Kristof: Never Mind the Terrorists
by Steven Emerson
June 24, 2008
In his June 19th piece titled, "Strengthening Extremists," New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof lambastes the American and Israeli policy of isolating the terror group Hamas, alleging that Hamas' international isolation and resulting pressure have only managed to empower the so-called Islamic Resistance Movement.
And to "prove" his point, Kristof interviews two Gazans who, unsurprisingly, hate Israel. In Kristof's world, the siege of Gaza has only made Hamas more popular. Never mind that Hamas won the Palestinian elections before the siege began and after the Israelis had unilaterally withdrawn from Gaza. A withdrawal, by the way, which Hamas seized upon as a "victory" which, in turn, made Hamas more popular – enough to defeat rival Fatah in the elections.
So the Israelis give the Palestinians land for nothing in return, and Hamas gains popularity. According to Kristof, the Israelis isolate and attack Hamas in Gaza, and Hamas gains popularity. So when does Hamas lose popularity? Kristof claims that the recently minted "truce" between Hamas and Israel will somehow do the trick. Again, never mind Hamas' history of breaking such truces. Even the deferential Reuters news service said of the arrangement, "Israel-Hamas truce begins but duration in doubt."
(*Updated: Sure enough, rocket fire into Southern Israel Tuesday morning violated the cease fire less than a week after it started.)
Kristof, of course, doesn't explain how even temporarily ending the siege on Gaza and allowing Hamas to take credit for better conditions in the territory will somehow lessen the group's credibility. But again, never mind that.
People should remember that Kristof has already rather famously embarrassed himself when it comes to his knowledge of Palestinian terrorists. In March 2002, Kristof wrote a column titled, "Putting Us to the Test," in which he vigorously defended Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) operative Sami Al-Arian. Infamously portraying the terrorist leader as a "rumpled academic," Kristof described Al-Arian as someone who "denounces terrorism, promotes inter-faith services with Jews and Christians, and led students at his Islamic school to a memorial service after 9/11 where they all sang 'God Bless America.'" Never mind that Al-Arian has said that Allah has turned the Jews into monkeys and pigs, or that he wrote a letter in February 1995 soliciting funds for terrorist attacks. He wrote:
... I would like to discuss with you a very important matter concerning the future of work in Palestine and the ability of the Islamic movement to confront the great challenges before it. In short, you are well aware that this movement, represented by its branches, Hamas and the Jihad, is being threatened by the enemy, the neighboring regimes, and even worldwide. Preserving the spirit and flame of jihad against the enemy is a general Islamic responsibility and cannot be left to rest upon the shoulders of the few among our nation. Nevertheless, these few shoulder the responsibility of the nation's honor, even putting their souls in their hands to prove that Islam is capable of responding to oppression, aggression, and desecration of the sacred places and Muslims' dignity.
The latest operation, carried out by the two mujahideen who were martyred for the sake of God, is the best guide and witness to what the believing few can do in the face of Arab and Islamic collapse at the heels of the Zionist enemy and in keeping the flame of faith, steadfastness, and defiance glowing.
The movement's financial situation is very difficult, and it cannot fulfill its responsibilities towards the martyrs and prisoners.
I call upon you to try to extend true support of the jihad effort in Palestine so that operations such as these can continue, so that people do not lose faith in Islam and its representatives, and so that we can prove to the people and to history that Islam properly responded to the circumstances despite a difficult stage in time, and a terrible era.
In an interview on Fox News' O'Reilly Factor, also in March 2002, Kristof vociferously denied that the letter was an attempt to raise funds for terrorist attacks and described it benignly as nothing more than a "private communication with a Kuwaiti, that it was not … it did not violate any federal law or any state law." So again, never mind that he was asking for money for terrorist attacks, or "operations," could continue. It was just a "private communication," says Kristof, so never mind.
Kristof went on to describe the scholarly nature of organizations run by Al-Arian. Never mind that one of those organizations, the World and Islam Studies Enterprise (WISE), was headed by Ramadan Abdullah Shallah – currently the Secretary General of the PIJ – and described as a "most wanted terrorist" by the U.S. government. When Shallah left WISE to become the commander of PIJ, Al-Arian lied – to both the media and his employers - about knowing who Shallah was, and his organization issued a press release stating that Shallah:
"…left WISE for a research tour of the Middle East in order to write a book on Islamic banking, as well as to tend to his sick father who later passed away."
The statement went on to say that WISE "denies any knowledge" of Shallah's "association or affiliation with any political group or agency in the Middle East." During closing arguments in Al-Arian's trial, his own defense attorney admitted he lied repeatedly, and, in fact, was a PIJ member, as reported by the St. Petersburg Times:
Yes, said [Al-Arian's defense attorney] Moffitt, Al-Arian was affiliated with the cultural, charitable arm of the PIJ, and he lied to the media about it because he was afraid WISE would be shut down.
And never mind that Al-Arian's other organization, the Islamic Committee for Palestine (ICP) was described – on video - by its top fundraiser as "the active arm of the Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine" and only called ICP for "security reasons." And never mind that the ICP held conferences to raise money for the PIJ and praise the killing of Jews. At one such event in Cleveland:
Fawaz Damra:…person can come forward and donate. We are offering the opportunity. Anyone who has the wish can come forward and donate. We put then on the floor, God willing. Would anyone like to donate for the Intifada? For Islamic Jihad, I say it frankly: for Islamic Jihad.
This Jihad, which is still blazing in Palestine, from village to village. I am telling you: not for the organizations or anything else, with due respect for everyone. But only for Jihad.
One of them goes out of his house with a knife to stab the Jews. Twelve Jews, after the Gulf events. O brothers, the Intifada is calling upon you. $500.00. Who is going to top the $500.00? Who is going to top the $500.00 for this medal?
And whoever wants to write a check, he can write it in the name if the Islamic Committee for Palestine, "ICP" for short. ICP, whoever likes to write a check. Is anyone going to top the $500.00 Haj Ahmad?
But since that conference happened in 1991, and, as Kristof helpfully tells us, Al-Arian's own vile comments on video "were about a dozen years old, after all" – you know, never mind. Nothing more than a "rumpled academic," indeed. Al-Arian eventually pled guilty to conspiracy to provide material support to the PIJ. But according to Kristof's flawed logic, pointing out Al-Arian's ties to terrorism, arresting and prosecuting him, would likely only strengthen the extremists. Better to have him still at the University, running a think tank which sheltered leaders of a violent, religiously motivated eliminationist terrorist group.
Never mind that during Al-Arian's sentencing, the judge stated of Al-Arian:
You are a master manipulator. You looked your neighbors in the eyes and said you had nothing to do with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. This trial exposed that as a lie.
The judge continued:
And yet, still in the face of your own words, you continue to lie to your friends and supporters, claiming to abhor violence and to seek only aid for widows and orphans. Your only connection to widows and orphans is that you create them, even among the Palestinians; and you create them, not by sending your children to blow themselves out of existence. No. You exhort others to send their children.
On that, Kristof was strangely silent.
But back to Hamas and Gaza. Kristof claims that the American and Israeli policy of targeting the terrorist group in Gaza is "morally bankrupt — a case of collective punishment." Better to deal and negotiate with Hamas – an organization everyone should remember is sworn to Israel's destruction. The Hamas charter states, amongst other things:
"Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it."
But Kristof wants Israel to be nice to Hamas anyway. However, Kristof is hardly consistent when it comes to being against "collective punishment." In fact, to his credit, he has been one of the leading proponents calling for sanctions against the Khartoum regime (even though he admits that "Sudanese authorities may not have the money to feed their people") because of the atrocities committed in Darfur. But I guess it wouldn't be considered "collective punishment," in Kristof's mind, if any Sudanese civilians suffer from such sanctions and isolation of Islamist Sudanese government, as they most certainly would. It is tough to know where Kristof's selectivity (a less charitable description would be hypocrisy) on the matter originates, but his deferential treatment towards Sami Al-Arian might be one indicator. Indeed, Kristof has a documented history of blaming Israel and letting Islamic terrorists off the hook.
Writing on another issue which has received media attention, Kristof laments:
Israel's decision to block Gazans from studying abroad was particularly shortsighted. Educating Gazans might help build a contingent of moderates, but Israel has continued to block three Fulbright scholars from leaving for the U.S.
Kristof fails to mention that Israel has allowed four Gazans to leave and that the reason the three other Gazans have not been cleared to leave the Strip is that they have ties to Hamas, notably Hamas' main educational institution, the Islamic University of Gaza. From the June 20th edition of the New York Sun:
The Islamic University of Gaza is intertwined with Hamas. In his letter, (Illinois Congressman Mark) Kirk quotes Jameela El Shanty, a professor at the school who told the Baltimore Sun in 2006: "Hamas built this institution. The university presents the philosophy of Hamas. If you want to know what Hamas is, you can know it from the university."
Naturally, Kristof thinks that having ties to Hamas should yield no negative consequences whatsoever. Kristof ends his article stating, "Let's stop bolstering Hamas." This from a man who wants to give Hamas-linked individuals free educations at prestigious American universities, because to not do so would be "counterproductive" and "collective punishment." Kristof was wrong about Al-Arian, and he's wrong about Hamas. Sadly, he fits right in at the New York Times.