Thursday, January 1, 2009

Hamas, crucifixion, and the blogosphere

Hube, it's your fault--you got me started on this one with this post:

Both Iran and its Hamas proxy in Gaza have been busy this Christmas week showing Christendom just what they think of it. But no one seems to have noticed.

On Tuesday, Hamas legislators marked the Christmas season by passing a Shari'a criminal code for the Palestinian Authority. Among other things, it legalizes crucifixion.

Hamas's endorsement of nailing enemies of Islam to crosses came at the same time it renewed its jihad. Here, too, Hamas wanted to make sure that Christians didn't feel neglected as its fighters launched missiles at Jewish day care centers and schools. So on Wednesday, Hamas lobbed a mortar shell at the Erez crossing point into Israel just as a group of Gazan Christians were standing on line waiting to travel to Bethlehem for Christmas.

The source is Caroline Glick, in the Jerusalem Post, which is a truncated version of a larger story that first ran in Palestine Media Watch, and which I pick up here from Freedom Bloggers[verbatim, and the link is more reliable], that notes the inconsistencies in the various Hamas statements about deliberations over Sharia law.

The whole is too long to quote, so go read it, or simply be sheeplike and accept my assertion that it shows Hamas confirming its discussion of adopting Sharia Law for Gaza and the West Bank on 9 and 12 November 2008, then denying it on 25 December 2008.

The November statements discuss the adoption of Sharia Law, a system that the Hamas public affairs spokesmuslim says is similar to codes

implemented in a number of Arabic and Islamic states such as Sudan, Yemen, the [Arab] Emirates and Indonesia…

...not to mention Saudi Arabia.

It is the wording of the Christmas Day story that interests me. Here it is:

HEADLINE: “Hamas denies its approval of the penal law… The Hamas movement, which controls the Palestinian Legislative Council in Gaza, hastened to deny the news reports about its approval of an Islamic Penal Code that includes lashes, hand amputation and crucifixion. The public relations advisor to the Presidency of the Legislative Council, Iyad Al-Qarra, said that the council did not discuss any article of the Penal Code.” [Al Ayyam, Dec. 25, 2008]

This was worded carefully enough to have been issued as an Alberto Gonzalez press release denying that the United States tortures detainees.

Note first that the statement denies approval of an Islamic Penal Code, prepared by the Bureau of Islamic Law, but does not deny that such a code had been discussed in the Palestinian Legislative Council, just that no specific article of such a code had been discussed. In fact, the structure of the final sentence makes it clear that there was such a document to be discussed.

Note second that this story subtly distinguishes between Sharia Law and the Islamic Penal Code, though the distinction is probably an element of hair-splitting so fine as to be unimportant.

What is particularly important to note, however, that the phrase, approval of an Islamic Penal Code that includes lashes, hand amputation and crucifixion exists only in the grammatical negative--the statement is denying that such a code including such sanctions, was approved.

Now here's how the story appeared in OneJerusalem:

This week Hamas enacted a Sharia (Islamic Law) criminal code for the Palestinian Authority which legalizes crucifying enemies of Islam. You can't make these things up. The ancient barbarity of crucification is brought back to life on the same week as British television broadcasts a "Christmas message" from the radical Islamic President of Iran.

But notice two interesting things that happen in the reportage:

1) Hamas is now reported as having approved rather than having denied the approval of the code. [Hamas may well have been lying in so doing, but nobody has actually presented any evidence that such is the case, only evidence that Hamas discussed approval of the code.]

2) Hamas is now credited with a particularly unique sin: The ancient barbarity of crucification [sic] is brought back to life... This implies that Hamas, alone of all other societies has reached back to the Koran and Roman times to bring back crucifixion as a special piece of Gaza-maniac inspired evil.

Which isn't exactly true.

Crucifixion exists as a potential punishment within the Koran (5:32-34):

5:32-34 ...If any one slew a person - unless it be as punishment for murder or for spreading corruption in the land - it would be as if he slew the whole people: and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people. Then although there came to them Our apostles with clear signs, yet, even after that, many of them continued to commit excesses in the land. The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger, and strive with might and main for mischief through the land is: execution, or crucifixion, or the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides, or exile from the land: that is their disgrace in this world, and a heavy punishment is theirs in the Hereafter; Except for those who repent before they fall into your power: in that case, know that Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.

However, within Islam as within Christianity on tough questions like Abraham preparing to murder Isaac or those pesky stoning requirments in the Hebrew Bible, there is much debate over the intent of these verses and their applicability today.

Many Islamic scholars (follow the last link above) argue that crucifixion was included in the list of possible penalties as a deterrent against the worst offenders, and they point out that there are more documented cases of people being drawn and quartered in the West over the past 400 years than of Islamic crucifixion (see, for example, the case of RogerAshton in 1592 or Guy Fawkes in 1606) and that similar punishments were visited upon Muslims under British rule into the 20th Century--Abullah Yusef Ali:

For the double crime of treason against State, combined with treason against God, as shown by overt crimes, four alternative punishments are mentioned, any one of which is to be applied according to circumstances...except that tortures such as “hanging, drawing, and quartering” in English Law, and piercing of eyes and leaving the unfortunate victim exposed to a tropical sun, which was practiced in Arabia, and all such tortures were abolished. In any case sincere repentance before it was too late was recognized as grounds for mercy. (Yusuf Ali, The English Translation of the Holy Qur’an)

I frankly don't know if the British are guilty as charged here, but what I do know about general European colonial punishments prevents me from ruling it out.

Moreover, if you Google crucifixion and Sharia Law, then set aside all the hits for the recent Hamas story, you can find only two modern references to crucifixion in Islam, one in Saudi Arabia in 2003 and one in Sudan in 2004. The stories are interesting, and deserve a look.

The Saudi Arabian case involved Scotsman Sandy Mitchell:

SANDY Mitchell, the Scot placed under sentence of death in Saudi Arabia, has revealed he was due to be executed by crucifixion, writes Christopher Claire. Mitchell said he was told by his Saudi lawyer that the sentence called for the victim’s head to be "partially" severed and the body fixed to an X-shaped cross in public view for three days.

Note three items here: (A) the sentence didn't occur; (B) the evidence is what Mitchell claims to have been told by his attorney; and (C) that if there were any verifiable stories of crucifixion in Saudi history, we'd surely have heard of them here. We have, after all, been informed of the Saudi practices of torture, beheading, and stoning throughout the years. [And Mr. Mitchell was undeniably tortured by his accusers.] It beggars belief that a crucifixion could have occurred within Saudia Arabia without the world becoming aware of it.

As for the Sudan story, it is a horrific 2004 account of a young Christian boy who survived crucifixion at the hands of his Muslim owner [he was considered a slave], and lived to tell the story. The important parts of the story, for our purposes, comes here:

First, about the fate of the man who crucified young Joseph:

"In case you are wondering," wrote Phillips, "no criminal charges were brought against Joseph's master, because he acted within his 'rights' under currently practiced 'sharia law.' To say that Christians are second-class citizens in much of the Islamic world (not just the Sudan) is a cruel understatement."

Under his rights in Sharia Law as interpreted by one of the only Muslim societies in the world which still actively practices crucifixion, while also--not inconsequentially--prosecuting genocide in Darfur.

Here's the summary of what's known about crucifixion in modern history, as provided by the same organization that narrated this story:

Crucifixion, while rare in recent times, was used at Dachau during the Holocaust and in a number of wars, such as in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge and during the Sino-Japanese war, where it was used among the many methods of torture and execution used by Japanese soldiers against Chinese civilians -- largely in emulation of medieval Japanese military practices, says the website

During World War I, there were persistent rumors that German soldiers had crucified an Allied (Canadian) soldier on a tree or barn door with bayonets or combat knives, the website says. The event was initially reported in 1915 by private George Barrie of the Canadian First Division. After the war, investigators tried to determine the veracity of the story of the crucified soldier, but it was inconclusive. website reports there are persistent stories that crucifixions continue to occur in certain parts of Africa, particularly in Sudan.

Amnesty International reported on August 22, 2002 its “grave concern that time was running out for 88 people, including two children, sentenced to death by hanging or crucifixion in Sudan, for their alleged role in ethnic clashes in Rizeigat, Southern Darfur.

"Everything is wrong with this case. Not only have death sentences been passed, which Amnesty International opposes unconditionally, but they were passed after an obviously unfair trial. Those sentenced include two children, despite the worldwide ban on sentencing children under the age of 18 to death," the organization said at the time.

Amnesty said that Emergency Courts, sometimes known as the "special courts" sentenced the 88 people to death by hanging or crucifixion in Nyala on 17 July 2002, on charges including murder, armed robbery and public disturbances. The charges were all related to recent clashes between the Rizeigat and Maalayia ethnic groups in Southern Darfur.

Africa Newswire Network citing IRIN, the United Nations Integrated Regonal Information Networks, from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said international human rights organizations expressed concern over the fate of 88 people, including two children, who were sentenced to death by hanging or crucifixion in Sudan's Darfur region for taking part in ethnic clashes.

What's truly significant here is that the examples of crucifixion in modern times are laid by a Christian relief agency and Amnesty International at Germany, Japan, Cambodia, Russia, and Sudan--with Sudan being the only modern exemplar of the use of crucifixion in the Muslim world.

It does not surprise me, at least, to find crucifixion being practiced as a method of execution by a genocidal regime, whatever its religious affiliation.

Here's the point (and you've waited for it long enough): Hamas practices terror. Sharia Law advocates punishments and procedures that modern Western society condemns (even though we've not been entirely innocent of many of them throughout our own sordid history).

Crucifixion, stoning, amputation, genital mutilation and countless other practices are evil, hideous, and should be fought wherever they occur.

But that's not really what happened here with this story about Hamas and crucifixion.

What happened here is that somebody found the opportunity to score a neat, damaging PR point against Hamas by subtly twisting the facts of the story, and the rest of the blogosphere has faithfully followed along in reporting it.

I say again: Hamas may well be lying and may have authorized a Sharia Law code that includes crucifixion.

But I also say: the evidence cited does not make that case, and the charge that Hamas--somehow uniquely among all evil organizations in the world--has brought back the ancient barbaric punishment of crucifixion into the modern word (in a story published first on Christmas Day during a time when Israel is under a lot of criticism for is conduct in Gaza) is ... pretty damn convenient.

Often, in the blogosphere, we wonder why the larger MSM does not pick up stories that spread like wildfire among our communities.

I think this one may be a case in point that distinguishes between blogging and reporting.

Bloggers get to go with what appears to be true, and what makes sense to them as true, and what they can find a link to.

Reporters are supposed (in, at least, a perfect world) to be able to document the sources and the facts behind their stories.

That hasn't happened here.

[A final note for Hube: this post is not intended by any means as an indictment of your post. We all (definitely including me, as you have noted from time to time) post stuff that is not as well sourced as it should be. You did exactly what bloggers are supposed to do: provided me the source that allowed me to backtrack all the way through the confusing kernels of the story to find the original essence. I started this odyssey because I intended to write quite a different post, because I did not imagine where I'd end up.]


Anonymous said...

Would someone please tell me what Sharia law has to do with Gaza? Are the zionists zealots not aware there are thousands of Palestinan Christians living in Gaza who voted for support Hamas? Sharia Law is Iran and the Shites practice is not part of the Koran which the majority of Palestinans observe. In the over 3000 emails I have received on the Gazan issue just in the last 3months, not one has mentioned Sharia Law, crucifixion. Are the zionists now saying they are being crucified? If so by whom?

The zionist zealots have no where to run an hide on this issue. The UN, US Chair of Human Rights, Richard Falk, a JEW has condemned these brutal attacks as crimes against humanity, violation of Art33 of The Fourth Geneva Convention, and is calling for indictments and proscecution of those "civilian leaders" and military commanders responsible.

All UN nations who voted last Sunday in the Security Council, voted against Israel and his partner in war crimes the US.

Nuremberg trials are waiting for anyone who aids and abets the zionists in their continued attacks against civilian populations weakened by starvation, no standing army to fight back against the 3rd largest military in the world. In fact Bush has violated the Military Commissions Act, when he supplied Israel with the spare parts for F16s, the bunker buster and cluster bombs (all banned by the United Nations) for use on the Palestinans.

Brian Miller said...

One can criticize both sides in this war without flying off the handle about "zionists" and other anti-semitic dog-whistle politics.

The answer to hate is not more hate.

Eric Dondero said...

You know, one really has to wonder why it is you are so quick to defend Fascism?

Wonder if you'd write a similar article downplaying reports of Nazis gassing Jews in the 1940s?

Please explain why it is ANYONE should believe you're a Libertarian?

You seem more like a Nazi-tarian.

Anonymous said...

Who is defending Fascism? And if they were, why shouldn't they? There are arguments in favour of Fascism, in my personal view strongly outweighed by arguments against, but there is a difference (which you don't seem to appreciate) between particular arguments for Fascism and faith in Fascism as a political creed. What is objectionable is the argument by label - "what you say is Fascist, therefore unacceptable". The argument runs the other way: "What you say is unacceptable, therefore you are a Fascist". When put like this, it is revealed to be mere name-calling.

As to defending "downplaying reports of Nazis gassing Jews in the 1940s", to do that today would be flying in the face of established historical facts, and would reasonably suggest (though not conclusively establish) a vicious motive. To have done it in the early 1940's , before (say) the pictures of the liberation of Belsen, would have been quite reasonable: in war, propaganda is rife, and it would have been proper to doubt that such appalling atrocities had been committed until faced with the clear evidence that subsequently became available.
The valuable analysis above of this Hamas/crucifixion story reveals that we do not have clear evidence of its truth. Let me make it clear that I am not defending Hamas in any way: I am simply saying that the 'crucifixion' charge is not proven (yet, at least).

Anonymous said...

I read the original report in the Jerusalem Post, and I can state categorically that the author is either a liar or is pathetically uninformed. In reference to Ahmadinijad, this is what she wrote.

"They heard him speak in his own words when he called for Israel to be 'wiped off the map.'"

That statement, though repeated thousands of times in the MSM, and by politicians, is absolutely untrue. I post the following link as conclusive evidence of that.

If I know that, I would expect her to know it as well. If she does and printed her fabricated quote anyway, she's a liar. If she doesn't know it, then she has no business representing herself as some authority on the subject.

Take your choice...a liar or a fool. Either way, it's no surprise that the rest of the article's conclusions are false.

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JoshSN said...

Just listening to Colonel Kemp (British, retired) speaking at AIPAC and he brought up Hamas Crucifixions and I'm glad I found your very well researched post.