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Stephen Northfield, Globe and Mail foreign editor (Kevin Van Paassen)
Stephen Northfield, Globe and Mail foreign editor (Kevin Van Paassen)

Editor's Note

Why Hamas can't be ignored Add to ...

There will be those who disagree with The Globe and Mail's decision to publish an extensive investigative package on Hamas, the militant Palestinian group considered a terrorist organization by many governments - including Canada. There's nothing wrong with that; the series is meant to provoke debate and reflection.

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We have been here before. Four years ago, we tackled another taboo subject in our award-winning Talking to the Taliban series. We got grief then for giving air time to avowed enemies of the West, the very group responsible for the deaths of more than 150 dedicated Canadian soldiers. We argued at the time that understanding the Taliban, their motivations and perspective, were critical to a more informed debate over the vexing challenges of the nation-building exercise in Afghanistan. Knowledge, we argued, is always better than ignorance.

We come to you again with a similar proposition. Hamas is an organization whose views are anathema to most people. They have, in the past, conducted suicide missions inside Israel that killed hundreds of civilians. While they have disavowed suicide attacks in recent years, Hamas-backed militias regularly rain rockets down on targets inside Israel. While many of its members grudgingly accept the possibility of a temporary truce with Israel, its covenant continues to call for Israel's obliteration, despite demands from governments around the world that Hamas renounce violence and accept Israel's right to exist.

Viewers will undoubtedly be disturbed by some of the things they hear in these videos. But Hamas can't be ignored, as events of recent weeks have made clear. Once on the outside, Hamas now finds itself back as a partner in coalition with Fatah, the on-again, off-again partner in peace efforts with the Israelis. Hamas members remain the elected representatives of a large chunk of the Palestinian people, placed there by a fair exercise in democracy.

While Canada and other countries will undoubtedly continue to ostracize the organization until it moderates its extreme views and renounces its violent tactics, the path to any reconciliation between Israelis and the Palestinian people will somehow have to factor in Hamas.

This multimedia series is intended to throw a light on who "Hamas" is - not simply balaclava-wearing militants dedicated to taking the fight to Israel, but the broadest spectrum of the movement, from the spiritual leaders to the nurses, doctors and teachers. These videos open a window into their world - the toxic blend of anger and resentment over their frustrated aspirations for statehood that gets passed down from generation to generation. The series doesn't endorse the extreme views of Hamas, but attempts to bring a greater depth of understanding to a group that will remain a critical player in one of the longest-standing conflicts of the modern age.

 

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