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Sunday, August 05, 2007

Hamas using the BBC to influence UK government policy

At the Spectator, Melanie Phillips gives voice to something I have long suspected:
According to Hamas — an account uncritically swallowed by the Western media — Johnston was kidnapped by a criminal Gaza gang, the Dagmoush family, also known as the Army of Islam, which was said to be at odds with Hamas and to have possible links to al-Qa’eda.

Hamas eventually made a deal with the Army of Islam’s principal protagonist Mumtaz Dagmoush and Johnston was escorted out of captivity by jubilant Hamas officials, with the British Foreign Secretary’s praise ringing in their ears and the Western media now falling over itself to promote their cause.

But this account is highly improbable. The claim that Hamas was unconnected with Johnston’s kidnappers is wrong. The evidence points instead to an elaborate piece of manipulation, with Hamas using the kidnap to open a line of communication with Britain (as its Gaza leader, Ismail Haniyeh, boasted last week).

The government not only sanctioned an informal visit to Britain by a senior Hamas official, Ghazi Hamad, but the UK Consul-General in Jerusalem, Richard Makepeace, met Ismail Haniyeh in Gaza to ask for his help in freeing Johnston.

In doing so, the Western embargo on contact with Hamas was broken — an important step in Hamas’s strategy of gaining international legitimacy, and integral to its plan to undermine Mahmoud Abbas, take over the West Bank and further its goal of Islamising the region.

The Hamas claim that Dagmoush conspired with Dahlan and Fatah elements to kidnap Johnston is highly implausible. Instead, it is much more likely that Dagmoush operated with the knowledge and at least tacit approval of Hamas.
Phillips goes on to back it up piece by piece, explaining how Hamas has used the Dagmoush clan and their 'Army of Islam' to give it 'plausible deniability' for attacks on both Israel and Fatah. Here's the bottom line on the Johnston kidnapping:
But since Johnston was so close to Hamas it is naive to think that Dagmoush would have kidnapped him without receiving at least tacit approval from his powerful patron. And although Hamas said immediately it knew who was holding him, it did nothing for many weeks — although its closeness to the Army of Islam enabled it to stop them killing him.

It was Hamas which had everything to gain from the ordeal of Alan Johnston, its friend whom the BBC was about to transfer out of Gaza anyway — and its strategy has worked brilliantly. Not only did it open communication with Britain, but the idea of negotiating with Hamas is now gaining traction fast on both sides of the Atlantic.
Phillips explains what's behind Britain's behavior:
The real purpose behind bringing Hamas in from the cold lies in a fundamental shift in global strategy. In the US, gripped by despair over Iraq, ‘realist’ isolationism and appeasement are on the rise.

Secular Arab states, horrified by the collapse of nerve in the one power which might save them from the Islamists, are now looking for deals with radical Sunnis to counter the greater threat of Shiite Iran. The emerging EU/American strategy is to help that process, gambling that the Sunni Islamists will fight the Shiites rather than topple secular Arab governments. The wooing of Sunni Hamas is the West’s opening gambit.

This strategy is lethally ill-judged. It fails to recognise that, despite all the splits between Islamist factions, they are united by a common project of Islamising the world. The most likely outcome of this suicidal Western approach will be the further radicalisation of Arab and Muslim society, the toppling by Islamists of secular Arab regimes and a strengthening of the global jihad. This most dangerous development has been given an enormous boost by the way the Johnston kidnap has been manipulated — no small thanks to the BBC itself.
She also takes a shot at the BBC:
Since Johnston’s release, the BBC seems to have turned itself into a vehicle for Hamas propaganda. Alastair Crooke has been given airtime granted to no other lobbyist, in interviews and one-off programmes giving him unprecedented opportunity to push his views.

This is the BBC whose other Gaza reporter Fayed abu Shamala reportedly told a Hamas rally in 2001 that the BBC was

‘waging the campaign of resistance/terror against Israel shoulder-to-shoulder together with the Palestinian people’; and whose Middle East bureau editor, Simon Wilson, has acknowledged that he met Hamas leaders in Gaza and Damascus to discuss Johnston’s fate — meetings about which the Foreign Office was closely consulted.
In the Telegraph's blogs, Damian Thompson calls for the clarification of al-Beeb's relations with Hamas (Hat Tip: Solomonia):

I’m always a bit wary of Mel P and her conspiracy theories. But there’s no doubt that the public needs to know more about the BBC and its strange coverage of the Middle East.

The Corporation has spent thousands of pounds trying to block the release of the Balen Report into its coverage of Israel and Palestine. Why?

My guess is that this is the one area where the BBC is genuinely alarmed by the consequences of its actions. Its reporting of the Middle East has been so relentlessly pro-Palestinian for so long, and that coverage is so influential, that it finds itself an actual player in the conflict, as opposed to an impartial observer.

The BBC is now regarded by Palestinian factions as a sympathetic but naive middleman to be manipulated at will, rather as the Catholic Church in Ireland was manipulated by the IRA during the Troubles. I certainly wouldn’t go so far as to call Johnston a friend of Hamas; but it is possible that he was a victim of this dynamic.

At any rate, don’t expect the Balen Report to be published any time soon.

Hey Brits, those are your tax schillings at work (BBC is publicly funded). It sure sounds like the BBC is going all out to change British government policy to favor Hamas or at least to 'engage' with it. Is there anyone out there who disagrees?


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