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Rise of Hamas - debacle for peace


There is no reason why you should believe me or almost anyone else concerning the victory of the Hamas, since almost everyone including myself did not see it coming. Moreover, the future contains so many unknowns that it is wrong to make dogmatic statements. What I write below is therefore only "today's view," written in the hope, or rather the fear, that it will still be true tomorrow.

Even worse than the failure to forecast the rise of the Hamas, was the apparent failure of just about everyone to foresee even the possibility that the Hamas would take power, and to safeguard the various agreements against this eventuality.

If I am not greatly mistaken, when the Hamas representatives took their oath of office and the Hamas led Palestinian Legislative Council inaugurated its first session, the peace process and the road map formally came to an end, regardless of any declarations by Mahmoud Abbas. If not then, then when the government of Hanniyeh is sworn in. The peace process was predicated on the notion that the Palestinians recognize Israel's right to exist, and Israel recognizes the PLO as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. The Palestinian Authority was formed, according to the Oslo Interim Agreement, to negotiate a final peace peace settlement. Hamas, has stipulated explicitly that it will never recognize Israel and will not negotiate peace with Israel. At most, the "moderates" propose to negotiate a "truce" agreement, in which Israel withdraws from Palestinian territories and agrees to let the Hamas build an army and educate more Palestinians to hate Israel. In return for that, the Hamas will continue to insist that all of Israel is "Palestine" and belongs to the Muslims, but they will not try to destroy Israel until they are certain they can do it. That doesn't sound like a good deal to me.

Those who do not realize the significance of the rise of Hamas, and babble about continuing the peace process and the road map, must understand that from the strictly formal point of view, according to the signed agreements, there is no peace, and no process, no road and no map, and that will remain the case until Hamas recongizes the right of Israel to exist and abandons violence. Don't hold your breath until that really happens.

The problem of course, was that there was no settlement within the time frame stipulated by the agreement. The generally vague Oslo documents were quite explicit on both the mission of the PA and the timing of the negotiations. For example:

RECOGNIZING that the aim of the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations within the current Middle East peace process is, among other things, to establish a Palestinian Interim Self-Government Authority, i.e. the elected Council (hereinafter "the Council" or "the Palestinian Council"), and the elected Chairman [In Arabic, "Ra'ees," always translated as "President"] of the Executive Authority, for the Palestinian people in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, for a transitional period not exceeding five years from the date of signing the Agreement on the Gaza Strip and the Jericho Area (hereinafter "the Gaza-Jericho Agreement") on May 4, 1994, leading to a permanent settlement based on Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338;

REAFFIRMING their understanding that the interim self-government arrangements contained in this Agreement are an integral part of the whole peace process, that the negotiations on the permanent status, that will start as soon as possible but not later than May 4, 1996,,,

An annex to the agreements also stipulates that candidates advocating racism and violence are disqualified from running in the elections. You don't get much more racist and violent then the Hamas, but their candidates were not stopped from running in elections. There was simply no mechanism for dealing with any of these "unthinkable" eventualities, and as the process unfolded, everyone concerned simply buried their heads in the sand.

Simply put, Hamas, which now leads the PA, announced that it does not adhere to the purpose for which the PA was created by agreement, and therefore the PA has no international status, even if the Hamas adopts some duplicitous construction that says it will honor agreements except those it doesn't want to honor. Israel has no obligation to support the PA in any way, and neither do other donor nations who were giving aid to the PA help build a peaceful Palestinian state in accordance with the Oslo agreements and the road map.

The democratic choice of the Palestinians must be honored. However, if the Palestinians voted for genocide and war, they must accept the consequences of their choice. If they voted to abrogate the purpose of the PA, then the PA has no legal standing.

No decent state should be negotiating anything with the Hamas-led PA until it shows willingness to live up to the basic tenets of the agreement that created the PA. Instead, we are seeing some absurd diplomatic maneuvers, motivated by the same geopolitical greed that always turns the wheels of Middle East diplomacy. Can it be anything other than absurd when the Russians announce that they will sell Hamas arms provided Israel agrees? Why would Israel agree? Can it be anything other than absurd when the Russian state, busy crushing a much milder Islamist resistance in Chechnya, welcomes the Hamas in Moscow and gives them legitimacy?

Those who want peace must understand that withholding support and recognition from the Hamas is the only lever that remains to get them to change their ways. In the eyes of the world perhaps, the Palestinians voted against Fatah corruption rather than for Hamas violence and intransigence. However, the Hamas will accept any aid and any recognition and tout it as a "victory" for them, at the expense of Palestinian moderates.

On the other hand, Israel does not have to be gratuitously spiteful to Palestinians or to itself. If Israel decides, for example, to stop the electric supply to the Palestinian areas, the Palestinians will no doubt arrange for electricity (or gasoline or anything else) more cheaply from other countries. If Israel closes its doors to Palestinian workers just because they are Palestinians, nobody is hurt except individuals. Hamas does not get the blame. Israel does.

Comparisons of appeasement of Hamas to appeasement of Hitler are not quite in place either. Appeasement is the wrong policy, but it will not result in a Word-War sized disaster. The Palestinians are not a world power. Even if they had a Hamas state, it would be no stronger than the Arab states that have unsuccessfully tried to destroy Israel repeatedly since 1948, at least for the foreseeable future.

If the peace process is apparently out of business, then the platforms of the political parties in the Israeli elections assume a different sort of relevance, and we can understand why the Kadima party continues to garner support. Few believe there are any security advantages for Israel in keeping extensive territories as the Likud believes. Benjamin Netanyahu's "Strong against the Hamas" slogan is meaningless. On the other hand, in the new reality, negotiations advocated by the Labor party may be less than realistic. For most Israelis, the option of getting as far away from the territories and the Hamas as possible seems to be the best alternative. If you had neighbors like Hamas, you would very probably feel the same way.
Ami Isseroff

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Original text copyright by the author and MidEastWeb for Coexistence, RA. Posted at MidEastWeb Middle East Web Log at http://www.mideastweb.org/log/archives/00000431.htm where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Distributed by MEW Newslist. Subscribe by e-mail to mew-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Please forward by email with this notice and link to and cite this article. Other uses by permission.

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Replies: 11 comments

So what should Israel do?

What should the Peace Camp do?

Posted by Micha @ 02/21/2006 09:49 PM CST



In the midst of much controversy and after weeks of planning, preparation and debate, administrators and organizers have put the final touches on the Palestine Solidarity Movement Conference to be held at Georgetown University in Washington, DC. The conference is expected to have 500-600 attendees. Georgetown has resisted calls from pro-Israeli activists to cancel the conference on the grounds that the conference promotes terrorism. The conference is being hosted by a campus group called Students for Justice in Palestine.

University President John J. DeGoia said at a meeting with students last month that university-sponsored groups like SJP have the right to host peaceful meetings on campus regardless of their viewpoints. The PSM has received criticism from some groups for advocating divestment of US business investments in Israel and for its' members reluctance to openly condemn Palestinian terrorist attacks against Israeli citizens.

According to a letter published in The Washington Post (February 12, 2006) from two noted academics, Eric Adler and Jack Langer, they assert that the PSM certainly is controversial and also dangerous.

"The purported aim of the PSM is to encourage divestment from Israel. To this end, its conferences boast a cavalcade of anti-Israel speakers whose speeches often degenerate into anti-Semitism. At the 2004 conference at Duke University in North Carolina, for example, keynote speaker Mazin Qumsiyeh referred to Zionism as a "disease." Workshop leader Bob Brown deemed the Six Day War "the Jew War of '67." Not to be outdone, Nasser Abufarha praised the terrorist activities of Hamas and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

The PSM maintains that it is a separate organization from the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), which sends foreign students to the West Bank and Gaza to foment anti-Israeli sentiment. All the same, the two groups seem to have intimate ties. At the 2004 PSM conference, for instance, the International Solidarity Movement ran a recruitment meeting called "Volunteering in Palestine: Role and Value of International Activists."

In that session, the organization's co-founder, Huwaida Arraf, distributed recruitment brochures and encouraged students to enlist in the ISM, which she acknowledged, cooperates with Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Another co-founder, George Rishmawi, told the San Francisco Chronicle in a July 14, 2004, news story why his group recruits student volunteers.

"When Palestinians get shot by Israeli soldiers, no one is interested anymore," he said. "But is these foreign volunteers get shot or even killed, then the international media will sit up and take notice."

The group got its wish in 2003, when ISM member Rachel Corrie 23, was killed while trying to block Israeli bulldozers from demolishing Palestinian houses in Gaza. The Israelis said the houses were covering tunnels used to smuggle weapons to Hamas.

In another letter published by Lee Kaplan of Front Page Magazine, it states, "Please note the following recruitment and training seminar given at this event this Saturday to be hosted by Huwaida Arraf and Joseph Carr. Titled, "Supporting Palestinian Non-Violent Resistance to Occupation: Volunteering with the International Solidarity Movement."

The above session will be to recruit students to go to the West Bank and stand as human shields for terrorists and stone throwers who will attack the Israeli army, try to remove the Security Fence built to keep out terrorists and to interfere with checkpoints set up to interdict suicide bombers. In addition, Israel recently deported all Jews from Gaza last year, and 98 percent of the Palestinian population in the West Bank is under Palestinian Authority.

"Occupation" at this conference refers to Israel's existence as a Jewish state, albeit a pluralistic democracy and ally of the USA, and calls to end Israel's "occupation" are in fact calls for the end of Israel. The Conference seeks to do this also by openly promoting the Arab League boycott of Israel that is illegal under US law. Please note that Noura Erekat, another guest speaker at this event, has openly stated in e-mails that Israel within 1948 borders is "occupied Palestine."
It is now a matter of record that the Palestine Solidarity Movement, also known as the International Solidarity Movement, has contacts with Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs) as defined by the U.S. State Department. The fact that the collaboration is nonviolent may not matter, as US law prohibits any material support (other than medical supplies and religious items) to Foreign Terrorist Organizations.

There is no question that the Palestine Solidarity Movement calls for the complete eradication of the State of Israel. If there is one thing you can say about Hamas is that they are honest. Unlike the other “Palestine” oriented organizations who couch their rhetoric is more palatable or subliminal ways, Hamas states their truth and the other “Palestinian” organizations feel the same way, but don’t have the courage to say it, in the fear it will alienate their Western supporters, particularly liberal, leftist Jews.

Here is what Hamas had to say this week. The Hamas web site this week presented the parting video messages of two Hamas suicide terrorists, according to Palestinian Media Watch. The first said: “We are a nation that drinks blood, and we know that there is no blood better than the blood of Jews. We will not leave you alone until we have quenched our thirst with your blood, and our children’s thirst with your blood.”

The second said: “We will destroy you, blow you up, take revenge against you, [and] purify the land of you, pigs that have defiled our country.” Let’s not kid ourselves. Fatah, Hizbullah, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, Islamic Jihad, the PFLP, and other more upscale intellectual Palestinian organizations concur with this vociferous, vitriolic, hate filled speech. When are we going to get it? THEY DON’T WANT PEACE !!!

The issues surrounding the controversial conference to be held at Georgetown University are not about free speech, but rather, about a conference which promotes terrorism. Any conference which seeks to, “recruit students to go to the West Bank and stand as human shields for terrorists and stone throwers who will attack the Israeli army, try to remove the Security Fence built to keep out terrorists and to interfere with checkpoints set up to interdict suicide bombers”, is plainly advocating terrorism.

President Bush stated during his recent State of the Union address that if people are talking to Al Qaeda or promoting terrorism, he wants to know about it. This conference is a platform for all kinds of Islamic terrorists to promulgate their beliefs. Of course, they are organizing this conference under the banner of “academic freedom” and “freedom of speech”. How easy it is to whitewash terrorism under such innocuous labels. This conference deserves to be condemned by all those who claim that global terrorism will not be tolerated or supported.

Posted by FERN SIDMAN @ 02/22/2006 08:23 PM CST

as Hamas is has been elected as democratically as can be expected then i asume its strange and silly to slap sacntionson the palestinian establishment and state. As the result of this will only drstabilise the area and make Hamas more popular and entrenched and not only that but the people them selves will be more at a disadvantage and disenfrnchised an rathr more hard up. hamas will only benefit and maybe to the detriment of President Abbas and moderates.
if the world did not want hamas in power it should either not have asked for democratic elections or maybe not allowed israel to be so hostile.
its this rwaction to what the west did not expect in the election that breeds and spawns the popularity and rise of hamas
it is also about time the arabs also got of the behind and realised that the present way of complaining and fighting is not going anywhere positive rarther take a firm decision and move forward positively and start sharing with opponents and getting something fruitful of this mess

Posted by moiz esufally @ 02/24/2006 04:24 AM CST

No one wanted or predicted a Hamas victory. That said, we must adhere to the princples of democracy. Sharon was at one time considered an "extremest" with whom the Palestinians would never deal with. In the end, they sat at the same table with the man many consider responsible for Shabra and Shatilla. Hamas is full of rhetoric but at the end of the day they will have to formulate a solution to keep the government afloat. Did they act in a dispicible manner - sure. But that said, so did Israel. The solution to this conflict has always been there. Israel must come to terms with the reality that you cannot continue to build settlements while pretending that you want peace. You cannot rule over a people, stragulate them economically and then act surprised when they vote in the most extreme of canidates. The old guard of the PLO did nothing for their people. Why not give "honest" canidates a chance. Didn't Israel kill the founder of Hamas and his successor? Doesn't Israel continue to confiscate more land, build this horrible racist wall and arrogantly push aside international law when it suits its interests? You want Hamas to recognize Israel - which they will. But in the same token, Israel must recognize a viable Palestine. Leave the lands taken by force in 1967, let Palestine prosper and the entire region will be relieved of this nightmare that continues to haunt all peace loving people. Just my two cents but if I were a Zionist, I'd jump at this opportunity to finally settle the matter before you have a Palestinian population that will overwhelm the Jewish State. It is time Israel wakes up and makes the decision to share historical Palestine. Otherwise, there are two options: a continued armed struggle (which no one wants) or a one state solution (which Israel will never accept). Give the Palestinians back their dignity.

Posted by George @ 02/24/2006 03:56 PM CST

If the Palestinians had a completely independant state, Israel could deal with it, now that Hamasis in charge, just like any hostile arab or muslim country -- no ties but willing to talk peace when the other side is willing, willing to maintain cease fire, but if attacked striking hard.

But the question is how to deal with the occupation. There is no longer a way to end it as part of a peace agreement with the Palestinian government, and the Hudna solution is not acceptable. Bailin's idea to talk to Abbas as if he's in charge and there is no Hamas seems very strange. Unilateral withdrawl will strengthen the Hamas even more. But continued occupation will also strengthen it and also harm Israel in the democratic-demographic sense, in giving excuse for terrorism, in placing Israel in the role of oppressor. There is also the question of how to deal with the Hamas government if it does not escalate the fighting but uses the quiet in order to build up military strength. Furthermore, while Israel may have an intrest in communicating with the Hamas to deal with local issues, if it will be perceived as lax in its attitude to the Hamas, it might give the international community lisence to be more accomdating (if they are not going to do it anyway). Unfortunatly, it is unlikely that the people who have supported the Palestinians in the past will be willing to be more critical of it now, even if the Hamas is oppressive to its own people. So what should be done?

II: What message should the peace camp present? Should it continue its relationship with the Palestinian peace camp? Unfortunatly, the Palestinian Peace camp usually did not tend to criticize its own side for its mistakes as it had the Palestinians (nor did many in the Israeli peace camp). So the Israeli peace camp might loose even more credibility if it seems that it is appeasing to the Hamas, which will mean a strengthening of the right.

The few positive signs are these:
1. For now the Hamas does not seem to want to fight right now.
2. I don't thonk they are going to dismantle the Palestinian democracy, such as it is. So there is a small hope that the Hamas will actually not be re-elected.

Posted by Micha @ 02/26/2006 05:29 PM CST

Hamas' victory is a sign of true democracy since the west was always pushing for the same and therefore it should be recorgnised.

Posted by aggrey @ 02/28/2006 02:26 PM CST

Yes, the democratically elected Palestinian government should be recognized. But by extention it should also be recognized that the Palestinians democratically elected a resist terrorist organization dedicated to continuing the violent conflict which involves targeting civilians, with no intention o making peace. This is what they chose, and we should recognize it.

Posted by Micha @ 03/01/2006 01:55 AM CST

What is needed so badly in the Middle East, is not to lament about the victory of the Hamas in elections, but to look for solutions, that lead out of an uncomfortable situation. One thought could help: It is an old political wisdom, that a left wing party can make right wing politics and vice versa. The opposition then is unable to critsize the government. There is no better proof to this principle then the person of ariel sharon himself. According to this theory, the chances for big and important steps to an justified, true and enduring peace are now better than before. A government led by an the most extremist palestinian group has no extremist opposition in its back, so there lies no pressure on the government to take any steps in the wrong direction. On the other hand, the big opposition, the more moderate Fatah, cannot oppose new steps towards peace. From that point of view, the Hamas is able to do more to achieve peace, than any government before. This should be recognized by Isreal and world, before the Palestinians are seperated, and the Hamas is forced to be even more radical.
P.S.: I don't think it correct to compare the Russian and the Israelian situation. Russia fights a colonial war, there is no reason why Chechynia should accept the brutal and senseless Russian rule.

Posted by Severin @ 03/01/2006 04:28 PM CST

Reply to comments:
Thanks to all for your thoughtful comments (except for SPAM to be deleted).
Moiz wrote:
"as Hamas is has been elected as democratically as can be expected then i asume its strange and silly to slap sacntionson the palestinian establishment and state"
Moiz, as far as I know there is no Palestinian state. The Palestinian Authority was created for the express purpose of negotiating a peace agreement with Israel. Hamas declares over and over that they will never negotiate a peace agreement with Israel. They say they would not negotiate peace if Israel returned to 1967 borders or any borders at all. They are now elected to head this Palestinian Authority. Formally and morally therefore, the function of the Palestinian Auhtority is over and done with. The Palestinians voted the Palestinian Authority out of existence when they voted for the Hamas, unless the Hamas declares it is ready to make peace with Israel.

From the practical point of view we must at least contain the damage. Hamas stand is essentially that of a Fascist genocidal regime and there is no reason for Israel or any other state or anyone who wants peace to cooperate with this government. If that is what the Palestinians chose, they must face the consequences of what they chose. Sanctions are the only peaceful way to get Hamas to change its stand. We are not saying they have to make peace on Israeli terms or make peace now, but they must at least say in principle that they agree to live in peace with a Jewish state of some size and shape. They must change their charter and the content of their educational curriculum if they don't want sanctions.
"Aggrey" wrote:
"Hamas' victory is a sign of true democracy since the west was always pushing for the same and therefore it should be recorgnised. "
The victory of the German National Sodeletedt Democratic Party in 1932 was also a "sign of Democracy" by this definition. If they had elections in the Middle Ages in Europe, people would have voted to burn all infidels and witches. That is not democracy. Where there was no education in democratic prinicples and no institutions that support democracy, voting is not going to produce democracy.

George - Sorry. You are defending a movement and an ideology that is the best thing since Adolph Hitler. They declare over and over that they will never make peace with Israel. Hitler was an "honest candidate" too. The "Racist Wall" as you call it is our Maginot line. If there was no terror, we would not have that wall. Everyone knows it is so.

Micha - you asked good questions. Does an Israeli peace movement still exist? I am not counting people who want to dismantle the state of Israel and I am not counting those who talk about "peace" but mean something else - either alternative is genocide against one side or the other. Nonetheless, there are still Israelis who will vote for progressive Zionist parties in the next elections and who earnestly want peace. Is that a peace movement? No. It is the potential for a peace movement. The days of the huge Shalom Achshav rallies are over unfortunately. However, the peace movement or those who want peace should seek out every Palestinian who is willing to talk about peace, whether it is a Fatah member or a Hamas member, and that should be the policy of the Israeli government.

I know that these Palestinians who want peace exist, though they may not want peace on terms acceptable to most Israelis, Jewish or Arab. Of course, Israel shouldn't allow a Hamas run state to come into being as long as Hamas refuses to recognize the right of Israel to exist.

Severin wrote:
"What is needed so badly in the Middle East, is not to lament about the victory of the Hamas in elections, but to look for solutions, that lead out of an uncomfortable situation. "
Certainly. And we could have said equally in 1933:
"What is needed so badly in Central Europe, is not to lament about the victory of the NSDAP in elections, but to look for solutions, that lead out of an uncomfortable situation. "

What was the correct solution that would have prevented World War II?? Was it appeasement? Was it illusions about democracy and mellowing reformist tendencies of Herr Hitler?

FERN - I don't understand the relation between PSM and Hamas exactly. PSM seems to be mostly American radical racists of an entirely different stripe. It will be tragicomic if these so called progressive support the Hamas.

And Fern - Please respect our limitations regarding the length of posts in future.

This is not all that needs to be said, but more will not convince those who need convincing.

Ami I.

Posted by Moderator @ 03/05/2006 01:07 AM CST

Ami, thank you for your response. I am not certain if trying to prevent the Hamas from taking over the Palestinian authority is a good idea. If successful it will delegitimize any other leadership and/or lead to (even more) anarchy. If failed it will strengthen the Hamas even more. It seems to me that there should be a price list: if the Hamas government is not willing to say that they will apphold agreements by the previous governments, than no entry of Palestinian workers and other forms of cooperation. Terrorist attacks wil be viewed as attacks by the PA. In principle I think Israel should be willing to negotiate with anybody. Let them be the one's who say no. But the international community should not have deplomatic ties with the Hamas so long as it is promoting terrorism and racism. However, I doubt the world will behave that way.

I have been witness as the peace camp disintigrated. The more moderate groups don't know what to do with themselves except wait for another big demonstration and count settlements. The more radical groups, even if they do support a two state solution, seem to wallowing in counting Palestinian grievances. They do not try to communicate with Israeli society, completely disregard its justified concerns and fears, and are not willing to accept that maybe the Palestinians are also contributing to the situation we're in. All the organizations are so set in their ways that hey seem to be acting automatically, without any hope for change, cooperation or inspiration.

Posted by Micha @ 03/05/2006 06:23 PM CST

I'm also not sure if genocide is the right term to desribe what the Hamas wants, or other organizations for that matter. I don't think genocide is a word that should be thrown around that easily. The Hamas is repugnant regardless.

Posted by Micha @ 03/05/2006 07:01 PM CST

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