movement that governs Gaza.
The New York Times’ Ethan Bronner (6/5/10) reported that Hamas “rejects Israel’s existence.” USA Today’s Oren Dorell (6/7/10) wrote that “Hamas has been designated a terrorist group by the United States and European Union and seeks the destruction of Israel.” A New York Daily News editorial (6/5/10) referred to Hamas as “an internationally branded terror group dedicated to Israel’s destruction.”
But the truth about Hamas is much more nuanced than what corporate media repeat. While it is true that the 1988 founding charter of Hamas includes anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and calls for the establishment of an Islamic state in all of historic Palestine, Hamas’ leadership has largely abandoned that rhetoric. In the run-up to the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections, Hamas dropped its call for the destruction of Israel from its manifesto (Guardian, 1/12/06).
In recent years, leaders of the Islamist movement have stated that Hamas is ready to make peace with Israel as long as a settlement is based on full sovereignty in the 1967 borders, East Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital and the right of return for Palestinian refugees—positions that have their basis in international law and United Nations resolutions. Israeli daily Ha’aretz (11/9/08) reported that “the Hamas leader in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, said...his government was willing to accept a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders.” And Khaled Meshal, the head of Hamas’ political wing, recently said (Charlie Rose Show, 5/28/10) that “Hamas accepts a Palestinian state on the borders of 1967 with its capital Jerusalem and with the right of return.”
Since Palestinians went to the polls and gave Hamas an electoral victory, the U.S. corporate media have followed Israel’s official line on Hamas, painting it as a monolithic and violent entity in order to reduce international pressure on Israel to negotiate with the Palestinians (Extra!, 9-10/06).
The double standard of the U.S. press can be seen in the treatment of Israel’s stance toward a Palestinian state. The party platform of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party states: “The Government of Israel flatly rejects the establishment of a Palestinian Arab state west of the Jordan river. The Palestinians can run their lives freely in the framework of self-rule, but not as an independent and sovereign state.” But how often do you see Likud described as “rejecting the existence of Palestine”?