Political Evolution or Artistic Disagreement

Gilad Shalit has been held by Hamas since 2006. Negotiations for his release are currently stalled.

A couple days ago, the military wing of Hamas released a cartoon most likely aimed at pressuring Israel to restart negotiations for the release of Gilad Shalit – the Israeli soldier that has been held by Hamas since 2006.  The video (after the jump) portrays Shalit’s father walking through the streets listening to politicians promise to win the release of his son.  The haunting end shows the older Shalit as a coffin is delivered.

[tweetmeme] The message seemed clear: renew negotiations or Shalit will be killed.  The Majlis deems the video to be aimed at three audiences: 1) the Israeli government (Shalit will not be returned unconditionally); 2) the Israeli public (“The people willing to “pay any price” will see the tape as another reason for Netanyahu to move quickly to cut a deal; the other half of the Israeli public will see the cartoon’s threatening message as proof that Israel shouldn’t negotiate with Hamas”); and 3) to Palestinians (Hamas is not soft).  The third point is perhaps the most important as Hamas has been increasingly viewed as too soft by an increasingly radicalized population – spurring the surge in more radical groups within Gaza.

The Majlis concludes that the video would not be met with any serious repercussions because it was merely a cartoon.  Yet, blowback from the cartoon is coming from an unlikely source: Hamas.  Hamas leader Mahmud al-Zahar condemned the video saying that:

“We have not and will not kill captive Israeli soldiers,” he told reporters Monday during a meeting with a South African parliamentary delegation. “Our morals and our religion prevent us from doing that.”

Zahar added that the video did not “reflect the official position of the Hamas movement.”  If the video was meant to curb the “you’ve gone soft” accusation thrown at Hamas, Zahar’s statement probably reinforced the fears of the radical portions of the movement.

Or perhaps Zahar just has an artistic eye and thought the video was poorly done.

On a related note, I find it interesting that Palestinians repeatedly condemn Hamas for its move away from extremism, yet Israel and the West refuse to acknowledge the evolution of the movement.  If the population of Gaza continues to see no recognition of the moderation of Hamas, it is more likely to see the move away from radicalism as futile.  If the moderating powers of Hamas begin to lose power within Hamas – or in the population in general – we could easily see a reversal of the current moderation and a return to the pre-Second Intifada radicalism that initially defined Hamas.

Photo from Gruven Reuven

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