EDITORIAL: Talking to Hamas

Talking to Hamas

A report in The Guardian currently receiving wide attention in the blogosphere says:

The incoming Obama administration is prepared to abandon George Bush’s ­doctrine of isolating Hamas by establishing a channel to the Islamist organisation, sources close to the transition team say.

Firstly, in the interests of full disclosure I should mention that as well as running this site, I am involved in Conflicts Forum, an organization that seeks to promote an engagement between Western governments and major movements in political Islam such as Hamas.

Secondly, in The Guardian‘s headline “exclusive” I would pay particular attention to one word in the opening sentence: “close.” Washington is full of people who can reasonably claim to be “close” to the transition team.

Thirdly, there have been conflicting reports on who Obama will pick as his Middle East envoy. CBS’s Marc Ambinder said he had word that Richard Haass would get the position. Ambinder later said, “Perhaps I was premature about Haass. But maybe not… stay tuned.” Other reports say that Dennis Ross will get rolled out as a prize piece of Clinton memorabilia and serve as Obama’s “dead-hand on the wheel” (Augustus Norton‘s choice phrase).

Fourthly, the likelihood of The Guardian‘s prediction turning out to be true may well hinge on who gets this key appointment.

Fifth, the fact that The Guardian ran with its weakly-sourced report could well have the effect of turning this into a self-unfulfilling prophesy.

Journalists who like to imagine that a reporter can somehow insulate himself or herself from the risk that they affect the thing they are reporting about, are deluding themselves. In this day and age, media coverage is inextricably bound together with the events being reported.

The editors of The Guardian might pause to consider whether a thinly-sourced “exclusive” that might promise a one-day spike in web site traffic was really worth running if it actually ended up serving to obstruct a delicate political process that is more likely to happen, the less we currently read about it.

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