When the Holy Land Foundation was acquitted of funneling money to terrorist organizations, it was not only a victory against Washington's and Tel Aviv's efforts to stifle any kind of support to the Palestinians, but also a reality check. Specifically, it highlighted a fact known to most, that groups like HAMAS don't get their funding from North America, or even from Europe, but from the Middle East.
Saudi Arabia tops the list, followed by Iran, Syria and expatriate Palestinian communities throughout the region. This is hardly a secret, and neither was it a secret that the intent of such prosecutions against non-profits like HLF was to terrorize the Muslim community in this post-9/11 environment against voicing their opinions on certain issues.
If, however, the prosecution really were pursuing the case for the reasons they stated and not for political reasons, they could've done themselves a favor and instead picked up "Inside Hamas: The Untold Story Of The Militant Islamic Movement," by veteran Palestinian reporter Zaki Chehab. They would have found out some important facts, such as how HAMAS really does get its funds.
"Inside Hamas" is a thorough and concise work detailing the rise of one of the most notorious Islamist organizations in the world. The rise of HAMAS, from its roots as an obscure group called the Islamic Movement to its suicide bombing operations that have killed hundreds of Israelis to its successful election in Jan. 2006 makes it one of the world's most important non-state actors.
Chehab delves into every aspect of the group, interviewing leaders and families of the martyrs, and gives an accurate picture of what continues to fuel the Islamic Resistance. As a Palestinian refugee from a U.N. camp in Tyre, Lebanon and as well known Arab reporter with over 25 years of experience for CNN, the Washington Post and the BBC, Chehab is uniquely qualified to tell this story.
Unlike other sources, Chehab gives the Palestinian version of how this Palestinian group came about, showing HAMAS in the context of the political chaos of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories, rather than the typical theological explanations Western commentators give.
That's the strength of this book. The weakness is Chehab's firmly held pro-Fatah worldview, which gives credence to such failed ventures as the Oslo Accords and his lamentations over how little the United States and Israel failed to bolster Mahmoud Abbas's regime.
He describes Fatah as a "mainstream" group, for example, and describes the terrorist operations of HAMAS in a detached tone similar to the Western press, often writing about it as if the operations themselves are detached to the ongoing occupation.
He describes the words of a mother of one such martyr as seemingly "incomprehensible."
"But I think it is important to document it as it shows the extremes of psychology which make this conflict so difficult to understand," he writes.
What's so difficult to understand? Jewish settlers started settling in Palestine in the late 19th century with the aim of establishing a Jewish state and expelling the indigenous population, which they did in 1948 and again in 1967. Between then and now, they continue to settle the land, deprive the Palestinians of their human rights and commit atrocities in order to continue on their path of colonial conquest and ethnic cleansing, with the aid and complicity of the world's lone superpower.
Not difficult to understand, especially for a Palestinian refugee like Chehab, but it's clear he's writing for a Western audience, which is all the more reason he should drive that point home. The morality of such operations is debatable, but no one except Israeli propagandists can deny that they are part of a campaign of resistance against an immoral and illegal occupation.
There are other troubling spots, as well. In chapter 9, "The Future Of HAMAS," Chehab writes:
"Fingers of blame point towards previous Israeli prime ministers for not taking pre-emptive measures to nip the HAMAS movement in the bud."
He wants Israeli involvement? Isn't Israeli pre-emptive measures part of the problem here, especially since he documents elsewhere the Israeli support given to the burgeoning Islamic movement as a counterweight to Fatah and the PLO in order to weaken the latter and maintain control over Palestinians, especially during the first intifada?
Chehab also gives credence to the election of Mahmoud Abbas, "on the strength of his program of peace with Israel and the demilitarization of the intifada," while ignoring the fact that the election was, in fact, fixed. This was apparent when the Israelis were detaining candidates while Abbas was able to fly out to Kuwait and apologize for Palestinian support to Saddam Hussein's 1990 invasion and occupation.
He even hints at it on the next page, when he writes that "unlike his predecessor Arafat, Abbas was elected by the people with unlimited American and Israeli support," a fact he apparently has no problem with, only that they "not only isolated him," but left him "incapable of solving his people's problems." The most important of which is the interference from outside powers that manipulate and determine the affairs of the Palestinian people in a process called neo-colonialism, of which the Oslo Accords were just one component.
Despite these drawbacks, "Inside Hamas" is a well-written and important book about a crucial issue that's often marred by poorly written and ideologically motivated interests.