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August 28, 2003



That sounds reasonable enough. As for your statement that "Only when Israeli civilians feel safe when they travel on a bus or go shopping - the things that are the stuff of everyday life, but for which reserves of courage are required by Israelis - will a negotiated peace, and a Palestinian state, become a reality" - do you realise that there are two sides to this conflict? That life in the Occupied Territories hardly allows this 'stuff of everyday life' to go ahead unhindered?

The 'X can happen ONLY WHEN Y has happened' is the single most destructive view in this 'peace process'. Of course Israelis should not live in fear of terrorism. Of course the Palestinians must have their own state. The Palestinians and the Israelis are both stuck in your 'If X then Y' mentality. Both sides must move together at the same time if anything is to get done.

Van Gale

Israel has repeatedly demonstrated WITH ACTIONS (not just words) that they want peace when given a chance. The Palestinians have NEVER demonstrated peaceful intent with ACTIONS and only use peaceful words when speaking to an international audience.

Maybe that's why people with some sense of history believe the onus is on the Palestinians to finally demonstrate, with more than words, that they can negotiate a peace.

The single most destructive view in this 'peace process' is the justification of Palestinian terror as a valid means to bring about peace.


Oliver, you've misread the situation in Canada that led to the bans on Hamas and Hezbollah. The government initially refused a ban, claimin that such groups perform humanitarian duties. It took much arm-twisting by the media and other parties before the government made a sensible decision. Canada, and especially the current government, can give no lessons on the war against terror.


The PA must take the road map seriously, in actions and words. There is talk, always talk from the PA. The continual refusal to implement the very first sentence of point 1 (that attacks against Israelis must cease, and that the infrastructure of terrorism must be destroyed, and incitement stopped) means the roadmap must fail, as Oslo did. A ceasefire by Hamas et al is not part of the roadmap and is not enough to proceed; when will the PA realise this? The Palestinians must also stop "adding on" to the roadmap, ie. prisoner releases are not in the roadmap, but the PA (and the BBC!) now cites this as a reason why the roadmap is faltering.
The roadmap must fail, as Oslo did, without a very serious movement in the PA to deal with Hamas. Of course Israel has obligations as well, and we could argue as to whether Israel is not fully implementing the roadmap. However this is irrelevant, since whatever Israel does, it will all fail unless Hamas/IJ etc are dismantled. This is why I am so worried about the future of the roadmap.


"A British official told BBC News Online that joint action by the EU would be best but that Britain could act by itself if necessary. The military wing of Hamas is already banned in the EU but there has been resistance to the idea of preventing its political wing from operating."

The UK's position on this is undermined by all the years during which successive British governments allowed Sinn Fein to operate and raise funds.

john b

JK - no it isn't!

The IRA never posed anything like the threat to British life and limb that Hamas does to Israeli life and limb. Banning a political organisation isn't a step that should be taken lightly, so it's reasonable to base your decision on the threat posed.

Whether or not you agree with either UK gov't decision, there's no inconsistency in making one but not the other.


Oliver criticises in passing the prosecution of Garaudy for Holocaust denial. This presumably is because he believes, like me, that people ought to be allowed deny the Holocaust, odious though such denial is. Similarly one presumes neo-Nazi parties ought to be allowed, odious though they are. Again I agree.

The problem with banning Hamas is that banning a political party is akin to banning opinions we don't like (or, rather, are disgusted by - in this specific case the view that Israel must be destroyed and that towards this end no distinction between combatants and non-combatants can be made). This presents difficulties as regards free speech.

And also pragamatic difficulties. The Sinn Fein/IRA comparison is apt. (So too is the ETA/Harri Batisuna one, where the party has indeed been banned). As with SF/IRA the distinctions between the military and political arms of Hamas are to say the least blurred - the 30 year old remains of one of Gerry Adams' alleged victims has apparently just been found north of Dublin and on at least one occasion Sinn Fein's copy of the electoral roll was used to target victims - but with hindsight few regret that SF was not banned.

As to whether Hamas can ever be expected to negotiate a settlement like SInn Fein has all I'll say is that I know one person Oliver probably admires who has indicated they might - Christopher Hitchens, in his "Regime Change" collection.

Mitch H.

Mmm. I think it has a closer parallel with the tolerance of IRA fundraisers in the Irish-American community throughout the Eighties etc. The "political" wings of Hamas and Islamic Jihad aren't political in the sense of parliamentary entities or vote-mobilization apparatuses; they're the parts of those organizations that can't be directly tied to actual violence. It's as if the American Armed Forces suddenly "privatized" all of its ROTC programs, military academies, training facilities, non-lethal logistics and supply bases, administration, etc, etc. Chop the whole tail off, leaving only the boot camps and "teeth". A tiger that is all teeth is indistinguishable from a rug. Hamas and Islamic Jihad are not rugs - they're just been redefined as a set of teeth in symbiotic relationship with the rest of the tiger.

jeanne a e devoto

"'The timing was not felt to be right given the promising state of the peace process at that time.'

You read the last sentence right: the EU felt that cracking down on front organisations for terror would be inimical to a negotiated peace."

Your paraphrase isn't quite what the original says, though, and I think the distinction is significant. The unnamed British official is not protected peace, but the peace *process*. The concept of peace and the "peace process" aren't identical at all; in my darker moments, I think that they're unrelated, or indeed opposed to one another.

Peace is... well, you've defined it, the state of people being able to ride a bus without having to think about the possiblity that they and their children will be blown up. The peace process is talks, checklists, statements, meetings. The process isn't peace.

(And I might add that in the absence of a desire for peace, the process is empty form with no substance at all. It is so clear that for the Palestinian Arabs that desire does not, at present, exist that I have come to think of the very phrase "the peace process" as indicative of the deepest-dyed cynicism, at least when used about this particular war.) Getting back to our official, what he's saying isn't that hampering terrorists will get in the way of peace - of course it won't - but that it will get in the way of the process, because various will not come to meetings, issue the right sort of statements, etc if a crimp is put in their terrorist allies. Read in this way the comment makes perfect sense.


Oliver, you know squat about Canada, let alone Joe Comartin and the NDP. If you wish to engage in horribly simplistic arguments, then consider that Comartin's extremist views on Palestine are supported by the a sizeable majority of people on this planet, and by the majority of nations in the UN.

You really should follow up on this story and see how Canada's "anti-terrorism" laws have been violating the human rights of Canadians guaranteed in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Oliver Kamm

It's perfectly possible that I know squat about Canada, but I have made an adequate living at various times in my career, in public and private sectors, from what I know and forecast about that G8 country in particular - so at least give me credit for my marketing ability.

Thank you for your editorial suggestion, to which I shall pay due attention.

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