Scoop Election 08: edited by Gordon Campbell

On David Garrett’s sterilisation plan, and the divisions within Hamas

March 4th, 2010

David Garrett’s bizarre suggestion that people who abuse children should be given a $5,000 incentive to get themselves sterilized is so crass that one hardly knows where to begin. Yes, some people probably shouldn’t be parents. Some people shouldn’t have license to do a lot of things in society, but some alternatives are even worse. I have pretty strong feelings about Mr Garrett’s fitness to be an MP. But that’s just my personal opinion and does not reflect any official editorial position taken by Scoop.

Garrett has been a lost cause ever since he darkened Parliament’s doorway. Yet Rodney Hide’s position – which so far has been to say that David Garrett is entitled to his opinion but that it is not Act policy – does not nearly go far enough. It is possible for voluntary sterilisation with a cash incentive to be Garrett’s position, not be Act Policy – and yet also be something that Hide has an opinion about, both personally, and as Act leader. There is nothing to prevent Hide from expressing his personal abhorrence at what his colleague is suggesting – in fact, it looks like pure political expedience for him to refrain from doing so. If Garrett came out in support of capital punishment too, maybe with a cash incentive for prison inmates – money to the family, savings for the state – Hide would refrain from commenting on that as well?

Garrett after all, was on RNZ this morning with his crazy personal opinion purely because he is an ACT MP. The party is giving him a platform, officially or otherwise. Garrett’s declared purpose after all, was to generate a public debate on his idea. The only thing that enables him to do so is the Act Party – otherwise, he’d just be some crackpot at the back of the bar, bellowing into his pint of lager that the bastards ought to be sterilized. Hide is hardly a shrinking violet when it comes to speaking out on most issues. Does he agree with David Garrett or does he think he’s talking dangerous nonsense? Over to you. Rodney.


Hamas Divided

Understandably most of the media coverage of the assassination of Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Mahboubh in Dubai has focused on the use of foreign passports by the Israeli hit team involved. The more significant aspect of the affair is the rift within Hamas exposed by this killing, and the question of whether it had been made possible by a Hamas insider tipping off the Israelis as to al-Marbouh’s movements.

Right now, the leadership of Hamas appears to be deeply divided. It seems torn between a more moderate political wing led by Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and Hamas MPs from Gaza and the West Bank, and the exiled radical political leadership in Damascus, headed by Khaled Meshal – who is becoming increasingly close to Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The split is not simply geographical in that much of the Hamas military leadership in Gaza also support Meshal’s hardline.

Recently, the rift has been evident over the level of concessions by the Israelis that the Palestinians would find acceptable enough to release the captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. This week, the conflict within Hamas over the content of these trade-offs saw Meshal order the resignation of the main Hamas moderate involved in the negotiations, Mahmoud Zahar. Zahar has not been pleased by his forced exit from proceedings.

The same rift is evident over whether Hamas should accept or reject an Egyptian-drafted plan for reconciliation with the other main Palestinian organization, Fatah. As the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz reported yesterday:

Two days ago Zahar gave an interview to As-Shams Radio, which broadcasts in Arabic from Nazareth. Asked whether he belonged to the ‘Egyptian camp’ or the ‘Iranian camp’, he flew into a rage. “I am not a part of that game – Tehran and Cairo are not enemies,” he said.

But in the new Middle East, Tehran and Cairo are exactly that. A moderate Sunni camp, led by Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan, is at war with an alliance of Iran Syria and Hezbollah.

It might seem unlikely that Israel could have infiltrated the Hamas leadership, or that the tip off about al-Marbouh’s movements could have come from within Hamas. One can probably discount the publicity given this week to claims that the son of Hamas’ co-founder Sheihk Hassan Yousef had long been an Israeli informer.

This son, who became a born-again Christian four years ago and has lived in the United States ever since, is something of a loose cannon. He does not indicate one way or the other whether the Israelis have current informants in the top levels of Hamas. Yet as Ha’aretz has indicated in a separate report, suspicions exist in the wake of the assassination:

Mabhouh’s killing has led to a wave of recriminations between Fatah and Hamas and between Hamas and Israel. According to the Dubai police, a senior Hamas official gave Israel information about Mabhouh’s flight. Some in Hamas have also criticized the fact that Mabhouh was not guarded.

Historically, the killing of al-Marbouh will be seen as just one more step in the polarization rapidly occurring in the Middle East between Iran and its allies on one hand, and the rest of the Western backed leadership of the Middle East on the other. The probability that Israel is in constant communication with the likes of Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia was indicated by this bizarre incident a few weeks ago – it involved, quel horreur a handshake between representatives of Israel and Saudi Arabia, in a public place.


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