Financial Times Loses Grip on Reality

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The so-called “Arab Spring”, the results of which are still not clear, have prompted many reassessments of the misleading yet previously accepted wisdom that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the fulcrum at the heart of the Middle East’s troubles.

Even Yasmin Alibhai-Brown who has a long history of Israel bashing has concluded that Israel is not to blame for everything. The Financial Times (click through Google News), however, appears to be living in a different reality. Prompted by the demise of Osama bin Laden, an editorial refers to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict:

The Arab uprising has so shaken up the Middle East that support for revolution implies the urgent resolution of this festering conflict at the heart of regional instability.

When it comes to degrees of extremism, of course, Osama bin Laden represents the most destructive nihilism. This does not mean, however, that Hamas should be favorably compared to Al Qaeda as the FT does:

It is outrageous that Hamas – and a disservice to the Palestinian cause – has acclaimed bin Laden as an “Arab martyr”. Yet it has robustly put down bin Ladenism inside Gaza and pledged to enforce a truce with Israel after joining a national unity government. It must be held to that, but not to the prior recognition of Israel deman­ded by international mediators.

The preconditions set for Hamas were designed to isolate rather than engage it, a shield against an election result the US and Europe could not stomach. Recognition of Israel should come once its borders are defined at the conclusion of a treaty establishing a Palestinian state, not while Israel is expanding its state on Arab land.

It is inaccurate hyperbole to claim that Israel is “expanding its state on Arab land”. If the FT is so concerned at defining borders, it should make it clear that Israel’s borders have certainly not expanded and any Israeli building that is taking place in the West Bank is doing so within the boundaries of existing settlements and not expanding into new areas.

In addition, does the FT really believe that borders are at the heart of the conflict? Hamas’s entire ideology is based on the non-recognition of any Jewish state in the Middle East irrespective of its borders. Are the lack of defined borders the reason that Hamas is prepared to fire anti-tank missiles at Israeli school buses? Would Hamas really be interested in peace with an Israel that has agreed upon borders?

Compare the FT’s stance on Hamas with an editorial in The Times of London (subscription required) that sees Hamas for what it really is and why Israel and the international community should not be so quick to welcome it into the fold:

In its current form, Hamas is nobody’s partner for peace in the Middle East. An extremist, Islamist, anti-Semitic organisation part-funded by Iran, it holds in its charter the ideal of a Palestinian state from the Jordan to the Mediterranean. It continues to allow rocket attacks on Israel and sponsor suicide assaults. Last September, when Israel and Palestinians began their first direct peace talks in two years, Hamas attempted to disrupt them with an attack that killed four Israelis, one of them a pregnant woman. Stability in the West Bank has come at the price of Fatah’s relentless refusal to tolerate its activities. History does not suggest a peaceable outcome should the jails open and hundreds of militants emerge.

No responsible international government can engage with an administration that includes Hamas without the gravest of reservations.

While The Times gets it, the Financial Times shows scant regard for genuine Israeli security concerns. Hamas is what it is and no amount of criticism of Israeli policy or whitewashing of reality on the part of a newspaper’s editorial will change that. Hamas may be the de facto ruler of Gaza but its essence is still very much that of a vicious terrorist organization that refuses to recognize Israel’s right to exist in the Middle East.

Send your considered comments to the Financial Times – letters.editor@ft.com

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