Europe should speak to Hamas now
|Monday, September 29,2008 16:47|
|By Khalid Amayreh, palestinetimes.net|
There is no doubt that Hamas, the main Palestinian Islamic movement, is becoming more rational, more pragmatic and more moderate, at least in comparison to its formative years. This is why it is imperative that member-States of the European Union (EU) either collectively or individually should initiate a meaningful dialogue with Hamas as soon as possible. Needless to say, such a dialogue would be expedient to all parties involved as well as to the cause of peace and stability in the
This harsh blockade assumed draconian proportions after Palestinian guerillas captured an Israeli soldier during a cross-border operation in order to use him as a bargaining chip to force Israel to release some Palestinian prisoners (and hostages) languishing in Israeli jails and detention centres.
In addition, the Israeli army carried out a sustained military onslaught on the Gaza Strip, killing and maiming thousands of people, including many civilians.
However, the Israeli designs proved to be unworkable as Hamas proved to be more resilient and more tenacious than previously thought.
In mid-June, 2008,
Among other things, the agreement stipulated the reopening of the Rafah border crossing as well as the gradual lifting of the two-year-old economic blockade of
However, despite the effective “reneging” by
To be sure, some non-conformist elements, ostensibly affiliated with the Fateh organization and probably the Islamic Jihad group as well, continued to occasionally fire home-made missiles across the borders into
Hamas, however, continued to make utmost and ostensibly sincere efforts to control and even punish violators, with Hamas leaders arguing that breaking the cease-fire undermines Palestinian national interests. Indeed, in July 2008, Mahmoud al-Zahar, one of Hamas’s hard-line leaders in
Nonetheless, the cease-fire is still holding and is even being consolidated as testified by Shin Bet Chief Yuval Diskin who had opposed the cease-fire.
Undoubtedly, the fact that the cease-fire is holding despite the persistence of the Israeli-imposed siege and the continuation of the “anomalous conditions in
Unfortunately, the West, including the EU, has overlooked this positive variable, which really doesn’t help the cause of moderation in
To be sure, the cease-fire in
This eventually led to intensive public pressure exerted on the Israeli government and army to reach a cease-fire with Hamas.
On the Palestinian side, there is a widespread belief that Fateh was seriously disappointed by the conclusion of the cease-fire agreement between
True, Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas supported the cease-fire. However, influential Fateh elements based in Ramallah, including some Fateh leaders who had fled Gaza following the mid-June 2007 events in Gaza, didn’t like the agreement, to put it very mildly.
Some of these leaders had hoped that
Hamas vs. al Qaida
Many in the West continue to hold the erroneous view that Hamas and al-Qaida are two sides of the same coin.
However, this view, largely shaped by intensive Israeli propaganda, is inaccurate. In fact, Hamas’s world view and ideology differ significantly from al-Qaida’s world view and ideology.
Ideologically, Hamas follows the relatively moderate school of the Muslim Brotherhood, which advocates peaceful means, not violence, in effecting change in Islamic societies.
In contrast, al-Qaida adopts a school of thought called “Madrasat al-Fikr al-Salafi al-Jihadi” or “the School of the Fighting Salafi ideology.” (A Salafi is a person who follows the true, authentic way of the Prophet Muhammed and his immediate successors and early followers.)
Hamas adopts the principle of gradualness, both with regard to the creation of an Islamic society and an Islamic State. Al-Qaida, however, strongly rejects this methodology and dismisses the concept of truce or coexistence with the enemy as incompatible with the Shariah or inexpedient to the cause of Islam.
Hamas believes in the principle of political participation and effecting change through direct involvement in the political system, as evident from Hamas’s participation in the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections. Hamas also is committed to democratic governing principles and Hamas officials are held to standards set by constituent groups that are representative of a broad-based polity.
Al-Qaida, on the other hand, explicitly prohibits any participation in parliamentary or other elections on the grounds that the entire system is “kafir,” e.g. run by secularists or un-Islamists.
Finally, Hamas rejects the principle of using violence against Arab and Muslim societies. Indeed, unlike al-Qaida, Hamas recognizes and calculates the actual balance of power in its struggle and does all it can to retain its means of resistance and maintain its survival as a movement. Hamas has a tactical policy based on the neutralization of as many potential enemies as possible, and tries to build friendly relationships with as many potential friends as possible.
As to attacks on Israeli civilians, Hamas actually never considered such attacks a “general policy.” Indeed, Hamas’s leaders have always argued that the obviously deadlier Israeli attacks on Palestinian civilians, which have killed thousands of civilians, left Hamas with no choice but to respond in kind.
Hamas strongly rejected the Israeli claim that the Israeli army doesn’t target Palestinian civilians deliberately, arguing rather reasonably that killing knowingly is killing deliberately and that when the number of civilian victims is so high, as in the Palestinian case, even intent itself becomes irrelevant.
Hamas’s adamant refusal to recognize the legitimacy of the
However, this European attitude seems to have more to do with a European desire to appease
Moreover, it is abundantly clear that European insistence that Hamas recognize the legitimacy of Zionism as a pre-condition for any rapprochement with the Palestinian Islamic movement is counterproductive and even futile.
Hamas has explained on numerous occasions that it can’t recognize “
Indeed, Hamas believes that recognition of
Some Hamas leaders whom this writer had interviewed argued that recognition of
This, argued Aziz Duweik (Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council and who is now imprisoned in
“We are not going to become Muslim Zionists just to obtain a certificate of good conduct from
Moreover, Hamas’s leaders have come to believe that the issue of recognizing
There is another important hurdle that makes Hamas’s recognition of
Hence, Palestinians are rightly worried that lending such recognition to
More to the point,
It is important though to remember that Hamas doesn’t believe that the alternative to its non-recognition of
Indeed, on several occasions, Hamas founder, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, proposed a lengthy hudna or truce with
Finally, Hamas in 2006 did accept the “national reconciliation accord,” which is based on the so-called “prisoner document” formulated by the leaders of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.
That document gave
Hamas doesn’t pose a strategic threat to
However, there is no doubt that without incorporating Hamas into genuine peace efforts based on the principles of justice and international law, the prospects for a true breakthrough toward peace in the
Moreover, the continued isolation and hounding of Hamas could eventually prove to be disastrous for the cause of peace and for
Indeed, a weakened Hamas is unlikely to translate into a “strengthened Fateh” as many short-sighted Western experts might think. The real alternative to Hamas would be al-Qaida and like-minded extremist groups.
It is for these and other reasons that