NBC’s Gregory Describes Hamas as ‘Terrorist Group Bent on Destruction of Israel,’ Ceasefires for Regrouping

Among the anchors and correspondents on the broadcast networks, NBC’s David Gregory has been unique in conveying to viewers the nature of Hamas as, on two occasions during the opening weekend of the airstrikes by Israel in Gaza, Gregory referred to Hamas as a "terrorist organization that is bent on the destruction of Israel." He also recently gave attention to the Hamas doctrine that the purpose of a ceasefire is to regroup and resume fighting later with greater strength.

On last Sunday’s Meet the Press, he read form a blog posting by Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic, in which Goldberg quoted Nizar Rayyan, the ranking Hamas member recently killed when the Israeli military bombed his home, as Rayyan once proclaimed his views about a ceasefire with Israel. Goldberg: "There was no flexibility with Rayyan. This is what he said when I asked him if he could envision a 50-year hudna (or cease-fire) with Israel: ‘The only reason to have a hudna is to prepare yourself for the final battle. We don't need 50 years to prepare ourselves for the final battle with Israel. There is no chance,’ he said, ‘that true Islam would ever allow a Jewish state to survive in the Muslim Middle East. Israel is an impossibility. It is an offense against God.’ ‘What are our crimes?’ I asked Rayyan. ‘You are murderers of the prophets and you have closed your ears to the Messenger of Allah,’ he said. ‘Jews tried to kill the Prophet, peace be unto him. All throughout history, you have stood in opposition to the word of God.’"

Goldberg’s blog posting titled "Nizar Rayyan of Hamas on God’s Hatred of Jews" can be found here.

Last week, CBS’s Mark Phillips notably chose the word "victim" to refer to Rayyan during a report on CBS's The Early Show after the Hamas member was killed by the airstrike.

And while reporters on most news shows seem to fret more over when the Israelis will call off the campaign than whether they will manage to weaken Hamas, Gregory brought up the possibility that only an overthrow of Hamas would lead to the end of rocket attacks on Israeli cities like Sderot, as he interviewed Israeli Foreign Secretary Tsipi Livni on the December 28 Meet the Press. Gregory: "Foreign Minister, aren't you making the case for pushing Hamas from power? The cease-fire, according to Israel, simply hasn't worked. It hasn't stopped the bombing of Sderot and Israel in the southern areas. So only the replacement of Hamas by Fatah, by more moderate leaders, appears to be the only answer?"

After the airstrikes began, Gregory first appeared on the Saturday, December 27, NBC Nightly News and relayed to viewers: "The question is, what is it that Israel is preparing to do? Is it preparing to get into a position to establish deterrence again or, as some experts suggested to me, does it actually want to invade Gaza with ground forces and try to replace Hamas, which is a terrorist organization bent on the destruction of Israel, with more moderate Palestinian leaders that are in power in the West Bank?"

The next morning on Sunday Today, he similarly noted: "It's a very difficult problem, namely because it undercuts any effort to immediately try to restart a peace process that was started in Annapolis by the Bush administration. The second part of this is that Hamas, a militant organization which the Bush administration calls a terrorist organization that is bent on the destruction of Israel, is supported and funded by Iran."

On the same day’s Meet the Press, Gregory asked Livni about whether Hamas needed to be overthrown for Israel’s security:

DAVID GREGORY: What is Israel's goal right now? Is it to re-establish the cease-fire, or is it to invade Gaza and remove Hamas from power?

TSIPI LIVNI, ISRAELI FOREIGN MINISTER: Our goal is not to reoccupy Gaza Strip. We left Gaza Strip. We took off for the south. We dismantled all the settlements. But since Gaza Strip has been controlled by the extremists and since Gaza Strip has been controlled by Hamas and since Hamas is using Gaza Strip in order to target us, we need to give an answer to this.

GREGORY: Foreign Minister, aren't you making the case for pushing Hamas from power? The cease-fire, according to Israel, simply hasn't worked. It hasn't stopped the bombing of Sderot and Israel in the southern areas. So only the replacement of Hamas by Fatah, by more moderate leaders, appears to be the only answer.

LIVNI: The goal is to give an answer to our citizens, to give them the possibility to live in peace like any other citizen in the world, and Hamas needs to understand it.

GREGORY: Is it acceptable to Israel for Hamas to remain in power in Gaza?

On last Sunday, during a roundtable discussion, Gregory brought up with Jeffrey Goldberg the possibility that negotiation with Hamas is fruitless. Gregory:

The reality is, Jeffrey Goldberg, that Israel sought this action and took this step to re-establish deterrents to stop groups like Hamas from attacking Israel and launching rockets into Israel, hurting Israeli civilians, killing them as well. The question that you have sought out to tackle is, is any kind of deterrence really possible with a group like Hamas? You write about Nizar Rayyan on your blog on atlantic.com this week: "The question I wrestle with constantly is whether Hamas is truly, theologically implacable. That is to say, whether the organization can remain true to its understanding of Islamic law and God's word and yet enter into a long-term nonaggression treaty with Israel. I tend to think not, though I've noticed over the years a certain plasticity of belief among some Hamas ideologues. ... There was no flexibility with Rayyan. This is what he said when I asked him if he could envision a 50-year hudna (or cease-fire) with Israel: ‘The only reason to have a hudna is to prepare yourself for the final battle. We don't need 50 years to prepare ourselves for the final battle with Israel.' There is no chance, he said, that true Islam would ever allow a Jewish state to survive in the Muslim Middle East. `Israel is an impossibility. It is an offense against God.' ... What are our crimes? I asked Rayyan. `You are murderers of the prophets and you have closed your ears to the Messenger of Allah,' he said. `Jews tried to kill the Prophet, peace be unto him. All throughout history, you have stood in opposition to the word of God.' Can Israel achieve deterrence with someone like that?

Below are transcripts of relevant portions of the Saturday, December 27, NBC Nightly News, the December 28 Sunday Today, and the Sunday, December 28 Meet the Press, and January 4 Meet the Press from NBC:

#From the December 27 NBC Nightly News:

DAVID GREGORY: The question is, what is it that Israel is preparing to do? Is it preparing to get into a position to establish deterrence again or, as some experts suggested to me, does it actually want to invade Gaza with ground forces and try to replace Hamas, which is a terrorist organization bent on the destruction of Israel, with more moderate Palestinian leaders that are in power in the West Bank? So that's the question, what is it prepared to do? There appears to be some sort of a green light by not just the Bush administration but also some Arab leaders. The Egyptian government has been critical of Hamas. There has been kind of some slow walking in terms of an Arab meeting to come up with a unified response, so there's some time here as Israel moves its tanks to the Gaza border.

#From the December 28 Sunday Today:

GREGORY: It's a very difficult problem, namely because it undercuts any effort to immediately try to restart a peace process that was started in Annapolis by the Bush administration. The second part of this is that Hamas, a militant organization which the Bush administration calls a terrorist organization that is bent on the destruction of Israel, is supported and funded by Iran. So Iran is a major player here. It becomes part of the equation, which is something that a lot of the Arab governments in the region are worried about, which is why countries like Egypt have actually been critical about--of Hamas in this particular case and why the Arab League is delayed a meeting to come up with a formalized response. In other words, Israel's got some latitude here, but for an Obama administration, it makes the entire region more complicated to deal with.

#From the December 28 Meet the Press:

DAVID GREGORY: But first, an Israeli air offensive against Hamas in Gaza has entered its second day. So far some 280 Palestinians have been killed and 600 wounded in the largest Gaza operation since 1967. This morning Israel is taking steps that could lead to a ground invasion, amassing tanks on the Gaza border and calling up army reservists. In response, Hamas has promised a new wave of suicide bombing attacks against Israel. A short while ago, after an emergency Cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, I spoke with Israel's foreign minister, Tzipi Livni,

and asked her how long the offensive would last.

[TZIPI LIVNI]

GREGORY: A lot of people are watching what's playing out, this air assault, and wondering why now?

LIVNI: Oh, why now? Because after Israel decided to leave Gaza Strip a few years ago and we got Hamas in return. About a half a year ago, according to the Egyptian Initiative, we decided to enter a kind of a truce and not to attack Gaza Strip. Hamas violated, on a daily basis, this truce. They targeted Israel, and we didn't answer. But unfortunately, Hamas misunderstood the fact that Israel didn't retaliate, and only last week we had in a day 80 rockets, missiles, mortars on Israeli civilians. More than that, they used the field of truce in order to rearm themselves. They smuggled weapon, they built a small army in Gaza Strip, so the situation was unbearable.

GREGORY: What is Israel's goal right now? Is it to re-establish the cease-fire, or is it to invade Gaza and remove Hamas from power?

LIVNI: Our goal is not to reoccupy Gaza Strip. We left Gaza Strip. We took off for the south. We dismantled all the settlements. But since Gaza Strip has been controlled by the extremists and since Gaza Strip has been controlled by Hamas and since Hamas is using Gaza Strip in order to target us, we need to give an answer to this.

GREGORY: Foreign Minister, aren't you making the case for pushing Hamas from power? The cease-fire, according to Israel, simply hasn't worked. It hasn't stopped the bombing of Sderot and Israel in the southern areas. So only the replacement of Hamas by Fatah, by more moderate leaders, appears to be the only answer.

LIVNI: The goal is to give an answer to our citizens, to give them the possibility to live in peace like any other citizen in the world, and Hamas needs to understand it.

GREGORY: Is it acceptable to Israel for Hamas to remain in power in Gaza?

[LIVNI]

GREGORY: Let me ask you, I know you were in Egypt this past week, you met with Hosni Mubarak. What did you hear .in the course of those meetings, the foreign minister of Egypt has criticized Hamas, and what is your message to the Arab world this morning?

[LIVNI]

GREGORY: The Bush administration has been supportive of the campaign so far in Gaza but has warned Israel about avoiding civilian causalities. What kinds of consultations have you had with Secretary of State Rice?

[LIVNI]

GREGORY: But if the goal is to change realties on the ground, to change the behavior of Hamas, how much international condemnation, is Israel prepared to accept and at what level of civilian casualties?

[LIVNI]

#From the January 4 Meet the Press:

GREGORY, TO JEFFREY GOLDBERG OF THE ATLANTIC: The reality is, Jeffrey Goldberg, that Israel sought this action and took this step to re-establish deterrents to stop groups like Hamas from attacking Israel and launching rockets into Israel, hurting Israeli civilians, killing them as well. The question that you have sought out to tackle is, is any kind of deterrence really possible with a group like Hamas? You write about Nizar Rayyan on your blog on atlantic.com this week. Here's a picture of him. He was the Hamas leader who was killed in that bombing raid earlier in the week. And you saw him last, actually, in Gaza two years ago when you were writing your book Prisoners. You were, you were writing the book and you, you saw him at a mosque in the Jabalia refugee camp, and this is what you wrote this week on your blog: "The question I wrestle with constantly is whether Hamas is truly, theologically implacable. That is to say, whether the organization can remain true to its understanding of Islamic law and God's word and yet enter into a long-term nonaggression treaty with Israel. I tend to think not, though I've noticed over the years a certain plasticity of belief among some Hamas ideologues. ... There was no flexibility with Rayyan. This is what he said when I asked him if he could envision a 50-year hudna (or cease-fire) with Israel: ‘The only reason to have a hudna is to prepare yourself for the final battle. We don't need 50 years to prepare ourselves for the final battle with Israel.’ There is no chance, he said, that true Islam would ever allow a Jewish state to survive in the Muslim Middle East. ‘Israel is an impossibility. It is an offense against God.’ ... What are our crimes? I asked Rayyan. ‘You are murderers of the prophets and you have closed your ears to the Messenger of Allah,' he said. ‘Jews tried to kill the Prophet, peace be unto him. All throughout history, you have stood in opposition to the word of God.' Can Israel achieve deterrence with someone like that?"