Soccerdad and I emailed the Post about the editorial.
First the editorial.
Then what we wrote.
A Vote for Hamas?
Thursday, October 20, 2005;
PRESIDENT BUSH and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas will have a novel topic on their agenda when they meet today, in addition to more enduring issues such as Palestinian violence against Israelis and Israel's reluctance to ease a stranglehold on Palestinian territories. With Palestinian legislative elections planned for January, Mr. Bush will press Mr. Abbas on his plan to allow candidates from the extremist Islamic movement Hamas to run and maybe even join the government that will be formed afterward -- even though Hamas has refused to renounce violence as a means of establishing an Islamic state and extinguishing Israel.
There are big stakes in this discussion. Israel and its advocates in Washington have launched an aggressive campaign to convince the administration that Hamas must be banned unless it disarms and modifies its ideology. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has threatened to disrupt the January election if Hamas participates. The Israelis warn that an unreformed Hamas will use the election to ensure that its weapons and extreme agenda are not marginalized by Mr. Abbas's moderate, reformist movement. They point to Lebanon, where Hezbollah has used the political leverage it won in recent elections to protect its heavily armed militia, despite a United Nations resolution ordering its disarmament.
Mr. Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, agrees in principle that Hamas should abandon violence; he argues that he has pressured the Islamists into observing a cease-fire for most of this year. But his aides say that Palestinian security forces would probably lose if they challenged Hamas. Mr. Abbas's strategy is to do his best to defeat Hamas at the polls, then ask the new legislature to require all armed groups to disband. He hopes Palestinian public opinion will force the militants to comply. Recent polls show that up to 60 percent support Hamas's disarmament.
For the United States, the handling of Hamas is inseparable from a regional policy of democratization that, in its essence, is about channeling Islamic movements into electoral politics and away from terrorism. The strategy won't work if the Islamists refuse to give up terrorism, but it will also fail if, in countries such as Lebanon and Egypt as well as in the Palestinian territories, Islamic parties are prohibited from peaceful political competition. Perhaps that's why the administration so far has gingerly separated itself from Israel on this issue. Officials say Mr. Bush will press Mr. Abbas to pass and to apply the laws he plans before the elections and to exclude Hamas candidates linked to violence. But if the Palestinian leader persists in his strategy, the administration appears inclined reluctantly to go along rather than repudiate a moderate Palestinian leader or a potentially groundbreaking Middle East election.
That seems like the right choice for now. But if Mr. Bush is going to keep betting on Mr. Abbas, he should do more to help him succeed. Palestinian security forces cannot confront Hamas partly because they lack adequate training and weapons. Mr. Abbas also suffers politically from Mr. Sharon's foot-dragging in concluding agreements to allow the movement of goods and people from Gaza and from Israel's recent redoubling of West Bank roadblocks it promised to lift months ago. The United States can use its influence to ease those problems and to accelerate Palestinian economic reconstruction between now and January. Meanwhile, it can more clearly articulate, around the region, the principle that Islamic movements -- including those with fundamentalist ideologies -- must have a place in Muslim democracies, but that they must also check their guns at the door.
Dear Mr Hiatt,
We would like to respond to your editorial from Thursday, October 20 entitled A Vote For Hamas.
We don't oppose your making arguments that we disagree wtih. We do object when you use dubious sources to make those arguments.
In your editorial arguing for Hamas to be allowed to participate in Palestinian elections, the Post made a number questionable assertions or cited questionable sources.
We believe that you owe it to your readers to acknowledge that the editorial was poorly sourced.
The following points cannot be supported:
1. The issue is not that Hamas has refused to renounce violence. The issue is that Hamas has stated repeatedly that they intend to kill more Israelis. Claiming that 'one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter' should not prevent you from plainly stating the fact that Hamas purposely kills innocent civilians.
2. You write that "Israel and its advocates in Washington have launched an aggressive campaign to convince the administration that Hamas must be banned unless it disarms and modifies its ideology." without pointing out that this is merely requesting that Abbas follow the roadmap that he signed onto.
3.You write about Abbas that "he argues that he has pressured the Islamists into observing a cease-fire for most of this year" without actually verifying if there is any validity to that claim. Al Jazeera itself writes (http://english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/5693AB83-B2C8-420A-8179-C1BB6F11B62F.htm ) "Despite frequent violence, the cool-down has marked a significant reduction in unrest since the start of the Palestinian uprising in September 2000." More to the point, www.thereligionofpeace.com which keeps a listing of all islamist attacks around the world since 9/11 lists 23 terrorist attacks just this year in Israel over the last 10 months. Clearly, there has not been a cease-fire for most of this year by any stretch of the imagination.
4.You write that "recent polls show that up to 60 percent support Hamas's disarmament."
Please specify which poll, since the Bir Zeit poll indicates exactly the opposite (http://home.birzeit.edu/dsp/opinionpolls/poll22/results.html question 9)
9.Do you support or oppose that the PNA divest arms carried by the various bridges (Al Aqsa, Al Qassam, .. etc)?
3) No opinion
5. Your description of the difficulty the US has in dealing with Hamas overlooks the fact that since it is a terrorist organization, by law the US can have nothing to do with them.
6. You write about the need for peaceful "political competition" among Palestinians, without noting--as you did earlier this month--in "Palestinian Vigilante Killings on the Rise" including the kidnapping, and murder, of a Palestinian professor known as a Hamas political leader.
7. You write that Abbas' forces cannot confront Hamas because they lack adequate training, yet in January of this year the Guardian reported (http://www.guardian.co.uk/elsewhere/journalist/story/0,7792,1393881,00.html ) "Israel wants the Palestinian security forces (there are 60,000 on the payroll) to take on an estimated 1,000 Gaza militants of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades"--given the 'violence' the area is noted for and the background of many in the security forces, it is odd to say they lack training or weapons.
8. You complain of Sharon's 'footdragging' in light of the disengagement from Gaza without at the very least noting that the closings corresponded to continued murder of Israelis throughout this year. At the same time you make no mention of the failure of Abbas to fulfill the most basic requirements of the roadmap such as unequivocally reiterating Israel's right to exist in peace and security and that all official Palestinian institutions end incitement against Israel.
It is disturbing that you finish with the metaphor that fundamentalist Islamic movements must have a place in Muslim democracies but "they must also check their guns at the door."
On the contrary, the time is long overdue that these people be told in no uncertain terms that they must get rid of their guns and murderous tactics altogether. Washington Post should be at the forefront making that point.
While you are certainly entitled to your opinions, we are most bothered by points 4 and 5 where you gloss over factual matters. It's one thing to hold and express unpopular or controversial opinions, it's another to mislead readers by not giving them the whole story.