Monday, January 30, 2006

Run! It's red beard!

I didn't see much reference to this at the time -- it was published before the PA elections and before Hamas became the 'hot' story of the moment -- but it's worth revisiting. Apparently, before the election, Hamas spent $180,000 on a PR consultant to help them improve their international image (y'know, how to get people to ignore the guns and the killing and the blood and all that without actually giving up any of the violence). As it happens, most of his advice wasn't bad -- basically to start repeating the kind of lies which Hanan Ashrawi etc. repeated ad nauseum, very successfully:
He says Hamas has not helped itself by celebrating suicide bombings; he advises against celebration. And he has told Hamas leaders not to talk about destroying Israel.
"Abdel Aziz Rantisi [the former Hamas leader killed by Israel two years ago] was on television saying things that foreigners cannot accept, like we will remove Israel from the map. He should have talked about Palestinian suffering. He should have said we need this occupation ended. Foreigners will accept this," he said.
Mr Aqtash has also advised Hamas leaders to emphasise that they are not anti-semitic or against Israelis because they are Jews. Hamas has taken the message on board. In an interview earlier this week, Muhammad Abu Tir, who is second on the Hamas election list, twice (and unprompted) offered an assurance that he is not a Jew hater.
"Loving others is part of our religion. We are not against Jews as Jews, we are against oppression," he said.
Many Europeans, as we've seen in the aftermath of the election, already believe this or choose to believe this, no matter what Hamas actually does or what it actually says (most of the Hamas leaders have emphatically not stuck to their 'new' message, which hasn't stopped Europeans talking about Hamas's 'political wing,' bending over backwards to find a way to continue supplying them with funds despite all the lip service, etc.). As for the rest, these messages are exactly what a majority of Westerners want to hear. If Hamas leaders ever do master them, Israel will be in real trouble.
The full absurdity of a terrorist group trying to 'improve its image', however, is brought home by this short list of pointers, which the Guardian helpfully provided, based on the PR consultant's advice:
The advice Nashat Aqtash gave to Hamas:

· Say you are not against Israelis as Jews

· Don't talk about destroying Israel

· Do talk about Palestinian suffering

· Don't celebrate killing people

· Change beard colour (if red)

Yup, especially that last one. Those red beards were always what terrified me most about Hamas!

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