This House believes that the international community must accept Hamas as a political partner

Sunday February 26 2006
MOTION PASSED by 88% to 12%

Transcript

Order of speeches

This House believes that the international community must accept Hamas as a political partner

 

Introduction

TIM SEBASTIAN
Ladies and gentlemen, good evening and a very warm welcome to the latest in our series of Doha Debates sponsored by the Qatar Foundation. The election victory of the Palestinian group Hamas has sent shockwaves around the world and divided the international community. Should they isolate Hamas and push it into the arms of Syria and Iran, or engage with a group that espouses violence and is dedicated to the destruction of Israel? Tonight we examine those choices as well as the dangers and dilemmas contained in them. Our motion, 'This House believes the international community must accept Hamas as a political partner.' Well, speaking for the motion, Stanley Cohen, an American lawyer and an outspoken supporter of Palestinian rights. He's represented many Arab and Muslim activists in the US including the head of Hamas's political wing, Mousa Abu Marzuk, whose extradition was sought by Israel in the 1990's. With him is Dr. Mahmoud Mohamedou. He's Association Director of the Harvard Programme on Humanitarian Policy and Conflict Research. He is currently completing a book on Al Qaeda. And against the motion, Salim Mansur, born in India. He's associate professor of Political Science at the University of Western Ontario in Canada, and is a frequent contributor to newspapers and journals in America. And David Frum, former Special Assistant and speech writer to President George W. Bush, and a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. He's credited with inventing the phrase 'axis of evil' or at least two out of the three words, which have gone into the history books and brought its author plenty of notoriety. Ladies and gentlemen, our panel. And now let me call on Stanley Cohen first of all to speak for the motion please.

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Stanley L. Cohen

Speaking for the motion
Stanley L. Cohen

STANLEY COHEN
Thank you. Before addressing the motion of whether or not the international community should welcome Hamas as a partner as if it has standing to make such a decision, it is important to revisit the issue of who is Hamas, what is Hamas, from where does it come. The West and in general the international community has tried to criminalise an entire movement calling them terrorists. Well, Hamas are men and as exhibited by the recent election, women, old and young, doctors, lawyers, professors, scholars, social workers, teachers, nurses, shop owners, young and old, educated in the East, educated in the West, people that come from the camps that are strewn throughout the Middle East with six million Palestinians living in the Diaspora. This organisation which the West and the international community would like to describe as homogeneous, monolithic, hierarchical in which Khaled Mishal and Mousa Abu Marzuk can pick up a phone and turn on or turn off the resistance like a glass of water in a kitchen sink from the faucet is nonsense. The resistance on the ground in Palestine is a 12-year-old boy picking up a stone and throwing it at a tank. The resistance in Palestine is a 50-year-old mother burying two sons with honour because they'd given their lives for the people. The resistance is a 70-year-old man who would rather burn his own olive groves to the ground than to give the occupation forces the pleasure, in their perverse world, of destroying them. This is what we are talking about when we are talking about Hamas. Why was Hamas elected? Well, there's the obvious that the West seizes upon: the peace process is not working; the corruption of Fatah and the Palestiniain Authority; the alleged lawlessness in the community; the economic disarray; the Social Service. For 20 years the only people on the ground providing social service was Hamas. All of it is true and none of it is true. Hamas won for a very simple reason. Hamas is the Palestinian people. It is an expression of their desire to be free of the occupation, it is their pride and their ability to be resilient for 60 years. Hamas won because it touched a chord in all Palestinians. Now, what is the West to do today? We know what the West has done since 1948 to Palestinians. Six million living in the Diaspora, tens of thousands slaughtered, hundreds of thousands injured, homes destroyed, millions jailed and tortured, a wall built, the Balkanisation of Palestine. Thank you, I think the international community has done quite enough. I think it is now up to the Palestinians and Israelis on the ground to take the lead to resolve this particular issue. And what of the role of the United States in particular? Well, we know the United States has provided $178 billion for the machinery of death in Palestine, so I find it interesting when the President, when people in the West talk about Hamas laying down its weapons as a precursor or a pre-condition. Maybe Israel needs to lay down its weapons for a change. Now, the demands of Israel are very interesting. There are three demands that Israel suggests must be met before they will sit down and meet with the chosen representatives of the Palestinian people. One, they demand that Hamas acknowledges the existence of Israel. Interesting. OK, they acknowledge the existence of Israel. For decades they negotiated with the PLO which had a charter that called for the destruction of Israel. They still negotiated. They negotiated out of reality. Last week Mousa Abu Marzuk himself announced that Israel exists. Now let's move along to the issues. Finally we have the issue of acknowledging prior decisions. I know of no government in the world that takes power and automatically accepts blindly all previous acknowledgments or agreements that have been entered into without looking to see if they make sense, if they are wise. The world has two choices. The world can either continue going where we've been for decades, we can continue to destabilise. Or we can do as the Jewish philosopher Spinoza said many years ago, 'There is no hope without fear,' and the real fear at this point is that we will miss this opportunity and seek to furnish Palestinians with this golden chance to grab peace finally at the end of the tunnel. Thank you.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Stanley Cohen, thank you very much. You asked who Hamas was at the beginning. You omitted to say that amongst their ranks they had suicide bombers who blew up women and children on buses. How come you left that out?
STANLEY COHEN
I didn't leave it out. There's no difference between suicide bombers blowing up buses or Israeli jets killing 50 children in a densely populated building. Death is death. We like to romanticise the Israeli Army.
TIM SEBASTIAN
No atrocity is too bad that you can't sit down with the perpetrators who carry it out?
STANLEY COHEN
The IRA carried out bombings in London where thousands of people over the years in that struggle were perpetrated.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Then why don't you condemn Hamas as well as Israel then?
STANLEY COHEN
I have taken the position that I'm a realist. Hamas has been elected, they have been chosen, I can condemn anyone I want, it will not bring one moment of peace on the ground.
TIM SEBASTIAN
But you don't, but you don't condemn them. You don't condemn a suicide bomber who gets on a bus where there are women and children and blows them up indiscriminately.
STANLEY COHEN
I condemn anyone who chooses civilians including the Israeli occupation force. It is ugly.
TIM SEBASTIAN
So they're both as bad as each other?
STANLEY COHEN
Oh no, absolutely not.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Why not, why not?
STANLEY COHEN
One is resisting the occupation and the other is an occupying force.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Blowing up children on buses is resisting an occupation?
STANLEY COHEN
If you want me to say it's wrong, it's wrong. That doesn't bring one piece, one bit of solution to the problem in the Middle East at this point. It doesn't solve anything. Do you think Palestinians have nothing better to do than to die or to kill? You don't think they want to live a good life, to raise the family, to farm? The Palestinians find themselves in a position where they have been steamrolled by a military machine with the world that sat largely silent forever, and unfortunately the only time the world woke up and took notice was when the playing field began to get even.
TIM SEBASTIAN
All right, Stanley Cohen, thank you very much indeed. Let me call on Salim Mansur to speak against the motion.

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Salim Mansur

Speaking against the motion
Salim Mansur

SALIM MANSUR
Thanks, Tim. And let me of course begin by saying thank you for inviting me here to share my views with the audience. I speak against the motion, and I speak as a Muslim and with the perspective that is born and comes from deep within the heart of Islam. The political ideology of Hamas is the ideology of radical Islamists or Jihadists. They have seized upon Islam for their purposes, and they contend that their inspiration and the political programme is born of their reading of the Koran and the prophetic tradition. Well, the Koran says it is a blessing for mankind, and the prophetic tradition is an illustration of the path to God's mercy. So as Hamas and the ideologists persist in inverting the message of the Koran and the prophetic tradition, they have been drifting away from what is God's message and what is the prophetic tradition, and opening up a wide chasm between what is the message, that is the message of mercy and peace, and their own activities. Now, the task is, if Muslims have to pause, reflect, engage in self-critical examination as the Koran demands and instructs, they must begin by asking themselves why have they arrived at this position? By their actions, they have inflicted upon Islam abuse that far exceeds any abuse that's inflicted upon Islam by its non-Muslim adversaries. It is the conduct of the Muslim, the conduct of the Muslim as individual and Muslim as society, that is in fact being held up to the rest of the world of what Islam's message is. We can engage in self-denial but the reality is obvious, the chasm is getting wider and wider, and if we are not going to be pushed in the direction of a confrontation - a violent confrontation between the Muslim world and the non-Muslim world - and if we are going to prevent the sort of sectarian war among Muslims that we are headed into, we must stop and retrench ourselves and re-examine the position we are in. Consequently it is Muslims who have to demand that instead of recognising Hamas, which would in a sense validate and reward the manner in which Hamas projects Islam, that no, this is not the plan. We have to bring Hamas back on to the path that the Koran instructs, which is a path of those whom God has favoured and not those who have wandered astray.
TIM SEBASTIAN
All right, Salim Mansur, thank you very much indeed. Why shouldn't the West engage, why shouldn't the international community engage with Hamas? They are the reality on the ground, we're always being told, aren't we, by George W. Bush and the Americans that you have to accept the realities on the ground when it comes to settlements. Why not accept the realities on the ground when it comes to who the Palestinian people have voted in?
SALIM MANSUR
The issue is not of engagement. The West will engage ...
TIM SEBASTIAN
That's the motion, treating them as political partners, that's the motion we're discussing.
SALIM MANSUR
No, this is the issue of recognition, legitimacy and reward. The question of engagement and talking and so on, the world engages in talk. Even when the world doesn't engage with the others, that is a form of engagement.
TIM SEBASTIAN
But the motion you're speaking against is that the international community should not engage with Hamas as a political partner. That's what you're talking about.
SALIM MANSUR
Well, that's the resolution. I mean, what I'm speaking against is the international community should not reward and give legitimacy to Hamas. Yes, the international community withheld the recognition from the PLO, then the PLO reformed its position, came to agreement in 1988 and then we saw slowly and step by step the international community engage with the PLO.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Now who should the Palestinians have voted for?
SALIM MANSUR
The Palestinians are free to elect who they want to elect.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Well, what was the choice? The choice was between the incompetent and failed Fatah movement or Hamas.
SALIM MANSUR
Precisely.
TIM SEBASTIAN
So, who would you have voted for if you'd been a Palestinian?
SALIM MANSUR
Well, one can abstain. But by having voted for them, the Palestinians were recognising and agreeing to the programme of Hamas, and the programme of Hamas to be recognised and admitted and accepted by the international community would validate the very charter that calls for politics of genocidal consequences in the region.
TIM SEBASTIAN
All right, Salim Mansur, thank you very much indeed. Let me ask Dr. Mohamedou to speak for the motion please.

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Mohammad-Mahmoud Ould Mohamedou

Speaking for the motion
Mohammad-Mahmoud Ould Mohamedou

MAHMOUD MOHAMEDOU
Thank you, Mr. Sebastian and good evening ladies and gentlemen. I submit to you that for at least four reason the international community should readily engage with Hamas. The first is that Hamas has been elected democratically. That election which was observed as free and fair, a rare commodity to be certain, in the Arab world, represents the sovereign will of the majority of the Palestinian people. Consequently a unilateral declamatory discourse on the transitions on the part of the international community contradicts this issue of democratisation that was stressed for years by the international community, particularly the United States, the European Community as well as Israel. Secondly, in addition to its democratic legitimacy, its electoral legitimacy, Hamas enjoys strong political leverage particularly in relation to its competitors. Fatah for instance, which has lost the support of the Palestinian people, and which is regarded widely as corrupt and inefficient. That leverage translates as well internally as Hamas militants are more disciplined and therefore more able to deliver on the commitment that their leadership is bound to make. Thirdly, in addition to this electoral legitimacy and this position of force, this situation enables strongly the possibility of having a peace of the strong rather than a peace of the weak, which is what we have had in the 90's with the so-called peace process, a process that failed fundamentally because it did not represent the will of the people on both sides and no-one was able to deliver on it. With Hamas now we have an ability to have at least one part of delivery as well as upcoming elections in Israel. Finally, and more importantly, engagement with Hamas is not merely with the group itself, but beyond, with the objective situation of societal collapse that is fast threatening Palestine and its neighbours, and so from an initial international attempt at freezing the violence, we have now had some 38 years of occupation, a tripling demography among Palestinians which is unsustainable, even with the most peaceful conditions, wide availability of weapons, as well as the constant elevation in the levels of violence. Hamas brings in the prospect of engineering that political economy, that public infrastructure that are needed to mitigate this disaster in the making, and so yes, sir, I believe that for the agreement the international community should engage with them constructively and immediately.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Mahmoud Mohamedou, thank you very much indeed. If you endorse Hamas as a partner in talks, you end up endorsing their methods, don't you?
MAHMOUD MOHAMEDOU
Not necessarily.
TIM SEBASTIAN
How can you get past their methods?
MAHMOUD MOHAMEDOU
Because it is not a static picture that we have. The current Hamas position is a maximalist one.
TIM SEBASTIAN
It may not be static but it's pretty constant.
MAHMOUD MOHAMEDOU
Well, it's evolving and it's bound to evolve as they enter the political game, and as they face the political realities.
TIM SEBASTIAN
So we wait to see where it gets to?
MAHMOUD MOHAMEDOU
Well, I think we've seen already in recently weeks some quite constructive statements on the part of that leadership.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Such as?
MAHMOUD MOHAMEDOU
Such as the possibility of having a long-term truce which is a coded word for some sort of peace process, which would be more practical, more oriented toward the immediate needs of the Palestinians and not a make-believe world such as what we've seen in the 90's.
TIM SEBASTIAN
You've also heard a restatement of the view that they will not recognise Israel or renounce violence. You've heard lots of things.
MAHMOUD MOHAMEDOU
Again, as was pointed out earlier, I think that we cannot invisiblise the situation of occupation and the fact that this is a liberation movement gone from armed struggle into the political realm, and this would merely fit into the historical pattern that we've seen with the Algerian FLN, the Irish IRA and beyond. It is the traditional pattern where these groups enter the political realm.
TIM SEBASTIAN
The IRA entered the political realm when people had decided they didn't want the fighting to go on, not because they were engaged in force.
MAHMOUD MOHAMEDOU
Well, the Palestinian people have voted for Hamas because they do believe that this multi-faceted leadership should not be looked upon as a simple one that has the ability to deliver on that promise, and I think that we should give them at the very least the benefit of the doubt.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Hamas's methods have not delivered much for the Palestinian people so far, have they?
MAHMOUD MOHAMEDOU
They have lived up to the legitimacy that they are calling for people to present them with.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Mahmoud Mohamedou, thank you very much indeed. And now let me ask David Frum please to speak against the motion.

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David Frum

Speaking against the motion
David Frum

DAVID FRUM
Thank you very much. And thank you all for your hospitality here in Doha which has truly been generous and has lived up to everything that I have heard described about this marvellous country and city. My partner Professor Mansur and I begin this debate labouring under certain disadvantages. We are here to speak for a policy that has been endorsed and espoused by the United States government at a time when the United States is not highly popular in this region. We are here to speak against an enemy of the State of Israel at a time when there's not much love lost for Israel in this part of the world. We are here to speak for universal moral values at a time of tension between East and West, but I'm not here to speak to you about the United States or about Israel. I'm here to speak to you about yourselves, about your own interests and your own needs. You too are part of the international community and it is how you respond, in fact it is what this house does today that is the question before us tonight, and it's a question I think of great importance, not just for the United States, though for the United States, not just for Israel but for you. Let me explain. Hamas speaks for an ideology. It's the ideology of political extremist Islam, the ideology, it is cognate ideology to the ideology of Al Qaeda, it's a cognate ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood movements that have broken the peace of Egypt. It is an ideology that threatens this state, this region, and that this very week blew up a mosque in Samara and attempted to blow up a refinery in Saudi Arabia. This motion asks the question that Hamas itself does not ask. Hamas does not ask to be accepted as a partner of the international community. Hamas speaks for an ideology of war, a war with Israel in its charter, a war that will drag this entire region into a war of violence and chaos. They are asking for money in the short run. They are asking for legitimation, as Professor Mansur said. They're not asking for partnership, and in your interest, in your interest, you must stand up for the peace of your societies and against this manifestation of extremist Islam. But there is something else that is at stake for you, in this vote tonight. As we meet here in Doha, the government of Qatar is hosting a meeting of the Alliance of Civilisations, in an attempt to bring people together across religious lines at a time of tension, at a time when there has been doubt and misunderstanding between East and West. The question for you is, at this hour, at this hour, what message do you want to send to the international world? Do you want to say that a terrorist movement, a movement that again resorted to suicide bombings in 1994, at the very moment of maximum hopefulness, at the very moment of the Oslo process, that you want to say that this group speaks for the people in this room?. I think for you to do that would send a message about yourselves that is exactly the opposite message that all of the effort of this past week's work with the United Nations has been intended to defeat. There has been a spiral of destruction in this region beginning since World War 2, with each decade seeing greater suffering than the last, the 1950's worse than the 1940's, the 1960's worse than the 1950's and so on, through civil war in Lebanon, through the Iran-Iraq War, through the horrors in Algeria, and now the possibility for bloodshed in Iraq. It is so important that this strategic region, home of people of such ability and talent, step back and speak for peace, for universal values against terrorism, and you send that message to the world, through the medium of the British Broadcasting Corporation, you send that message to the world through your vote today. Thank you.
TIM SEBASTIAN
David Frum, thank you very much indeed. I'm going to throw the whole issue open to the audience in a few minutes, so please have your questions ready. David Frum, there's no pleasing the United States. Do you want a democracy in the Middle East, you've got a democratic vote. You didn't like dealing with Arafat so you didn't want to deal with him. You don't like dealing with Hamas. When do you think the Palestinians are finally going to vote for someone you like, or going to bother to speak to?
DAVID FRUM
The United States absolutely accepts the reality of this election result.
TIM SEBASTIAN
And wants to undermine it, as we hear.
DAVID FRUM
The challenge now is to ensure that there is a second election. Hamas is not an organisation that accepts the principles of democracy because it has a very different kind of ideology.
TIM SEBASTIAN
It just espoused them. It went to the ballot box and submitted itself to the ballot and the vote of the Palestinian people.
DAVID FRUM
Let us see whether it does it again, that is the challenge. But let me give you the perfect parallel that answers maybe this question. In the year 2000, the European country of Austria elected a right-wing party - they didn't elect him to government but they gave him a portion of the vote. They came into power. The European Union, now this was a party that had not committed any acts of violence, it was not implicated in terrorism, they just espoused things. The European Union drew a symbolic line to say that so long as the leader of that party was associated with it, it could not attend ministerial meetings, they sent a message, and that is what we're talking about tonight.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Well, why the double standards? You're quite happy to talk to some extremists but not others.
DAVID FRUM
I'm asking for the same standard for example that was levelled against the much less dangerous movement in Austria.
TIM SEBASTIAN
The US didn't mind talking to the IRA when it was blowing up the cabinet of your closest ally but you don't want to speak to Hamas when they're fairly voted in by the Palestinians.
DAVID FRUM
The United States did not begin talking with the IRA till the British government went along with the idea. The British government is the ultimate protector of the liberties and freedom and security of the British people. They were engaged and so the United States followed.
TIM SEBASTIAN
It was pleased to have fundraising for the IRA on the streets of the United States when they were blowing up the British cabinet. No, I don't think so somehow.
DAVID FRUM
That was a scandal and a disgrace, but it's also true right now that Hamas ...
TIM SEBASTIAN
But they showed double standards, didn't they?
DAVID FRUM
Well, the United States passed laws in 1994 and 1996 that made it a crime to raise money for terrorist organisations like Hamas, which is why Mr. Cohen has spent so many hours in the courtroom on behalf of those people, because under American law, since 1996, raising money for terrorists is a crime as well.
TIM SEBASTIAN
What do you want Hamas to do, become like Fatah?
DAVID FRUM
I don't think it is very probable that Hamas is going to change. Hamas is what Hamas is.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Your President thinks they will. President Bush said the other day he thought power would moderate them.
DAVID FRUM
The President was expressing a hope, the President is an optimist, and that's his job, to look on the bright side of it. Realistically they are what they are, and they pose the threat that they pose, and not just to Israel, because Hamas does not have the power to destroy the State of Israel. What Hamas has the power to do is to destroy the peace of this region.
TIM SEBASTIAN
David Frum, thank you very much indeed.

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Audience questions part 1

TIM SEBASTIAN
Gentleman in the third row there.
Audience questionAUDIENCE Q (M)
I just have a question for Mr. Mansur and Mr. Frum. According to the B'Tselem which is Israeli Human Rights Group, there were 972 Israeli have been killed during the intifada. Hamas was probably showed on their side that they have killed about 466 of them. On the other hand, the number of the Palestinians killed, there were 3,418 including 803 under 15 years old, and the Israelis targeting 185 schools.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Okay, can we come to the question?
AUDIENCE Q (M)
Yes. The question is, according to Sharon's record, he doesn't seem any peaceful man. Now, my question is, who's the terrorist between the Palestinians' Hamas or Mr. Sharon? That's for Mr. Salim Mansur, do you think that Sharon is more peaceful than Hamas?
SALIM MANSUR
Well, thank you. You see, there's violence on all sides, violence has its own cause and effect and it's spiralling. Hamas's argument is based upon Islam, its inspiration is based upon Islam, its reading of the Koran, and I am proposing to you that just the reading and the understanding and the rendition that Hamas gives to the Koran and the prophetic tradition, does that do justice to God's message, a message of mercy and a message of peace, and how are we going to pull back from the spiral of violence? Is it by adding fire to fire, or is it by returning back, by pausing, reflecting and returning back to message of Islam and to the prophetic tradition.
AUDIENCE Q (M)
Yes, but according to the Palestinians, they even agreed to have a negotiation with Sharon, after all his record, they gave him another chance and that's when he became Prime Minister of Israel. Now, can't we give another chance to the Palestinians and to Hamas?
SALIM MANSUR
Look, the Prophet's uncle, you know and I know in this room, the Prophet's uncle's liver was eaten by a woman who the Prophet confronted and forgave. That is the prophetic tradition, I'm talking about Hamza whose liver was eaten by him, and that's the tradition to which I'm appealing, and that's the tradition which Hamas repudiates.
TIM SEBASTIAN
All right, can I just have a reminder of the motion that is before us tonight, 'This House believes the international community must accept Hamas as a political partner,' that's what we're trying to discuss this evening. Right, any more questions? Gentleman up there in the 5th row.
Audience questionAUDIENCE Q (M)
I'd like to pick up on two points that Mr. Cohen raised, and the parallel between Hamas and the IRA. Mr. Cohen asserted that the West or the US would like to present Hamas as a monolithic or a homogenous entity, so I wanted to ask to what extent is the political wing of Hamas independent of its militant actions, and also how close can we draw the parallel between the political wing of Hamas and the IRA in its movement towards normalisation and towards the mainstream?
STANLEY COHEN
Well, if the question is posed to me. I am not an expert on the demarcation line between military and political wing of Hamas, and I really don't think it matters because the Palestinian people overwhelmingly voted for Hamas. They voted for Hamas as a political wing that provides social services, and they voted in essence for a military wing that has served as the national guard of the occupied territories. What you do raise is a very interesting question and that has to do with, there is a dramatic difference, and it really comes down to racial and religious and cultural superiority. In my country, we were enamoured with the noble struggle with the IRA, which really wasn't about an occupation, but was about a religious battle within Belfast and the North. The battle in Palestine has nothing to do with Muslim and Jew. The battle in Palestine has to do with an occupation, a real occupation. The British weren't slaughtering thousands of Irish. The British weren't locking them up and torturing them as they are here. They weren't exiling them, they weren't assassinating them. That was much more of a struggle for economic self-determination. There is really at the bottom line no parallel to the life-and-death struggle in Palestine, where the Palestinian people have spoken. There is no downside for the international community to say, 'OK, Hamas, we will give you a chance.'
TIM SEBASTIAN
Okay, David Frum, come in.
DAVID FRUM
I think there's a very important concession that everybody should keep in mind. There is this distinction between the civil side of Hamas and the military, it's completely specious. They don't have international accounts, it is one and the same, that if you support one, you are supporting the other, as he said, and we know what that organisation stands for, and that is the destruction of the State of Israel and presumably the deaths of the people living inside it. That is the motion, that is the challenge to the honour of this house. Will you vote for that?
STANLEY COHEN
Hamas has done nothing for 13 months at all, they've agreed to a hudna while Israel has slaughtered Palestinians, 35 of them this past week, 22 of them women and children. Who is the terrorist right now?
DAVID FRUM
Because Hamas's strategy is a strategy for war and because it knows that the voters of the Palestinian Authority do not want war, they have abated their colours, but they are what they are, and you know well, because you know them, you know what they are.
STANLEY COHEN
Far better than you, sir. To you they are an academic interest. You've never met them, you've never been to Palestine, you've never been to the Territories, you've never once had a chance to speak to a Palestinian under occupation.
DAVID FRUM
You know what they stand for and what they intend, and that is the issue for this house, what they intend to do to Israel but will not be able to, but what they genuinely intend for
this whole region.
STANLEY COHEN
And what happens if you're wrong a year from now and there is a, what is the downside to sitting for a year and giving Hamas an opportunity to try to bring some sanity to the killing fields, other than the fact that your theories would be rejected?
DAVID FRUM
They're asking for billions of dollars.
STANLEY COHEN
No, they don't need money from the United States.
SALIM MANSUR
If the international community recognised Hamas, it would also mean recognising Hamas's charter. I would remind this audience that when the international community rejected the white apartheid regime, it rejected the very fundamental values upon which the regime was based upon and built upon.
STANLEY COHEN
Should the international community accept the Arab League definition of 2002?
SALIM MANSUR
The international community would be giving a legitimacy to a movement that does not only represent itself, but it represents a way and a view of thinking about Islam.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Question from the gentleman in the first row there, on this issue please.
Audience questionAUDIENCE Q (M)
Dr. Frum, between 1992 and 1995 the United States and the international community accepted Slobodan Milosevic who was responsible for about 200,000 people killed and slaughtered in the most brutal way, and he was accepted as a legitimate negotiator for the peace process in the Balkans. And more than that, local butchers in Bosnia were also accepted as negotiators like Radko Mladic and Dr. Karadzic. Why can't the international community here also accept Hamas who did much less evil?
TIM SEBASTIAN
David Frum.
DAVID FRUM
I accept your parallel and I think, I hope the leaders of Hamas will meet the same fate as Slobodan Milosevic and be held by the International War Crimes Tribunal and punished for their crimes.
TIM SEBASTIAN
That wasn't the question, was it?
DAVID FRUM
But the question ignores the actual story. The facts of the story are that Slobodan Milosevic was treated as an enemy of humanity and is now ...
TIM SEBASTIAN
And they did sit down and engage with him for a fairly long time, didn't they. They ignored what happened in Bosnia. It was only when Kosovo took place later that measures were taken against him. They signed the Dayton Agreement with him, for heaven's sake.
DAVID FRUM
Backed by constant threats of force, and with no illusions about what he was, and maybe you may not like the speed and pace with which the United States and its friends went to war against Slobodan, but I do not imagine you are saying that the end of the process should be ...
STANLEY COHEN
So I see, as long as we can buy a terrorist, it's OK, but if one is elected into office, it's not okay?
TIM SEBASTIAN
I want to bring the questioner back in, are you happy with the answer?
AUDIENCE Q (M)
I believe that your distinction between terrorism and non-terrorism, non-violence lays basically in the fact that one terrorist group is institutionalised like Serbia was for example and like Israel is, so Israel and Serbia were committing institutionalised crimes, and that is basically the only difference between them and Hamas. So why is it that we can accept institutionalised war crimes which bring much more human costs and we can't accept one group which wants to involve in a political, legitimate movement?
DAVID FRUM
Sorry. I accept your comparison with Slobodan Milosevic to Hamas, obviously the comparison with Israel is completely misplaced.
STANLEY COHEN
Why?
DAVID FRUM
Because it Slobodan Milosevic was engaged, as Hamas with its charter is committed to, Milosevic engaged in genocidal acts, and Hamas is pledged to genocidal acts, and if it ever has the power, will try to achieve them. The Israeli state is engaged, as all states under the United Nations' charter are allowed to do, in self defence.
STANLEY COHEN
The United States has ignored very single resolution of the United Nations since its inception and the United States has vetoed every single one, so don't bring in the international law as a justification.
DAVID FRUM
It has a right to defend itself.
STANLEY COHEN
If there's any terrorist nation in the Middle East, it's been Israel. What do you think, 30,000 Palestinians drove themselves and committed suicide, the Palestinians are destroying their own lands, that the Palestinians were given the problem to be annexed in violation of international law? It's disingenuous. The position you argue for is if we can control people on the ground, they're good, and if we can't, we can't recognise them.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Okay, let him answer that, if you want to come back on this.
DAVID FRUM
I think that point is the point at which you see the ultimate danger of the argument that the proponents of this motion are making, that what they are calling for, in order to uphold this motion, you have to agree with the Hamas view of the Middle East, which is one that calls for the destruction of Israel. That is what you're being asked to support and to vote for today by the proponents of this motion. You're being asked to vote for genocide and you're being asked to vote for a war which will drag you in.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Mahmoud Mohamedou, please.
MAHMOUD MOHAMEDOU
I think with all due respect, I think that is a misrepresentation of the facts of the matter. I think you said earlier that Hamas was looking for legitimation. It is not. Hamas has already gained a strong electoral legitimacy, and either elections mean something or they don't. You cannot choose your enemy and you cannot decide for the people and not respect their decision. This is one. The other aspect of it is that unilateralism did not work with the PA, so there is simply no chance of them going to work with Hamas. Finally, I think that Hamas must be represented as what they are, mainly clean-cut, modern oriented technocrats of the likes that we've seen with the 15 or so women that were fielded in the elections, the people that are doing social services are working and gain legitimacy in the community. There is a military wing which you mentioned, that is the case with any independence movement. You have these movements that are multi-faceted but cohesive which in fact allows for continuity within the movement as opposed to what we've seen with Fatah, which is fundamentally corruption and a puppet regime.
DAVID FRUM
One sentence. I want you the audience to notice from this that what we're hearing is not the language of realism, which is a reluctant acceptance of killers. It is an endorsement of them, that's the motion before the house.
STANLEY COHEN
And who were the killers before 1992? The apologists for Israel have always blamed everyone but themselves. OK, before Hamas ever existed, there was another killer.
DAVID FRUM
It is not acceptance, it is endorsement.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Can we move on to a question from the lady in the fourth row.
AUDIENCE Q (F)
This question is for you, Mr. Frum. Why is Hamas viewed as a terrorist group when all the Palestinian people want is what every human being wants in life: freedom, education, and a voice of their own?
DAVID FRUM
Why is Hamas viewed as a terrorist group? Because it commits terrorist actions and because its charter is pledged to the destruction of another state, something that I think no other organisation of its kind in the world, as bad as many of them are, is committed to. It is an organisation that espouses an ideology that is the same ideology you find in organisations like al Qa'eda and other Islamic extremist groups. I think it is treated like a terrorist organisation because that's what it is, and that is the danger, it is going to drag your Palestinians, the people you're concerned about, into.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Are you happy with that?
Audience questionAUDIENCE Q (F)
So that means they don't have a right to have a home to live in, to have families..
DAVID FRUM
It means Hamas is what Hamas is.
AUDIENCE Q (F)
... you know, to stay alive like everybody else does, that means they're just like ants we can step on?
DAVID FRUM
It doesn't mean anything like that. I mean Hamas what Hamas is.
STANLEY COHEN
Who caused the problem before Hamas existed? Why did Palestinians get slaughtered by the Israelis then, who do we blame for the Diaspora then? Was it another organisation? I mean, Hamas is a convenient ploy to the West now to continue to enforce, as you've written, our strategic priorities in the region. Don't lecture to the people in this region. You're more concerned about Western strategic priorities in this region than anything else.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Salim Mansur, do you want to come back on this?
SALIM MANSUR
Well, look, I mean, if you're going to keep dragging the history of the last 50 years, we can go through it, you know. This isn't about the international community. This is the 25th year of the assassination and the murder of Anwar Sadat. In 1977-79, Jimmy Carter, Anwar Sadat and the whole lot were arguing desperately for the Palestinians to come on board in the negotiation and the situation would have been completely radically different. We have to pause and think about it. We would have settled the issue in 1977-79 and not been dragging on as we are. We could have settled it even before that. The international community was not simply an amorphous group of people. These are Western democracies, these are people, and just as the Palestinian people have voted for Hamas, the Western democracies have their people who have to be persuaded, and they are not persuaded and their government cannot act when the people are not persuaded by the actions, by the charter, by the demonstrations, by the logic of what Hamas represents.
TIM SEBASTIAN
I want to move to a question please to this side of the panel. So anybody who has a question for this side of the panel? You, sir.
AUDIENCE Q (M)
What will Hamas gain from not renouncing violence and from denying the fact of the Israeli government, how will this help in the end of the road? Will it change the facts of what's happening?
STANLEY COHEN
The fact of the matter is, twice this week, and I know the other side will simply say it's political rhetoric and posturing, even if there was peace, they'd still say it's a fake peace for 20 years, now there'll be another war. The fact of the matter is, both Mousa Abu Marzuk and Ismail Haniya said today that, 'Look, we will discuss the issue of the existence, the right of existence of Israel at a point and at a time, but at this particular time we are occupied. We are under occupation, we are a resistance movement. People have asked us to represent them in struggling against a resistance movement.' What Israel wants and what the West wants is guarantees of security before they end the occupation. Hamas has been very clear. The Arab League in 2002 spoke and Hamas has joined on to that position. Roll back to 1967 and it's over, there's a resolution. So to the degree that you ask Hamas to renounce violence, great. I would advise Hamas to renounce violence when Israel renounces violence. The fact of the matter is, the Israelis are the aggressors, the Israelis are the terrorists. Hamas is not going to destroy Israel.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Okay, let the questioner come back on that.
AUDIENCE Q (M)
Do you think that this will help end the occupation of the Israeli people to the Palestinian people?
STANLEY COHEN
I'm less concerned about that they say than what they do.
TIM SEBASTIAN
What do you think, do you think it's going to happen?
AUDIENCE Q (M)
I think in the end Hamas will have to renounce violence and the funding is going to not come back until they do, and no-one will identify Hamas as a political party who the Western people like today unless they do.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Dr. Mohamedou.
MAHMOUD MOHAMEDOU
You ask what we can gain from that. What we would gain from that is security for the people, security for the people which they've been elected for. Here's the situation, once you're engaged in a process such as this, the negotiations imply a vision of mutual benefits and this is precisely what Hamas has to do in the next phase. They will be faced with very difficult decisions, but this is where the political will will be tested. I think that more than any other Palestinian force right now, they bring in a lot to the table and beyond that, as I mentioned earlier, there is a parallel, there is no exception to this situation. I really think that this Palestinian issue, we should sort of de-dramatise it in that sense. The solution is in the hands of those that have been elected to address it, and I think we should again give them a chance to do so.
STANLEY COHEN
Do you think that if Hamas tomorrow woke up and said, 'We recognise the State of Israel and we renounce violence,' that the Israeli incursions into the Occupied Territories would change, the Palestinians would no longer be slaughtered, that their homes would no longer be destroyed? I'm less concerned with the rhetoric of government than what happens on the ground. George Bush was against nation-building. Where are we in Iraq? We are in Iraq all of a sudden for nation-building. Governments historically make broad pronouncements that are rhetoric.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Anybody else from the audience? Do you want to come back one more time?
AUDIENCE Q (M)
I want the Palestinians to make a new start and get help from all over the world and in the end this problem has to be resolved by renouncing violence, because violence will never do any good for Hamas especially, because the Israelis are not going just leave, with violence or without violence, in both ways the Israelis are going to stay.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Okay, thank you very much. There's a lady behind you wants to ask you a question.
Audience questionAUDIENCE Q (F)
This question is for the members of the panel against the motion. Isn't democracy allowing the people to make their own decisions, so if the Palestinians have chosen, why should the international community and especially the West, who keeps talking about democracy, interfere? What is democracy coming to?
TIM SEBASTIAN
Salim Mansour, let me ask you first.
SALIM MANSUR
Well that explains, the Palestinian people chose Hamas, well, the Western governments are also chosen by the people. There's democracy on both sides, and I think we have to open up to the idea and recognition that ultimately there is a dialogue between people. Governments are in a democratic society the representative of the people, and so most Western democracies have to be in tune with their own people, and their own people, I'm coming from Canada, and the Canadians are debating this issue, and the Canadians are not satisfied that subsidising Hamas is in the interest of Canada, and I assume that is what most of the Western democracies are faced with, so ...
TIM SEBASTIAN
You don't look very convinced by that argument.
AUDIENCE Q (F)
No, because he's talking about the Canadians. Maybe you are talking about the Palestinians who are in Canada.
SALIM MANSUR
I'm talking about both, I'm talking about both sides.
AUDIENCE Q (F)
But they are in Canada, they are not in Palestine, they are not living ...
SALIM MANSUR
Precisely, this is the learning process. Now the Palestinians have to learn and will learn through the democratic processes that their decisions have consequences. They have elected Hamas.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Let her come back. She's not very convinced by what you say.
AUDIENCE Q (F)
They have elected but, you know, we are talking as a Western person. They have elected, you're saying the Palestinians don't agree with Hamas. Who told you that? Have you talked to the Palestinians? Are you sure they don't agree with Hamas?
SALIM MANSUR
No, but the Palestinians have elected Hamas, isn't it.
AUDIENCE Q (F)
That means they are okay with Hamas.
SALIM MANSUR
Correct, so we respect the Palestinians' choice, but that doesn't mean that we'll turn around and respect the outcome.
AUDIENCE Q (F)
We can see that, we can see that they're respected. We can see that the Westerns respect the choice of the Palestinians.
TIM SEBASTIAN
David Frum, did you want to come in on this?
DAVID FRUM
Yes. I just wanted to say, I concur exactly with Professor Mansur. Governments represent their people. The American government represents the people of the United States, the governments of Europe represent their people. The partnership that this resolution discusses, which is not a partnership which Hamas has asked for, is about a flow of money in excess of a billion dollars a year from the United States and the European Union. That's what Hamas wants to see continue, that the voters of the Palestinian Authority can elect the government they want, but they cannot vote for the foreign aid policies of the United States and Europe, and the United States and Europe would be wise not to give money into the hands of people who, as Mr. Cohen said, where there is no difference between the so-called civilians and the terrorist wing, and a party that is committed to war in the Middle East and to the annihilation of the State of Israel, that's what you said.
STANLEY COHEN
I agree with you. The West should keep its blood money. Let the West keep its blood money that you gave to Fatah which was stolen and didn't hit the ground. Hamas is not asking for anything from the West right now. It is the West that is trying to impose for its own selfish strategic priorities their rule on Hamas.
DAVID FRUM
You want the money on your own terms.
STANLEY COHEN
Keep the money. Somehow I suspect the Palestinian people who have survived everything since 1948 will do fine without your money. Somehow I suspect the Palestinians will survive.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Are they going to go for Iran's money, are they going to go for Syrian money?
STANLEY COHEN
Maybe they'll do a fundraiser on television like Jerry Lewis does a telethon. Maybe every Palestinian in the world will throw in $2. They don't need your money.
TIM SEBASTIAN
David Frum, isn't the risk if you cut off the money that they'll to look to Iran, you don't want that happening, do you?
DAVID FRUM
They already receive money from Iran, and they already receive money in fact from sponsors of terror throughout the region. That's exactly one of the reasons why it is such a dangerous organisation, it is already ...
STANLEY COHEN
It's connected to al Qa'eda and al Qa'eda's connected to Indonesia, and Indonesia's connected, you know, the whole world is not connected just because they're Muslim. I dare to say that there were many Muslims in Palestine who are Christian who voted for Hamas, many of them, many secular ...
TIM SEBASTIAN
Okay, can we let him come back on this, please?
DAVID FRUM
Since Hamas gangs have already begun to collect the special tax on 'dimi', I very much doubt that there are Christians in the Palestinian territories who voted for them, but who knows, it was a secret ballot and so anything is possible.
STANLEY COHEN
We know that in Iraq anything is possible with elections.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Please let him finish.
DAVID FRUM
But, but understand that this relationship of partnership, Hamas is not asking for partnership, they're asking for war.
STANLEY COHEN
You don't know what they're asking for.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Please could you let him finish, please?
DAVID FRUM
Take their charter seriously, take their own, give them at least this respect of taking their own words seriously, and I think there is a gap here between the two people on the opposing side, because I think one does know, I think Mr. Cohen really does know, they're not kidding, they are serious. Now, his partner is not so sure. He's hoping they'll change, that they don't mean it, but give him the credit of believing they do and what they mean is war, war and danger for you, and that is what you're being asked to vote for.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Okay, Dr. Mohamedou, do you want to come in?
MAHMOUD MOHAMEDOU
Thank you very much, Mr. Frum, for trying to divide the other side. Obviously I know what I'm talking about and I think as you were talking, I was thinking, 'This is not necessarily a matter of money, it's a matter of principle.' The question by the young lady spoke to the mainstay of this which is a matter of legitimacy and a matter of elections. Now, when you speak about Hamas, it is you I believe who has an imagined a picture of these people. These people have been demonstrated, have done social work, have credentials that are untainted in relation to their local and immediate legitimacy. Then when you speak of them not necessarily as keen for partnership internationally, that is precisely the opposite of what happened. A good ten days ago, they did come out and invite the international community to engage with that election and respect its result, and this is precisely what the international community should be doing. It is not a matter of hoping that they would change. It's a matter of seeing the evolution within the Palestinian conflict, having gone from a conflict characterised by violence, we are now entering, we have a chance of entering a true peace on this problem, as I said. When Ariel Sharon was elected Prime Minister of Israel, nobody asked the Israelis to change their minds, a man whose past was tainted with accusations of being a war criminal. People engaged with that, and indeed what we saw is the ability to deliver on the disengagement from Gaza. This is the real world that we're talking about right now, this is the real people from Hamas whose views must be respected, whose legitimacy has been established, and with whom the international community should engage.
SALIM MANSUR
We do respect Hamas's view, we respect Hamas's view. That's why we're asking the audience to respect Hamas's view. To respect Hamas's view is to take Hamas's word, Hamas's charter, Hamas's behaviour, Hamas's history seriously and not to have it misrepresented by its advocates and its lawyers, to see what the Hamas stand for, what its charter speaks to, and they're asking you, and we're asking the international community and I'm speaking to you, as a Muslim to Muslim, that by engaging and supporting Hamas, you are then, by your work, by your resources, by your finances, indicating that this is the Islam that represents you, that you believe in this Islam, the Islam which is the message of God, of mercy and peace and justice and made it into an Islam of violence.
TIM SEBASTIAN
All right, this is okay. Let me just remind you of the motion, 'This House believes the international community must accept Hamas as a political partner.' Gentleman at the back.

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Audience questions part 2

Audience questionAUDIENCE Q (M)
This is to Mr. Cohen. I just want a clarification on your view on an issue. After all the decades of war between the Israelis and the Palestinians, there have been certain peace treaties, and there could have been peace sometime soon maybe. Do you agree with rejecting all the efforts that have been made and going back to point zero of just random violence?
STANLEY COHEN
No, no, I don't agree in rejecting from point zero. A treaty made with the United States or with Israel and Israel where they select those people representing the Palestinians and bring them along is not a treaty. I think the evolution of certain processes has been underway for a while. You don't reject it, you don't throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater, and Hamas has said, 'There are certain agreements that we will look at and if they serve our interest and if they serve our people, and if they were based upon justice and equality and mutual respect, they will be accepted,' as any government would, and they would otherwise reject those that are not. The reason why the so-called peace efforts have failed is because both the Oslo Accord and certainly Mr. Bush and his road map to peace were attempts by the West to impose on Palestinians their view of a solution excluding the issue of 6 million Palestinians living in the Diaspora, excluding the issue of Jerusalem, and so it created a backlash on the ground, and the hand-picked leadership on the PA at that time could not deliver.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Okay, let's ask the questioner to come back on that. Are you happy with it?
AUDIENCE Q (M)
These treaties were signed between two authorities. They were official treaties and you can't just, once you come to power, say, 'I've changed my mind, I don't want peace any more.' That's not acceptable.
STANLEY COHEN
It happens all the time. When George Bush became President, he took a look at certain agreements that Bill Clinton had entered into and said, 'Are you nuts?' He ripped them up and threw them out. That's what's called democracy. It's called new government coming in.
DAVID FRUM
That's simply back to the wrong …
STANLEY COHEN
It's not.
DAVID FRUM
The agreements you're referring to I believe were those of the international criminal court and the Kyoto court. Neither was ratified by the Senate, neither was a treaty.
TIM SEBASTIAN
All right, lady in the third row, let's go to you.
AUDIENCE Q (F)
The world accepted PLO as an organisation and negotiated with them for a long time, so how come they won't accept Hamas as a group, although a terrorist group in the UN, the US, while PLO also was a terrorist group. How come this was fine before and not any more?
TIM SEBASTIAN
David Frum.
DAVID FRUM
The PLO had to meet certain conditions in order for the United States and the international community to deal with it. Hamas now must meet those same conditions if they can.
STANLEY COHEN
You mean they have to be bought and paid for like the PLO eventually was?
DAVID FRUM
They have to give up their charter of war and genocide.
TIM SEBASTIAN
All right. Gentleman in the third row.
AUDIENCE Q (M)
Well, my question is that the international community is saying that we don't need Hamas, we don't want Hamas now. What is the sudden interest now to the Palestinians in the region? The problem is what we've seen in the past is that the international community didn't have any interest in the Palestinians, and now since Hamas is, you know, they're in power now, now the international community is saying, 'Well, why don't we stop Hamas from being in power?'
TIM SEBASTIAN
So what's your question?
AUDIENCE Q (M)
My question is, what has happened, I mean, we we re with Fatah from the beginning and then the international community was OK with it. Now with Hamas they're saying, 'We're not OK.' In the past we haven't seen any difference. I mean, there is still fighting and there are a lot of things going on in Palestinian that haven't been resolved.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Okay. Dr. Salim Mansur.
SALIM MANSUR
Let's be specific. What is this international community? This international community is the European Union, Russia, United States and the United Nations, and this international community has standards, has norms, has conditions, and those conditions have been on the table, and Hamas can respond very simply by accepting all those conditions, and then it would become engaged with the international community. Until and unless those conditions are met, Hamas remains outside, and should remain outside because not meeting those conditions, unlike Mr. Cohen, the advocate of the Hamas, unlike meeting the condition, Hamas is being very consistent, Hamas is being very genuine, Hamas is sticking to its charter, and that charter runs counter to the international law, international norm and international standards.
TIM SEBASTIAN
All right. Dr. Mohamedou, you want to come in on this.
MAHMOUD MOHAMEDOU
Again, you're reversing the order of priority. The priority is the local one, it's the electoral legitimacy and the people that were elected. When you speak of Hamas, none of the conditions that you mention have yet been violated by Hamas since their election. You speak of the past of Hamas, yes, as a liberation movement they had to adopt all of these positions as others might have adopted other more moderate positions. This is, there's a panoply of actions representing a people. Today, since this election, Hamas has been elected. Since the election, they have invited the international community to engage with them and everything they have done over the past month or so, none of it has been in violation of those very principles of international law that you are indicating. As a matter of fact, it is the evolution of the international community which is now endangering the process of having real possibilities of engagement between the Israelis and the Palestinians. A month ago, a poll within the Israeli population indicated that the majority of that population was in favour of engagement with the Palestinians, with Hamas that is.
SALIM MANSUR
Well, Hamas wants to do the classic, have its cake and eat it too. It is a local condition, it can carry on being its local condition and the Palestinian people have voted for it and supported it, but if Hamas wants to be subsidised by the international community, then Hamas has to meet the conditions of the international community.
STANLEY COHEN
Why are you afraid to see how events turn out in the next year? What do we have to lose?
TIM SEBASTIAN
Okay, can you just ask answer that simple question? The question, why are you afraid to see what events unfold in the next year?
DAVID FRUM
We are going to see how events unfold. We're just not going to see it at the expense of the American and Western European taxpayer.
STANLEY COHEN
Keep your money!
DAVID FRUM
And the events will unfold as they will, but people in this hall need to understand that the unfolding of those events is very likely to pose a threat to them.
STANLEY COHEN
People don't need Westerners to dictate to them what will happen to them if a) or b) occurs.
DAVID FRUM
We're not dictating, we're debating.
STANLEY COHEN
Absolutely you're threatening.
DAVID FRUM
We're pointing to the likely consequences of certain actions to ward off future evils which is what politics is all about.
TIM SEBASTIAN
All right, let's move to another question. Let's move to the gentleman in the front row here.
AUDIENCE Q (M)
This question is directed to Dr. Frum. You've christened North Korea, Iran and Iraq with the name 'the axis of evil' on the basis that we all possess weapons of mass destruction and the world has witnessed that this is a fabricated falsification. In addition, you just talked of Hamas as a terrorist group. As well as that, the world has witnessed the embarrassment of the prison tortures that happened in the prisons in Iraq and Guantanamo. How legitimate is your view and the Western view with respect to Hamas being a credible political party?
DAVID FRUM
I'm not sure I really do understand the question. The question for the house is, should the Western countries governed by their democratic norms, accept this terrorist organisation as a partner, and you may believe what you like about Western governments, and you may reject their democratic norms and their democratic values. I hope you won't but you may, but it is by those norms that they judge, and it is by those norms that they judge this terrorist organisation with its cognate ideologies all through the region, not just in the Palestinian Authority, also active in Iraq, also active in the Gulf, also active against the security and interests of the people in this room.
TIM SEBASTIAN
I think the question was more that America has got it wrong on so many fronts. Does it have the credibility now in the region to judge Hamas as a terrorist organisation?
DAVID FRUM
But you don't need to listen to the United States government, you need to listen to the words of Hamas. It is out of their mouth that they are condemned, not out of ours.
STANLEY COHEN
In the last 13 months, if you listen to the words and the deeds of Hamas, I know, they're just lulling us all in so that they can then drive Israel to the ocean and sink them. For 13 months there's been a hudna. Palestine has been relatively calm from the Palestinian standpoint, while Israel continues to murder Palestinians every day. Hamas has said, 'End the occupation,' but no, we have to come up with a million reasons to turn this into a battle between Muslim and Jew.
DAVID FRUM
Hamas' definition of the occupation is any existence of the State of Israel, that's their stated goal.
STANLEY COHEN
Tomorrow if Hamas said kumbaye with the existence of the State of Israel, you'd have a new reason to resist Hamas, because they don't fit into your personal geopolitical view of the world.
SALIM MANSUR
And I have every reason to oppose Hamas because the basis on which Hamas makes its claim and pushes its argument runs completely contrary to the values which I profess as a Muslim, and they take my tradition, and that's what I'm appealing to this audience to understand, that it is your tradition, your history, your prophet, your Koran, that is becoming the basis of a genocidal conflict, and you have to think hard, and you have to retrench, you have to pause. You can be engaged in a denial, but that denial will only increase the chasm.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Mahmoud Mohamedou wants to come in here.
MAHMOUD MOHAMEDOU
No, I beg to differ with that. You've raised several times this issue of religion. This is not about religion. This is about occupation. It really comes down to who is occupying whose land and whose group is now able to address that. The religiosity of Hamas is only its characteristics. It is not its political programme in relation to settling the issue with Israel. That is something that needs to be understood once and for all. Palestinians as was indicated, of all hues, including Christians, might well have voted for Hamas.
SALIM MANSUR
Then what Hamas speaks and what Hamas's charter represents has no consequence, no meaning, it's not worth a dime. It is what you said what Hamas stands for.
MAHMOUD MOHAMEDOU
Just a second. I think you really have to divorce yourself from this notion that any political group that speaks the language of religion is necessarily extremist. This is a notion that has been bandied about around the world these days. It is just not accurate. These are technocrats that have a programme …
SALIM MANSUR
20th century history has been a lesson, and if you don't take into account what people say, then there are deep consequences.
TIM SEBASTIAN
I'm not sure that we can go very much further on this particular issue. There's a lady in the third row who's had her hand up for a very long time. Can we have your question please?
AUDIENCE Q (F)
We've clarified that we want democracy in the Middle East, and Palestine voted for Hamas. Denying Hamas as a political power due to past actions, isn't that punishing Palestinians for doing what they're supposed to, and wouldn't it cause the Palestinians to lose trust, let alone faith within the international community, thenceforth causing them to be even more violent?
TIM SEBASTIAN
David Frum.
DAVID FRUM
I just think that this idea that you should make policy without regard to what you know about the world is very unwise.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Should you make policy without regard to what people's views are?
DAVID FRUM
If the United States and the other democracies are going to make policy based on, yes, exactly, on people's views …
TIM SEBASTIAN
But they're paying the price in this region.
DAVID FRUM
… on the views, yes, but you know what, you know what, this region is paying the price, it's paying a much more severe price. It is this region that is threatened with violence, and it is this region that is disgraced in the eyes of the world if it supports organisations like Hamas. Let me say just finally on your question, you know, when you talk about 'what the Palestinians are supposed to do,' there have been opportunities and opportunities and opportunities for a peaceful resolution, dating back to 1948. It is the unwillingness to accept peace, a peace that includes the existence of the State of Israel, it is the deep unwillingness to do that that is the source of conflict through which Israel has become stronger and stronger and richer and richer, and the rest of the Middle East has sunk more and more deeply into chaos and war and violence, and the price of Hamas is paid in Algeria, it's being paid in Iraq, it's going to be paid in Saudi Arabia, it's going to be paid in Egypt. That is where the price is being paid. It is like one of these terrible Greek tragedies where if you support violence, it is on your own head.
Audience questionTIM SEBASTIAN
Okay, let's move to a questioner in the third row, lady there.
AUDIENCE Q (F)
My question is for those that are against the motion. Don't you believe that Hamas should be given a chance to prove their legitimacy as a political party?
TIM SEBASTIAN
Professor Mansur.
SALIM MANSUR
No, I don't think so. I think Hamas has to meet the condition and then it will be given a chance. Without having met those conditions, Hamas should not be given a chance, because it is asking now to engage in the international community.
AUDIENCE Q (F)
Yes, but why? Why don't you think that Hamas should be given a chance?
SALIM MANSUR
Look, because the international community decided in 1947 at that time to partition Palestine, if you want to begin from 1947, you can keep going back.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Let's keep to the present day, shall we? Why shouldn't they be given a chance now in the present day?
SALIM MANSUR
Because they haven't met the condition. Once they declare they have met the conditions, they will become partners.
STANLEY COHEN
I see, once they surrender, then they'll be given a chance to sit down as an equal bargaining power with the occupier. That makes a lot of sense. You surrender, you become what we want you to become and then we will recognise you?
SALIM MANSUR
UN Resolution 242 speaks about, this is the problem, you have to sit back and think hard. UN Resolution 242 speaks about trading, territory, with peace and recognition. UN Resolution 242 and 338 is in the heart of the settlement of this Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Hamas has to step up and recognise 242, 338, and all the subsequent agreements that surround them.
STANLEY COHEN
How about Israel recognising 147 resolutions that they've thumbed their nose at? How about Israel giving back …
TIM SEBASTIAN
All right, Stanley Cohen, thank you very much. Let's go to a question from the gentleman in black. Could you make it a question to this side of the panel please, to this side.
AUDIENCE Q (M)
My question is to Mr. Cohen. Do you think that now Hamas is in power, would be able to convince other organisations to end their terrorist attacks on Israel?
STANLEY COHEN
I know that there are some people on this panel that'll think it's a subterfusion again, but all reports on the ground indicate over the last three weeks Hamas has been trying to stop the firing of Qassam rockets into what is described as Israel. I know that over the last three weeks Hamas has despatched lots of political activists and members throughout the territories and engaged people to try to bring them into the process. I believe that Hamas like every liberation movement in the world, now that they have finally achieved their say will hopefully on behalf of their people, will evolve into a movement which will help to facilitate the peace. The problem is, the West wants them to fail. The problem is, the West is invested in essentially a status quo. The problem is, a year from now, if things were going well, the gentlemen on the other end of the table would have nothing to gripe about in their grand conspiracy about Muslim terrorists worldwide.
DAVID FRUM
Things will not go well, things will not go well, and as I listen to this resolution, as I listen to the atmosphere of this house, I can see the terrible fatality of it all coming. These choices that are being made now by the people in this room, these are choices that come home. What you are voting for or against is not the future of the State of Israel, it is your future.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Dr. Mohamedou.
MAHMOUD MOHAMEDOU
I make an exact opposite prediction that you make. I think that things will go well. Hamas will demonstrate to the surprise of many in the West that it's able to address this. They will sit and be constructive, and another incentive of the ability to deliver is that they spring from this new Palestinian society, they are not some elite, imported leadership that is corrupt and that is essentially undermining a process. They have done all the work at the level of the social services. These are the men and women from the society, of the values of this society, and it's in their benefit that things will go well.
Audience questionTIM SEBASTIAN
Okay, gentleman right at the back, in the black pullover.
AUDIENCE Q (M)
My question is to Mr. Cohen. Was democracy rushed upon the Palestinians and has Hamas won as a result of social and political structure which is a result of occupation?
STANLEY COHEN
Well, there's an old saying in the West, 'Be careful for what you ask for, you just might get,' you know, the entire international community has been shoving this notion of democracy down a part of the world that's 5000 years old and has its own traditions and its own values and its own systems of living together, so we said, 'Look, you need to embrace democracy.' Palestinians did embrace it. If you're asking me is the result, well, if you're suggesting to me that the results may be bad because Palestinians weren't smart enough or sophisticated enough to know what they wanted, that's what the West has said for 50 years. The West has always said, 'Palestinians, they really don't know what they want so we're going to break bread. Well, George Bush has a road map for peace, that'll show the Palestinians how to get home.'
TIM SEBASTIAN
Salim Mansur, are you going to come in?
SALIM MANSUR
Look, we know, we understand the emotions of the moment, but we're asking you to consider in the larger and broader context the decisions that are made. Look, it was a handful of men that put Turkey and the Ottoman Empire on the wrong side of alliance and agreement and treaty, and look, you and my generation, 90 years later we're still paying the price and the consequences of that. Look, the decision of 1947 was repudiated and not accepted, and now more than 55 later we're paying the price for it, and we will continue to pay the price if we do not make wise decision. We cannot exclude ourselves. We are in an inter-dependent world, and when you ask the big national community must recognise Hamas, when Hamas doesn't take its responsibility to purge itself of the malignancy that can precipitate what we are seeing around in this region, what members of parties that share Hamas's view want precisely to happen, we are on a very slippery slope, and we have to ask ourselves, 'Listen, do we want this to happen?'
TIM SEBASTIAN
There's a questioner in the second row, a lady in the second row.
AUDIENCE Q (F)
Dr. Frum, you would know quite a lot about violence coming home to roost seeing as you did work for the Bush administration. We have seen a lot of the violence that has come home to roost in the United States, and I'm making a parallel statement to what Dr. Mansur said before, speaking to you as one American to another. We're coming up on the third anniversary of the Iraq War. We have done terrible, terrible violence to that nation. Whatever goals we …
TIM SEBASTIAN
Can we come to a question please, relevant to the motion?
AUDIENCE Q (F)
I was wondering if you could please address the incredible hypocrisy of the United States as a leader in the international community attempting to guide or judge Hamas and its use of violence for its goals.
DAVID FRUM
I think one of the really terrible prices that is paid by the attempt to defend groups like Hamas is the complete turning upside-down of all sense and all morality. The United States liberated Iraq from a terrible dictatorship. The consequences for the people of Iraq have been painful and bloody and violent because people imbued with exactly the same ideas as the people of Hamas have chosen to wage war on their fellow Iraqis through exactly the same techniques that Hamas pioneered. Where did they learn these methods of the suicide bombers that now attack other Muslims, sometimes Shi'ite, sometimes Sunni? This is exactly what I mean, and however you feel about the United States, this is not about the United States, it really is about this region, I mean, I think the United States is a force for justice in the world, you don't have to share that view. I think it's a force for freedom and stability, you don't have to share that view, but what I can tell you is this, that the people who began setting off suicide bombs in Israel in 1994 are the people who inspired that attack on the mosque of Samara, and the price in blood is being paid by Iraqis.
TIM SEBASTIAN
All right, the gentleman right at the back, you sir.
AUDIENCE Q (M)
As we know, the Palestinian conflict, there are pro-Palestinian and the pro-Israeli. Until the Palestinian and the Israeli accept to sit down and talk, the world will not have any say into it. It will have no power, and always the Israeli, they are refusing. Now, once the Palestinians have elected their own people who, they've met the conditions Mr. Mansur talking about, they applied the first divine law on earth which is eye for eye, tooth for tooth, and they inflicted on the aggressor some pain for them to sit down and accept them as a party. To be a partner, it means you have to have some equality with the people you are sitting with.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Okay, the question please.
AUDIENCE Q (M)
The question I think is not the international to accept Hamas as a partner. The Israeli, they must accept it and the election coming now in Israel, the people, they must make up their mind, and this is a golden opportunity maybe to have some peace in the region.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Before we come to the question, Stanley Cohen, I don't notice Hamas queuing up to talk to Israel, are they?
STANLEY COHEN
I suspect, and I certainly can't speak for Hamas, but I suspect …
TIM SEBASTIAN
Well, you talk to them regularly.
STANLEY COHEN
I suspect that as we speak …
TIM SEBASTIAN
Why don't you know?
STANLEY COHEN
I suspect that as we speak right now, there are Israelis speaking to Hamas mayors, regional leaders, bureaucrats, technocrats and somehow I suspect behind the scenes, while we're going though all these machinations saying these brothers are not going to be able to resolve this, that these brothers and sisters already have put into place a process …
TIM SEBASTIAN
But you don't know that. Their printed position is they're not talking to Israel.
STANLEY COHEN
The printed position of Hamas is, as long as the occupation remains in place, we will not, we will not end the resistance. That is the position.
TIM SEBASTIAN
And they will not talk to Israel.
STANLEY COHEN
The position taken today by Ismail Haniya is very clear. His position is, of course there are going to be discussions on the ground in a variety of ways.
TIM SEBASTIAN
What about water, about crossing-points and other substantive issues.
STANLEY COHEN
All the things that mean life and death for Palestinians.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Not on substantive issues.
STANLEY COHEN
That's the most substantive issue there is, is did you eat, do you drink water, can you go, can you educate your children, can you go to a hospital? We're all concerned about this notion, 'Gee, will they recognise Israel?' when Hamas quite frankly is more concerned about helping people living on $2 a day, so you can keep your money and Hamas I suspect over the next year will …
TIM SEBASTIAN
So you're saying they are ready to talk?
STANLEY COHEN
I can't say they are ready. The reality of it is …
TIM SEBASTIAN
Well, you're making a great play about it.
STANLEY COHEN
The reality of it is, for months now, since the last election, there have been representatives of Hamas throughout the occupied territories talking to their counterparts in Israel. What is important here is to stop and allow the process of engagement to begin.
TIM SEBASTIAN
So, David Frum, he's saying that the talks are actually taking place.
DAVID FRUM
Look, there is not a dispute in the world, not India and Pakistan over Kashmir, not between the IRA and the United Kingdom, where the existence of one the parties is something to be negotiated. Talks, you cannot even begin to talk to somebody whose starting point is, 'I don't think you should be alive.'
STANLEY COHEN
We did it with the PLO.
DAVID FRUM
The Israelis did not begin to talk with them.
STANLEY COHEN
They spoke to them quietly for 15 years, they just didn't do it publicly.
DAVID FRUM
That is what accepting as a partner means.
STANLEY COHEN
Oh, it's okay to recognise that they will destroy you quietly, then the Israelis …
TIM SEBASTIAN
Let him finish, please.
DAVID FRUM
That is what was unique about the PLO until whatever moment it was that they made their peace with Israel, and it is what is now unique about Hamas, it wants to have an engagement with someone and its stated position is that it wishes to kill, and that is serious. It is Hamas that has inflicted this poison of suicide bombing and terrorism upon this region, and it is not just Israel that is the victim.
TIM SEBASTIAN
All right. We will take one more question.
AUDIENCE Q (M)
I'm addressing myself to the right side of the table (against the motion). What would have happened to the peace process if Sadat were to have blamed Begin's terrorist record on him? Would they have advanced, or was it not the credibility of Begin that enabled him to sign peace with Sadat?
SALIM MANSUR
Well, if we take Sadat at his word, Sadat made a psychological leap. Sadat cut through the Gordian knot, Sadat went and accepted Israel and sat down to speak, that is the government of Israel of the day, Begin. It is that gesture, that psychological leap, that cutting of the Gordian knot that is required with Hamas. Will Hamas be capable of doing it? Will Hamas recognise its opponent? Will Hamas then meet those conditions which are now part of the international agreement?
AUDIENCE Q (M)
How do you know that they will not?
DAVID FRUM
Menachem Begin didn't hold it against Anwar Sadat that Anwar Sadat had been a supporter of Nazi Germany, because in both cases the events we're referring to had happened a very long time ago and there has been considerable evolution since then. With Hamas we're being asked to forget not events of 30 and 40 years ago. We're being asked to forget the words in their mouth until the day before yesterday, and the actions that are impending at any moment …
AUDIENCE Q (M)
Come on, what were we asked to forget with Begin?
DAVID FRUM
We were asked to forget that he'd been involved with the Irgun 30 years before.
AUDIENCE Q (M)
What were we asked to forget with other leaders of Israel?
DAVID FRUM
In Menachim Begin's case, we were asked to forget that 30 years before, he had been involved with an extremist group, and that Anwar Sadat had been a supporter of the Nazis, and both sides made a peace that has lasted. Now, in the case of Hamas, it is, you know, one of the things that is really disturbing, and as I say, disturbing for you, is you do not want to see the Hamas that is. You're dealing with a theoretical Hamas that in this theory is completely different from its own words and its own actions, and what Sadat did and what Begin did was they dealt with realities and that is not what this room is doing when it hypothesises this imaginary Hamas that is different from the real Hamas.
MAHMOUD MOHAMEDOU
I think this demonisation of Hamas is very dangerous and quite counter-productive. You speak of events and you speak of facts as if people are not aware of the position that's been taken by Hamas …
DAVID FRUM
It's in the actions.
MAHMOUD MOHAMEDOU
… if I may, the group that has actually led a campaign, which was followed publicly, internationally. There has been indeed a ceasefire for the good part of a year, unilaterally respected. All of these demonstrate a pattern, an engagement as well as the historical factor which was indicated too, in which all of these groups enter the political game with a desire for closure, as I mentioned. They really want to bring this to an end and this is where the international community, you said earlier that this is not about the United States. I agree with you. This is not about the United States.

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Vote result

TIM SEBASTIAN
Okay, well, we unfortunately must bring this to an end. We've come to the point in the proceedings where we're going to vote on the motion, the motion that, 'This House believes the international community must accept Hamas as a political partner.' Would you please take the voting devices. If you want to vote for the motion, please press button 1, the yellow button. If you want to vote against it, please press the button 2, the red button, and would you just press them once according to your vote, and you don't need to go on doing it because through the wonders of modern science, your vote will be automatically transmitted to the computers and should be on our screens in a few seconds. Now we should have the votes coming up on the screen. 88.2% in favour of the motion, 11.8% against. The motion has been resoundingly passed. And it just remains for me to thank our distinguished panel. Some of them have come a long way to be on the debate tonight. Thank you very much also to our audience for coming. We'll be back next month with more from the Doha Debates. Until then from all of us on the team, thank you very much for coming, goodnight, thank you.

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