Massey University has awarded a Master of Arts in Politics for a thesis that reads more like propaganda than academic literature. The thesis, supervised by Dr Nigel Parsons, essentially legitimises Hamas and its terrorism.
Dr Ran Porat of Monash University told The Israel Institute of New Zealand that the 2018 MA thesis by Nicholas Robert Brough “advances Hamas’ narrative about Israel” and
“[Mr Brough] quickly relinquishes any pretence of academic neutrality, and openly expresses positive views of Hamas… In a sense, the thesis can be understood as a tool to present Hamas as legitimate actor, completely ignoring the destructive and oppressive Hamas regime vis-à-vis civilian populations in both Israel and in Gaza and the spread of hatred and antisemitic messages on Hamas sanctioned media.”.Dr Ran Porat
The thesis was supervised by Dr Nigel Parsons, who has shown clear anti-Israel bias in the past. Dr Parsons signed an open letter that called for sanctions on Israel; has demonised Israel and ignored facts when interviewed by Radio NZ; spoke on a “Palestinian Solidarity” panel organised by a hate group; and has strong links to BerZeit University, where Hamas is praised and Jews are not allowed to speak.
More concerning, Dr Parsons has lectured annually on the Middle East and the Arab-Israeli conflict at the New Zealand Defence Force Staff College since 2006. Before Dr Parsons, the NZDF hosted lectures from Joel Hayward, who was awarded a Master of Arts degree from the University of Canterbury for a thesis that concluded “the weight of evidence supported the view that the Nazis did not systematically exterminate Jews in gas chambers or have extermination policies as such”.
Like the Holocaust denying Hayward thesis, the work of Dr Parsons’ student similarly ignores facts and presents a distorted account of history.
From the outset, the Massey University thesis claims to provide a “critical interpretive analysis” and eschew the ‘western scholarship’ approach which “is distorted by a lens of ‘threat assessment'” and often “located within the field of terrorism studies”.
However, no honest academic study of Hamas would justify its terrorism and demonise Israel, as Mr Brough does.
Presents Hamas as legitimate
Mr Brough’s thesis considers Hamas as a legitimately elected representative body after their win in the “free and fair” 2006 elections. There is reference to the 2007 coup in the thesis, in which Hamas fought Fatah for control of the territory and included targeting and killing civilians, public executions of political opponents and captives, throwing prisoners off high-rise apartment buildings, fighting in hospitals, and other war crimes. Mr Brough describes this as a period where “[Tensions between Fatah and Hamas]… forced Hamas to drive the PA out of Gaza through an irregular form of political removal in the form of a coup”. The war crimes are not discussed and Mr Brough makes it seem as if Hamas had no choice but to publicly execute political opponents.
The thesis also refers to Hamas as a “misunderstood Islamic resistance movement… willing to make concessions for the betterment of Palestinian nationalism” and claims that academics, politicians, and commentators have sought to “demonize, and thereby isolate [Hamas] leaders from peace negotiations” through an “over reliance on its founding 1988 charter”.
However, one need not only rely on Hamas’ founding charter to consider the group a terror entity. The Council on Foreign Relations has estimated that Hamas killed more than 500 people in at least 350 separate terrorist attacks between 1993 and 2012.
Canada has listed Hamas as a terror entity since 2002 because of Hamas’ actions, much more than the charter which gives political imperative to them, stating
“…[Hamas] uses political and violent means to pursue its goal of establishing an Islamic Palestinian state in Israel. Since 1990, Hamas has been responsible for several hundred terrorist attacks against both civilian and military targets. Hamas has been one of the primary groups involved in suicide bombings aimed at Israelis since the start of the Al-Aqsa intifada in September 2000… Although the group’s political leadership resides in Damascus, Hamas uses the Gaza Strip as a base for terrorist operations aimed against Israel.Canadian government
Those terror attacks, including suicide bombings, are consistent with the Hamas charter, which openly states that “…Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it…” and unambiguously also states that “…There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors…”.
The Hamas charter is also filled with antisemitic language, including
“…Our struggle against the Jews is very great and very serious. It needs all sincere efforts…”, “…In their Nazi treatment, the Jews made no exception for women or children. Their policy of striking fear in the heart is meant for all. They attack people where their breadwinning is concerned, extorting their money and threatening their honour…”, “Islamic groupings all over the Arab world should also do the same, since all of these are the best-equipped for the future role in the fight with the warmongering Jews”Hamas Charter
and quoting a Hadith that “The Day of Judgement will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him…”.
Mr Brough argues that Hamas’ updated charter replaces antisemitism with “opposition towards an aggressive Zionist colonization program…”, parroting Hamas without context or clarification. Though, he also admits that “…while the revised charter represents a desire by its new leadership to adapt to contemporary political realities, little has change [sic] in the goals of the movement overall…”.
Incitement to the same goals as the 1988 charter has also been reinforced through Hamas-financed Al-Aqsa TV, which has been a Specially Designated Global Terrorist entity by the United States since 2010 because of its promotion of violence. In October 2020 a show, “Self-Sacrificing Fighter” (Fida’i), was broadcast which justified the murder of Jews. The United States Department of State has listed Hamas as a Foreign Terrorist Organisation since 1997.
The European Union has designated Hamas as a terror group since at least 2003. At that time, Cristina Gallach, spokeswoman for EU foreign policy, said: “This is an unequivocal message from the EU that terrorism will achieve nothing in the Middle East.”
While New Zealand doesn’t designate Hamas as a terror group, it does recognise the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades (the Brigades) as the artificially separated “military wing” of Hamas and designates the Brigades as a terror entity because of their terror acts.
Justifying terror by reversing cause and effect and demonising Israel
The 2018 Massey University thesis doesn’t explicitly discuss the barrages of indiscriminate rocket attacks and suicide bombings by Hamas, but refers to the Brigades as “providing Gazans with a much-appreciated source of defence against the occupation” and states that “an armed branch of resistance is a necessary means of representing the Palestinian struggle for emancipation”.
According to the Massey University thesis, therefore, Hamas’ terror is justified.
Describing the situation in Gaza as an “occupation” is also misleading. Israel completely and forcibly withdrew all Jews from the Gaza strip in 2005 in the hopes that acquiescing to the demand that a Palestinian State must be judenrein would lead to a “Singapore of the Middle East”. Hamas is in complete administrative control of the area, not Israel.
And despite the refusal of Hamas leaders to negotiate and the violence from Gaza that necessitates the blockade, Israel still facilitates thousands of truckloads of goods into Gaza and thousands of people crossing between the coastal enclave and Israel every week.
The Massey University thesis reverses cause and effect and demonises Israel in order to advance the narrative that condones violence.
There’s a presumption throughout Mr Brough’s thesis of Israeli dispossession of Palestinian land, which he never feels he has to make a case for. This supports his view that Palestinian resistance is justified. For example, Mr Brough refers to “Zionist land theft”, “an aggressive Zionist colonial project”, and he states matter-of-factly that “To recognise Israel, however, is to reject the history of dispossession experienced by Palestinians since the Nakba”.
Mr Brough also considers that Hamas terrorism is “serving Palestinian resistance towards Zionist aggression” and states without irony that “[during Operation Protective Edge], militant [Hamas] leaders made the decision to target Israeli soldiers rather than civilians, while the IDFs carelessly conducted operations resulting [sic] in the deaths of 2200 Palestinians…”.
However, a group of military experts have examined the 2014 conflict between Israel and Hamas. They concluded that:
- The 2014 Gaza Conflict was preceded by a dramatic increase in rocket fire from Gaza against Israeli civilian targets…;
- In conducting its limited ground operation, the IDF pursued well-defined objectives under appropriately restrictive Rules of Engagement, employing exhaustive protocols that fully comply with, and in several aspects exceed, the requirements of the Law of Armed Conflict,to the detriment of the IDF’s tactical advantage on a highly challenging battlefield…;
- Hamas embedded its military assets within civilian structures in Gaza, from where it engaged in widespread, systematic and indiscriminate rocket attacks aimed at Israel’s civilian population. During the second phase of hostilities, Hamas deliberately sought to engage the IDF within Gaza’s densely populated areas, turning civilian neighbourhoods into battlegrounds, with elaborate networks of tunnels and firing positions. It additionally made extensive use of protected and sensitive sites such as UN facilities, schools, hospitals and mosques for military purposes. Hamas plainly considers civilian deaths a benefit in terms of aiding its war against Israel in the realm of public opinion…; and, among other findings,
- Throughout the hostilities of the 2014 Gaza Conflict, Israel engaged in extensive humanitarian efforts to aid the civilian population of Gaza, drawing on its standing special unit of military and civilian personnel tasked with identifying, monitoring and facilitating the humanitarian needs of the civilian population of Gaza…
Mr Brough also stated that the 2007 blockade imposed on Gaza by Israel was conducted “under the pretence that these [actions] were needed to prevent Hamas from bringing weapons into the Gaza Strip.” While this may be the author’s opinion, it is contrary to evidence and expert analysis. Sir Geoffrey Palmer chaired a United Nations panel that found
“The naval blockade [of Gaza] was imposed as a legitimate security measure in order to prevent weapons from entering Gaza by sea and its implementation complied with the requirements of international law”.Report of the Secretary-General’s Panel of Inquiry on the 31 May 2010 Flotilla Incident
Mr Brough cites an Al-Monitor article to claim that “Cancer patients are forbidden to leave Gaza to seek treatment in Israel”. However, there is no reference to cancer patients being denied Israeli treatment in the Al-Monitor article. Moreover, humanitarian crossings from Gaza to Israel have continued despite the COVID-19 pandemic – in 2020, Gisha recorded more than 50,000 people entering or exiting Gaza via the Rafah Crossing, and almost 10,000 patients and companions exiting via the Erez crossing (in 2019, that number was almost 45,000).
Mr Brough’s thesis, supervised by Dr Parsons, contained justifications for terror and a whitewashing of Hamas, numerous instances of propaganda opinion, and omitted balance to demonise Israel. A table of selected quotes from the thesis and comment from Dr Porat is provided below.
|Selected quotes from the thesis||Comment from Dr Porat|
|[Hamas is a] misunderstood Islamic resistance movement is willing to make concessions for the betterment of Palestinian nationalism.||Ignores the fact that Hamas was pushed to make ‘concessions’ as part of internal Palestinian power struggles.|
|Hamas leaders have continuously revealed strategic adaptability to changing political realities regardless of its designation as a “terrorist” group by Israel and some of the international community, especially in the West.||Putting “terrorist” in quote marks suggests the violence from Hamas is justified and ignores the reasons given by many nations for such a designation.|
|This perspective on Hamas, in part derived from an over reliance on its founding 1988 charter, seeks to demonize, and thereby isolate its leaders from peace negotiations (Gunning, 2007). However, these leaders have never held much regard for this document and have often presented numerous opportunities for peace talks (Milton-Edward, 2017).||Suggesting that Hamas aspires to ‘peace talks’ as a misconception, confusing peace with what Hamas wanted – a Hudna, an Islamic term for temporary ceasefire with the enemy to allow the Muslims to regain their strength and hit back at the enemy.|
|[PLO’s] bad strategic decisions, and concessions towards Israel… included: recognising Israel in 1988, and participating in the 1993 Oslo Accords, thereby forfeiting the right of return of Palestinian refugees since the 1948 Nakba (catastrophe) (Tamimi, 2009).||The 1993 Oslo accords did not amount to “forfeiting the right of return”. That topic was to be discussed between the sides in future negotiations.
Furthermore, there is no such right in international law, yet there are no speech marks in the thesis.
|[Tension between Fatah and Hamas] by June 2007 forced Hamas to drive the PA out of Gaza through an irregular form of political removal in the form of a coup.||Hamas made a decision, not ‘forced’ to stage a coup, whitewashed here to ‘irregular’ form of political removal’, while it was a violent and bloody form of ‘political removal’.|
|With Hamas’s refusal to yield to these
[Israeli] demands, Israel introduced a harsh blockade in 2007 restricting access to resources into Gaza along with military actions under the pretence that these were needed to prevent Hamas from bringing weapons into the Gaza Strip.
|Claiming that the blockade is ‘harsh’ and that Israel’s military actions are a “pretence” to prevent Hamas from “bringing weapons into the Gaza Strip” is an opinion, not an academic observation and so it should be framed. It is also contrary to expert analysis, such as the Palmer report.|
|The reality is, and has always been, that Hamas’s leadership has never really believed in the practicality of wiping out Israel for all the rhetoric that has been emphasised by sources aiming to demonize Hamas (Dunning, 2016).||The author is correctly quoting Dunning, but fails to frame it as an opinion. There is also no evidence to support this opinion, in contrast to the numerous statements made by Hamas leaders seeking the destruction of Israel.|
|Hamas’s leadership has presented opportunities for peace talks with Israel through the offering of hudna (ceasefire) (Milton-Edwards, 2017). However,
Hamas is still ignored as a viable partner in the peace process. This is due to the fixation on viewing Hamas in purely destructive terms for the benefit of serving those who support Israeli expansion in the Palestinian territories (Dunning, 2016).
|Again, misunderstanding what a Hudna is.
Stating a radical political point of view, suggesting that Hamas is perceived by many countries as a terrorist organization because of support to ‘Israeli expansion’ instead of Hamas’ terrorism.
|The belief that Hamas is motivated purely by a rigid Islamic doctrine intent on the destruction of Israel is absurd and simplifies the complex political evolution of an Islamic movement attuned to the sufferings of fellow Palestinians (Dunning, 2016).||There is evidence that Hamas is also motivated by the ‘dream’ to destroy Israel. This is derived from the 1988 charter and the acts of terror (tunnels, rockets, violent riots, for example) that enact the charter.
Hamas is not always ‘attuned’ to Palestinian suffering. In fact, in Gaza, they are responsible for a lot of such suffering.
|[Hamas’ Izz al-Din al-Qassam brigades] has also fought three wars against Israel since 2008, providing Gazans with a much-appreciated source of defence against the occupation (Blumenthal, 2015).||This ignores the fact that Izz al-Din al-Qassam are also the force that provoked Israel to attack the strip by firing rockets into Israeli territory. It is not clear that this ‘defence’ was ‘much-appreciated’.|
|Hamas, however, is a resistance movement against Israel’s occupation; therefore, an armed branch of resistance is a necessary means of representing the Palestinian struggle for emancipation (Rasgon, 2017a).||Israel does not occupy Gaza – all Jews were removed from the Strip in 2005 and the Arab Palestinians had a chance to create a state. They chose to conduct suicide bombings and launch indiscriminate attacks against Israel. Suggesting that armed struggle the only option is not an academic position.|
|[This] analysis supports the marginalized argument that Hamas is a misunderstood Islamic movement concerned with serving Palestinian resistance towards Zionist aggression (Baym, 2012).||Use of the phrase ‘Zionist aggression’ makes the thesis seem like a propaganda piece rather than a work with any academic integrity.|
|Hamas’s increased popularity reveal that they were symbols of the Palestinian struggle. The Oslo Accords have been regarded by some commentators as an extended truce for greater land confiscation by Israel. The advancement of Israeli colonisation hindered the economic and political growth of Palestinians so seriously that it would be the major factor leading to the second intifada beginning in 2000.||This is simply praise for Hamas. It also promotes ‘Israel as a colonizing power’ without adequate balance or introduction of critics of that approach. This is more propaganda posing as academic rigor.|
|In another convincing piece by the same author [Hroub], it is argued that while Hamas’s founding charter certainly contains anti-Semitic language, the major concern is and has always been opposition towards the Zionist occupation (Hroub, 2010). The founding charter was composed in hast[e] by one member of the MB [Muslim Brotherhood] at the beginning of the first intifada when the group’s political and ideological direction was not well defined. Islamic teaching prohibits harm against Ahl al-Kitab (People of the Book) based on religion alone.||This belittles both Hamas’ 1988 charter and its antisemitic content.
Further, talking of the “Zionist occupation” is propaganda and not academic at all.
|For example, during this 51-day conflict [Operation Protective Edge 2014) these militant [Hamas] leaders made the decision to target Israeli soldiers rather than civilians, while the IDFs carelessly conducted operations resulting in the deaths of 2200 Palestinians, around 500 of which were children.||Hamas fired hundreds of rockets towards Israeli civilians all across Israel during the conflict. The IDF was extremely careful to minimize civilian casualties, for example, by warning civilians prior to attack.|
|A brief history of the economic restrictions placed on the Gaza Strip since 2006 to punish Gazans for electing Hamas and recent regional and international
developments is also explored.
|The economic restrictions on Gaza were designed to limit Hamas’ terrorist abilities, not to punish civilians. Presenting an imbalanced and unsubstantiated opinion like this in a thesis is unbecoming of an academic.|
|The al-Qassam brigades have developed into a useful irregular force when confronting the IDF (Blumenthal, 2015).||Calling the Brigades “useful” is justifying terror. There is no balance to the thesis.|
|It [the blockade on Gaza] therefore permits
Israel to maintain its illegal occupation and control over important resources such as fuel and those relating to sanitation without having to provide Gazans with much of these basic living necessities.
|Israel forcibly withdrew all Jews from the Gaza strip in 2005 and Hamas is responsible for administration of the area. Citing an “illegal occupation” without consideration of all legal arguments is pure propaganda.|
|Cancer patients are forbidden to leave Gaza to seek treatment in Israel (Melhem, 2017).||This is a complete lie.
Coordination between Israel and the PA/Hamas allows needy patients to attend treatment in Israel.
|The focus [of the revised 2017 Hamas charter] is now against a militant Zionism that aims to wipe Palestinian nationalism off the radar.||This is pure propaganda. There is no evidence that “militant Zionism” has any aim to “wipe Palestinian nationalism off the radar”. This is parroting the Hamas narrative and demonising Jews, just as the 1988 Hamas charter does.|
It is deeply concerning that a New Zealand university awarded a degree for a thesis that amounts to a justification of terror. And that the supervisor of that thesis is lecturing NZDF personnel.
Massey University requires that “all Master’s theses shall be graded by two examiners who are independent of the research work and one of whom is external to the University.” However, Massey University refused to release the examiners’ reports.