ZOA Concerned that Sec. State Designate Clinton Fails to Blame Hamas for Crisis; Doesn’t Mention Incitement; Supports Minimal Criteria for Recognizing Hamas
January 16, 2009

The ZOA has expressed concern over aspects of Secretary-of-State-Designate Hillary Clinton‘s testimony at her confirmation hearings before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. In particular, the ZOA is concerned with Senator Clinton‘s failure to hold Hamas responsible for war crimes leading to civilian deaths in hostilities with Israel; indicating that she will adopt the same flawed benchmarks for dealing with Hamas that were previously adopted towards Yasser Arafat’s Fateh-dominated PLO; and for failing to mention the incitement to hatred and murder in the Palestinian media, mosques, schools and youth camps that feed terrorism.

  • Failing to hold Hamas responsible for war crimes: Senator Clinton testified that, The President-Elect and I understand and are deeply sympathetic to Israel’s desire to defend itself under the current conditions, and to be free of shelling by Hamas rockets. However, we have also been reminded of the tragic humanitarian costs of conflict in the Middle East, and pained by the suffering of Palestinian and Israeli civilians.” (Text: ‘Hillary Clinton‘s Statement at Senate Confirmation Hearing,’ Fox News, January 13, 2009).


ZOA: Without in any way diluting her expression of concern for civilian lives, Senator Clinton could have squarely placed the onus for this state of affairs on the shoulders of Hamas. Hamas has been systematic in its violation of the laws of war. She did not make it clear that without Hamas launching over 8,000 rockets at Israel in over 7 years, Israel would not have been forced to respond to a security crisis in southern Israel with a military operation in Gaza. As former Canadian Attorney-General and veteran human rights lawyer and campaigner Irwin Cotler stated recently, Hamas is committing six types of war crimes:


“First, the deliberate targeting of civilians is in and of itself a war crime …A second war crime is when Hamas attacks [from within] civilian areas and civilian structures, whether it be an apartment building, a mosque or a hospital, in order to be immune from a response from Israel … Civilians are protected persons, and civilian areas are protected areas. Any use of a civilian infrastructure to launch bombs is itself a war crime … [Third], the misuse and abuse of humanitarian symbols for purposes of launching attacks is called the perfidy principle. For example, using an ambulance to transport fighters or weapons or disguising oneself as a doctor in a hospital, or using a UN logo or flag, are war crimes … [Fourth], of which little has been made, is the prohibition in the Fourth Geneva Convention and international jurisprudence against the direct and public incitement to genocide. The Hamas covenant itself is a standing incitement to genocide. [Similarly,] just before this fighting started, I saw Hamas leaders on television referring to Israel and Jews as the sons of apes and pigs … [Fifth] when you deliberately hit civilians not infrequently but in a systematic, widespread attack, that’s defined in the treaty of the International Criminal Court and international humanitarian law as a crime against humanity.” [Sixth] he final war crime for which Hamas is responsible is the recruitment of children into armed conflict. “Hamas is a case study of each of these six categories of war crime … [Unfortunately, the international community] has been minimizing the manner in which Hamas has engaged in consistent mass-violation of international humanitarian law.” (Haviv Rettig Gur, ‘Law professor: Hamas is a war crimes ‘case study,’ Jerusalem Post, January 13, 2009).


International law is clear that Hamas is committing war crimes leading to death and injury of civilians on both sides. Yet Senator Clinton did not mention Hamas’ war crimes and thus the loss of civilian life to which they lead, but rather referred to civilian losses solely in the context of Israel’s lawful exercise of self-defense.


  • Supporting flawed benchmarks for dealing with Hamas: Senator Clinton repeated the Bush administration’s opposition to negotiations with it, unless it recognizes Israel, renounces violence and abides by past peace deals saying, “That is just for me an absolute.” (Lachlan Carmichael, ‘Obama team takes new tack on Iran amid Mideast peace push,’ Yahoo News, January 13, 2009).


ZOA: Senator Clinton rightly rejected the idea of negotiations with Hamas. Nevertheless, we are concerned that she is willing to accept a minimal basis for dealing Hamas, a basis that failed with Yasser Arafat and his Fateh-dominated PLO. On its face, she is saying that if Hamas, without dismantling its terror squads or its apparatus of indoctrinating children into hatred and murder of Jews, simply said the right words about recognizing Israel, renouncing terror and recognizing the past Oslo agreements, then she would forthwith deal with this terrorist organization that possesses a genocidal Charter. Yet this is precisely the defective criteria by which we legitimized Yasser Arafat’s PLO and Fateh, negotiated with them and made concessions to them. Yet, Yasser Arafat’s Fateh, now under Mahmoud Abbas, does not differ from Hamas in its goals, declared in its Constitution, of Israel’s destruction (Article 12) and the use of terrorism as an indispensible element in the campaign to achieve that goal (Article 19). Fateh’s Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades has engaged in a much suicide bombing as Hamas. It is not only in Hamas-controlled Gaza that the media, mosques, schools and youth camps incite hatred and murder of Jews – Fateh does the same thing in the PA-controlled institutions in Judea and Samaria. By no stretch of the imagination can Fateh be said to have fulfilled any of its commitments under the signed Oslo Agreements and the 2003 Roadmap peace plan to end terrorism and the incitement to hatred and murder that feeds it. On any reasonable accounting, conducting negotiations with the PA on the basis of its formal recognition of Israel, stated renunciation of terror and acceptance of past signed agreements does not produce a moderate peace-partner and peace. We also note in passing that Fateh itself has at no stage recognized Israel and that Fateh leaders, including Abbas, have been explicit about this fact. As head of the PA he has claimed to accept Israel but has been explicit that he does not recognize it as a Jewish state.


Formal recognition, statements about renouncing terror or accepting signed agreements are inadequate. What is needed is actual recognition – and thus the ending of propaganda, and indoctrination that demonizes Israel; verifiable action to arrest and jail terrorists and decommission illegal weaponry; and fulfillment of agreements, not mere ‘acceptance’ of agreements. Only if Hamas were to do these things would there be scope for diplomatic engagement with it.


  • Failure to mention incitement to hatred and murder in Palestinian media, mosques, schools and youth camps: ZOA: We are concerned that Senator Clinton made no mention at all of the poisonous incitement to hatred and extremism found in Palestinian curricula, textbooks and educational institutions, an issue on which she was once forthright and outspoken. In February 2007, at the launch of a Palestinian Media Watch report ‘From Nationalist Battle to Religious Conflict: New 12th Grade Palestinian Textbooks Present a World Without Israel,’ Senator Clinton said, ‘I believe that education is one of the keys to lasting peace in the Middle East and for this reason I am very concerned with these findings. Ever since we first raised this issue some years ago there still has not been an adequate repudiation of incitement by the Palestinian Authority. It is even more disturbing that the problem appears to have gotten worse. These textbooks don’t give Palestinian children an education, they give them an indoctrination.’ That was true then and it is true now. Why has Senator Clinton been silent on this issue at this hearing which she distinguished herself by addressing in 2007?


The key to an end to the Arab war on Israel is a transforming the culture and society of Palestinians, not establishing a Palestinian state and throwing money at it before any such thing has occurred. Unfortunately, Senator Clinton has not displayed awareness of this crucial need, without whose fulfillment genuine peace is impossible and American diplomatic efforts will end in failure.”


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