- August 16, 2007
Hamas is ready to talk
While Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert is busily courting Fatah”s Mahmoud Abbas as a “partner for peace”, successive voices continue to speak out against efforts to sideline the democratically elected Hamas government. As the Britain”s Commons foreign affairs committee concluded on Monday, this strategy is counterproductive and doomed to fail, for the simple reason that the support of the Palestinian people is unmistakably lacking. Abbas”s party does not democratically represent the Palestinians, yet what is in effect now a dictatorship in the West Bank is being welcomed by Israel and its western allies. The duplicity of this situation is shameful. Israel and its allies were quick to dismiss Hamas and the national unity governments and isolate both, and are now equally as quick to welcome an illegally formed self-proclaimed government for the Palestinians. Is this democracy?
The Palestinian people”s struggle for freedom has been continuing for almost a century. During this time, we have faced every form of challenge, from persecution, abuse and humiliation, to military assaults, engineered starvation and social anarchy. All these trials have been deliberately imposed by an occupying power that is breaching international law on a daily basis.
Yet despite this, it is the popular Palestinian people”s liberation movement that is being targeted by Israel and its allies for boycott and isolation. Hamas was formed in response to the pressures of the occupation and the need for change in Palestinian society. It was on this basis that it was given a popular mandate by its people in 2006. Hamas represents a guarantee that Palestinian people”s rights will not be compromised. We have continued to insist that the rights of the Palestinian people be respected by the occupying power. Quite simply, in the present situation, it is not Israel that is threatened with annihilation but the Palestinian people.
Hamas has proven that it is able to run a government, even under intense financial and political pressure. It has proven capable of fulfilling its commitments, even in the face of intense internal and external provocations. Israel”s deliberate attempts to fracture Palestinian society have resulted in the turmoil we now face. The humanitarian problem in Gaza is immense and Abbas is being used to disenfranchise us further.
While Ehud Olmert laments the so-called absence of a partner for peace, the illegal separation wall continues to be built, money is withheld from the Palestinian people, settlements are built apace and the blockade of the West Bank and Gaza continues. If Olmert really considers Abbas a true partner for peace, one must question why he is still refusing to discuss the substantive issues of border, refugees and Jerusalem. Israel”s actions, in defiance of its international obligations, evince not an appetite to peace but an attempt to use Abbas to manipulate the Palestinian population and win more time for its strategy of further illegal expansion, to ensure that no coherent Palestinian state can be established.
We welcome the committee”s report, which takes a realistic, objective position. Talking to Hamas is a prerequisite for any sustainable solution. Moreover, Hamas is the people”s choice not only within Palestine but also in the diaspora, and must be recognised as such. The Palestinians have been denied every form of freedom since the occupation began, and now they are even dispossessed of their democratic rights. But none of this has succeded in denting Hamas”s unity and democractic commitment to the rights of Palestinian people.
Hamas welcomes dialogue. If the international community is serious about peace in the Middle East, there need to be non-partisan efforts to achieve it. It is not sufficient for Israel or its allies to continue to dismiss Hamas as “extremist”, as we are made up of every part of Palestinian society.
Those who demand the boycott of Hamas repeat flimsy accusations that cannot withstand non-partisan scrutiny. They do so because they want a Palestinian “peace” partner who will not endanger Israel”s expansionist aspirations. This is not diplomacy; this is bigotry.
The Palestinians have been abandoned by the international community. The cruelty of this treatment will go down in history. It is time to create a new history for the region, and to recognise the real representatives of the Palestinian people.
Mousa Abu Marzook is the deputy chief of the Hamas political bureau.