So there I was yesterday morning, eagerly removing the cellophane wrapping from the latest London Review of Books (delayed due to Friday's postal strike - but I'm all for deferred pleasure), when I caught sight of the heading above the title - 'Alastair Crooke: The Case for Hamas' - and my heart sank. Things got worse when I turned to the actual article - given the 'lead' slot in the magazine - in which Crooke argues that refusing to support the Hamas government was 'our second biggest mistake in the Middle East'.
The article reviews three new books on Israel-Palestine, including one by well-known Hamas mouthpiece Azzam Tamimi, and it echoes recent attempts by Soumaya Ghannoushi, Jonathan Steele and whoever writes the Guardian leaders, to pin the blame for the Islamist coup in Gaza on the West. But Crooke goes further than these authors, who merely avoided blaming Hamas and its Iranian and Syrian backers, in actively arguing the case for Hamas as a legitimate political party.
Several times in the article, Crooke refers to Hamas as a 'moderate' Islamist party, a label he also attaches, incredibly, to Hezbollah. His argument echoes Jonathan Steele's recent suggestion that western progressives should lend support to the apparently 'moderate' Islamist government in Turkey, rather than to their secular liberal opponents. In both instances, the thinking appears to be a case of 'hold on to nurse for fear of something worse': i.e. if we don't support these Islamists, then a far worse variety might replace them.
You'll search in vain in Crooke's article for any mention of the 'moderate' Hamas' antisemitic ideology and constitution, or its use of suicide terrorism against civilian targets. Nor will you find any reference to Azzam Tamimi's well-publicised support for these same ideas and tactics. Reviewing a book by Tamimi without even mentioning these facts about him, let alone criticising them, lends a spurious legitimacy to a spokesman for violent racist jihad and is a disgrace to a once-reputable publication.
When a recent issue of Dissent carried an article by Eugene Goodheart headed 'The London Review of Hezbollah', critiquing the magazine's one-sided coverage of last year's Lebanon war, I felt it was going too far. After the appearance of Crooke's article, I'm not so sure. As with my disaffection from The Guardian, it's not that I think a liberal paper should never carry articles that criticise western actions in the Middle East: it's that these days they rarely seem to carry any other kind, and the articles they do carry evade any attempt at balance or criticism of anyone else apart from 'the West'. As I've mentioned before, there appears to be a concerted strategy by the faux-liberal commentariat to go to any lengths to avoid attaching blame (or agency) to political Islam.
What Goodheart said about the LRB and Hezbollah applies equally to its publication of Crooke's article:
In its one-sided obsession with Israeli transgressions, the London Review of Books, offering no constructive advice for ending the conflict, contributes to its perpetuation by supporting one side of the intransigence. Its indulgence of a virulently anti-Semitic movement is simply shameful.
(See also Norm's take on this)
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