NYT's Kirkpatrick Bizarrely Suggests Lack of Support for Hamas by Arab Nations Bad News for Peace

New York Times Cairo bureau chief David Kirkpatrick's front-page story on Thursday, "Arab Leaders, Viewing Hamas as Worse Than Israel, Stay Silent," appeared under a sympathy-inducing photo of a shattered United Nations school allegedly hit by an Israeli shell, while Kirkpatrick's story tried to induce sympathy toward Hamas, abandoned by Egypt and Saudi Arabia, its erstwhile allies in the fight for the destruction of Israel.

An online teaser actually suggested Egypt's opposition to the terror group Hamas was a regrettable obstacle to peace: "Led by Egypt, a coalition of Arab states has effectively lined up with Israel in its fight against Hamas, posing new obstacles to efforts to end the Gaza conflict." Acording to Kirkpatrick, Hamas's terrorist status is up for debate, as it is merely "deemed a terrorist group by the United States and Israel."

Kirkpatrick somehow saw bad news in the welcome development of Arab countries united against the radical terror group Hamas:

Battling Palestinian militants in Gaza two years ago, Israel found itself pressed from all sides by unfriendly Arab neighbors to end the fighting.

Not this time.

After the military ouster of the Islamist government in Cairo last year, Egypt has led a new coalition of Arab states -- including Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates -- that has effectively lined up with Israel in its fight against Hamas, the Islamist movement that controls the Gaza Strip. That, in turn, may have contributed to the failure of the antagonists to reach a negotiated cease-fire even after more than three weeks of bloodshed.

“The Arab states’ loathing and fear of political Islam is so strong that it outweighs their allergy to Benjamin Netanyahu,” the prime minister of Israel, said Aaron David Miller, a scholar at the Wilson Center in Washington and a former Middle East negotiator under several presidents.


Although Egypt is traditionally the key go-between in any talks with Hamas -- deemed a terrorist group by the United States and Israel -- the government in Cairo this time surprised Hamas by publicly proposing a cease-fire agreement that met most of Israel’s demands and none from the Palestinian group. Hamas was tarred as intransigent when it immediately rejected it, and Cairo has continued to insist that its proposal remains the starting point for any further discussions.

But as commentators sympathetic to the Palestinians slammed the proposal as a ruse to embarrass Hamas, Egypt’s Arab allies praised it. King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia called President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt the next day to commend it, Mr. Sisi’s office said, in a statement that cast no blame on Israel but referred only to “the bloodshed of innocent civilians who are paying the price for a military confrontation for which they are not responsible.”

Kirkpatrick saw one of the benefits of the Arab Spring as increased hostility toward Israel.

The dynamic has inverted all expectations of the Arab Spring uprisings. As recently as 18 months ago, most analysts in Israel, Washington and the Palestinian territories expected the popular uprisings to make the Arab governments more responsive to their citizens, and therefore more sympathetic to the Palestinians and more hostile to Israel.

But instead of becoming more isolated, Israel’s government has emerged for the moment as an unexpected beneficiary of the ensuing tumult, now tacitly supported by the leaders of the resurgent conservative order as an ally in their common fight against political Islam.

Odd, how both Arab governments and radical Islamic groups they're fighting can be portrayed as "conservative" in the press, depending on which one the reporter wishes to tar as the bad actor. Kirkpatrick went on to portray poor Hamas as being "rail(ed) against" in the Egyptian media.

Egyptian officials have directly or implicitly blamed Hamas instead of Israel for Palestinian deaths in the fighting, even when, for example, United Nations schools have been hit by Israeli shells, something that occurred again on Wednesday.

And the pro-government Egyptian news media has continued to rail against Hamas as a tool of a regional Islamist plot to destabilize Egypt and the region, just as it has since the military ouster of President Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood one year ago. (Egyptian prosecutors have charged Hamas with instigating violence in Egypt, killing its soldiers and police officers, and even breaking Mr. Morsi and other Brotherhood leaders out of jail during the 2011 uprising.)

(Note that Kirkpatrick defended Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood as non-violent long past the group lost credibility.)

Kirkpatrick mentioned the smuggling tunnels used by Hamas without noting they are also used to smuggle weapons to kill Israelis.

At the same time, Egypt has infuriated Gazans by continuing its policy of shutting down tunnels used for cross-border smuggling into the Gaza Strip and keeping border crossings closed, exacerbating a scarcity of food, water and medical supplies after three weeks of fighting.


As a result, Secretary of State John Kerry turned to the more Islamist-friendly states of Qatar and Turkey as alternative mediators -- two states that grew in regional stature with the rising tide of political Islam after the Arab Spring, and that have suffered a degree of isolation as that tide has ebbed.

"Islamist-friendly" is an interesting way to describe Qatar and Turkey. "Friends of Hamas" would be closer. Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip called Israel a "terror state" and accused it of perpetrating a "systematic genocide" against the Palestinians worse than anything Hitler did, while Qatar is funding Hamas's attacks on Israel.

Also in Thursday's paper, Jerusalem bureau chief Jodi Rudoren saw a defensive Israeli prime minister Netanyahu in "Quest for Demilitarization of Gaza Is Seen Getting Netanyahu Only So Far," with the only way forward either through removing security barriers in Gaza -- or Palestinian statehood, "as promised by the Oslo Accords signed in the mid-1990s." (Were Palestinians "promised" statehood by Oslo? That's a stretch at best.)

Such coverage only proves the Times continues to be guilty of what the New York Observer weekly (no right-wing paper) referred to in its July 23 cover story headline "Two Weeks of Shallow, Facile Moral Equivalency in The New York Times."

Egypt Israel/Palestine Hamas New York Times David Kirkpatrick Muslim Brotherhood Jodi Rudoren
Clay Waters's picture