Editor’s Note: Nation columnist Eric Alterman wrote a letter to the editor in response to our June 21 editorial "Free Gaza." Below is Alterman’s letter, the magazine’s response and the original editorial.
Israel Is Not the Only One at Fault
You know, it’s funny. Israel, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority are all engaged in this blockade (which I strongly oppose). But if you read The Nation‘s editorial on the topic, "Free Gaza," you’d have to assume that they are all doing this because it’s fun, or because they are big meanies or, at best, for no reason at all. There is no notion at all that any sane person in Israel or Egypt or the West Bank would ever have a problem with anything Hamas has ever done or have any reason for concern if it ruled the country on its borders and had the powers to kill whomever it liked by whatever means it liked. You’d never know, either, that it is a regressive, totalitarian, anti-Semitic political movement that is opposed to liberalism in all its forms, and particularly as it relates to women. This editorial, like most Nation editorials on the topic, simply assumes that Israel is 100 percent at fault in this conflict, and that whoever opposes it is 100 percent correct. It is the mirror image of the right-wing Zionist viewpoint it attacks. And as such, it can have no relevance to the views of anyone who takes the complications of the conflict seriously in the hopes of finding a solution that might one day be acceptable to the country that this magazine consistently demonizes.
The Editors Reply
The point of the "Free Gaza" editorial was not to analyze Hamas but to explain why the Israeli military’s violent attack on a humanitarian flotilla in international waters, and the blockade of Gaza that attack was enforcing, are so damaging not only to basic Palestinian rights but to long-term Israeli and US interests.
The Nation has never been a supporter of Hamas; as Alterman must surely know, three years ago in a lead editorial we said, "We cannot accept Hamas’s ideology, and we reject the idea that ‘Islam is the solution’ to political problems (the common formulation of Hamas and other Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated movements). But the United States and Israel must finally acknowledge that Hamas is a popular movement with deep roots in Palestinians society, and for that reason should be engaged rather than ignored." In 2006 Hamas won what were universally acknowledged to be free and fair elections. For the United States and Israel to attempt to sabotage those elections and isolate Hamas—which they have done from the moment the results were announced—just because they didn’t like the outcome is not only the height of hypocrisy but deeply damaging to the prospects for a resolution of the conflict. As we pointed out three years ago, "arbitrary exclusion of a major, democratically elected Palestinian constituency in favor of malleable figures with little popular support is doomed to fail."