When I was asked to host this Book Salon with Paul McGeough on his new book Kill Khalid, I was a bit uncertain. So much that we read or hear about Hamas comes through a filter that begins with “terrorist” and ends with “Iran.” I should have known better since McGeough is a superb journalist who, as chief foreign correspondent for the Sydney Morning Herald, has reported from the region for twenty years – and who keeps his eyes – and mind open.
Kill Khalid is both a fascinating tale of the the Israeli attempt to assassinate Khalid Mishal — and an extremely well researched history of Hamas. McGeough has been there, he’s interviewed the key people, he’s reviewed intelligence reports from US, Israeli and Jordanian sources and he knows how to pull it all together for us. Rather than the propaganda and slant we have become so used to – particularly in this sensitive area –McGeough’s work reminds us what real journalism looks like as he gives us a tour of the region’s recent events.
McGeough understands that history and politics and war are at base very human stories. Beginning with an account of Mishal’s childhood in Silwad and his family’s forced flight from their homeland to Kuwait, we have a chance not only to understand the roots of Mishal’s resistance to Israel, but also more broadly the experience of so many Palestinian families. And this human view continues with the author never losing sight of the ways the larger conflicts play out in everyday lives.
The account of the Israeli attempt to assassinate Mishal is fascinating and chilling. Coming only days after King Hussein of Jordan had sent the Israeli government a tentative offer of an extended cease-fire with Hamas – and taking place in Amman, the only Israel friendly Arabic capital – Israel’s blundering is topped only by its brashness. The attempt and its aftermath read like a thriller and McGeough knows how to spin the tale.
He also knows how to lead us through the complex relationships of Hamas and Fatah and the even more complex maneuvers of the US and Israel. And it is the understanding we gain of those relationships and maneuvers that makes this book so valuable to readers at this very moment.
McGeough shows how Israel enabled the development of Hamas as a counter to Arafat and his Fatah movement – and then shows how Israel set out to destroy it. Over and over we see the Israeli government opting for provocation and attack at the very moments when some opening for rapprochement appears. In Kill Khalid, we finally get to see those openings – both from inside Hamas, and from the Israeli view. From the timing of the assassination attempt to the triggering of the Second Intifada and then the undermining of the Mecca Agreement, it’s harder than ever after reading this substantive account to see Israeli efforts as attempts to reach peaceful settlement of the issue of Palestine.
McGeough’s reporting on the role of the US throughout this period is very disturbing, even to those of us who have opposed so much of it. While we see the US government reacting quickly to Israel’s disastrous attempt to kill Mishal, we also learn a great deal about the role of figures like Elliot Abrams, who once again played instigator and arms merchant to the opponents of a democratically elected government that made the mistake of being the wrong choice for Washington. McGeough uncovers and dissects the American plans to both block Hamas rule and also to encourage a civil war between Hamas and Fatah. And readers who have followed the recent accounts of Secretary Clinton’s visit to Israel and the West Bank will find some disturbing similarities in the pledge of $600,000 million to Abbas and the dismissal of Hamas as simply terrorists.
Understanding these dynamics and these roles is essential if we want to understand the most recent events in Gaza– and if we want to find a way forward that has any chance of reaching peace.
Kill Khalid teaches us but in a most enjoyable way. McGeough is sharp and witty yet always solid on his facts and generous with his detailed footnotes which let us dig deeper. Many FDL readers will get a special kick out of McGeough’s account of the role Badger and his blog Missing Links, one of my frequent sources, play in the uncovering of the plot of the American government to bring Fatah and Abbas back to power in 2007.
This is a book I am grateful for, a book that kept me intrigued and reading way too late each night. Paul McGeough has given us all quite an education in Kill Khalid – and I am sure we will all learn even more from our conversation today.
[As a reminder, please be respectful of our author and host, and take off-topic discussions to the previous thread. -bev]