The history is there. The people are there to talk about it, and I’ve got a whole chapter on it. And to go and talk to not just the Palestinians about it but to talk to Palestinians, to talk to the Americans, to talk to the Israelis about what actually happened there, and whether it was a spontaneous conflict on the ground in Gaza, or whether it was something that was driven by Washington, by Israel, [or] by Egypt (who armed and trained the Fatah). The Fatah decided and said, ‘go get them!’ and were shocked to discover that they were defeated in less than a week. That week of violence is an amazing microcosm to sort of look at the Middle East crisis, and where it’s at, and who all the different players are, and what they have been trying to get out of it, and the same for all of their missions and objectives.

KB: My sense is that it’s very hard to write about Hamas and Gaza and not be accused of ignoring Hamas’s history of violence. As a journalist who has worked to expand the public’s understanding of the region, how do you respond to that criticism?

PM: The Middle East crisis is a war, and war is a measure of failure, a point in human relations beyond which both sides have the capacity to do terrible things. That is the context in which, to use a cliché of the region, Hamas has become a fact on the ground—by dint of its own resourcefulness and determination as much as by the actions of others. To examine the movement is not to endorse its aims or tactics. It is a perfectly
reasonable and—I would argue—necessary role for journalists and authors to dig into, to explore and explain the internal terrain of such an organization. To do so certainly does not suggest to me either anti-Semitism or ignoring the role of violence and terror in the Hamas modus operandi.

To my mind, when an organization like this is at the crossroads of a conflict that hadsstraddled generations and drawn in superpowers, it is incumbent on us to attempt to understand exactly how it works and how it is changing or evolving—if in fact it is. In this context, I don’t see anyone in the media failing to observe or to examine the resort to violence by Hamas, either in its history or its present.

For a variety of voices on Gaza, Hamas, and the Middle East, check out Paul McGeough’s recommendations for newspapers, books, and blogs about the region.

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Katia Bachko is on staff at The New Yorker.