Wednesday, December 31, 2008


Hosni Mubarak went on television yesterday for the first time since the Israeli attack on Gaza started five days ago, and here is part of what he said (according to a summary in AlMesryoon):
He implicitly laid on Hamas the responsibility for the human and material losses that have resulted from the Israeli attacks, and he said: "The right to resist occupation is an established and a legal right, but the resistance still retains the responsibility with respect to the people that it controls or in some way earns it (the right to resistance) by advancing their interests and keeping them from ruin and from destruction and from the shedding of the blood of martyrs."
The responsibility Mubarak is talking about is the kind of responsibility a government would have for the protection of its citizens from any foreseeable natural disaster, an earthquake or a hurricane for example. The errors of Hamas in this view (their "responsibility") as Mubarak presents them, have nothing to do with moral or legal issues with respect to the Israeli regime. Nor is he suggesting that the Israeli attack is particularly foused on Hamas: rather it is against "their people". An Israeli bombardment was a foreseeable disaster, and Hamas, Mubarak says, bears the responsibility for not protecting their people from that.

Another proponent of this point of view is of this view Abdul Rahman al Rashed, writing in AlSharq alAwsat.
We would be compelled to respect Hamas [he writes] if it had planned for war, and if it had been capable of inflicting defeat, even partially, or been able to compel Israel to make difficult political concessions. Instead Hamas has come out in the role of a punching bag, for Israel to pound it--and the people of Gaza with it--with savagery.
Our major puppets, in other words, are blaming Hamas for what they see as tactical errors that have exposed the people of Gaza generally to these attacks. This is obviously not the same as "framing" this story as an Israeli attack on specifically on Hamas that could be justified in any moral or legal way.

So this seems more than a little peculiar:

Marc Lynch says there is a struggle in the region between those who define the Israeli attack either as an attack on Gaza, or as an attack on Hamas, the latter in retaliation among other things for "breaking the truce" ("Gaza" or "Hamas"). He says the "official Arab order" people--Mubarak, al Rashid and the others--are trying to "frame" this in the latter way. And he says in this they are allying themselves with the Israeli and American storytellers.

No Marc. Not Mubarak, not al Rashed, and I don't think anyone in the region you have cited with the possible exception of Abbas, is describing this either as punishment specifically of Hamas for "breaking the truce", or as an attack directed at anything or anyone but the Gazan people generally. They are describing this as a brutal attack on the people and assets of Gaza, and what they blame Hamas for is the tactical error, as they see it, of having let happen to their people this foreseeable catastrophe of an Israeli attack on Gaza.

The attenuating story of retribution for moral or legal guilt is indeed part of the Israeli/American repertoire for Western consumption, and some American policy-groupies surely wish the Egyptian and Saudi puppets would take it up too, but wishing won't make it so. The political damage to the Israeli regime and its Washington supporters is there for all to see, any amount of "framing" notwithstanding.


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