Sunday, April 02, 2006

Hamas and its National Liberation Rhetoric

Noah hinted at something really interesting in his April 1 post on the Isma'il Haniyye piece in the Guardian. Haniyye was using national freedom fighter rhetoric, tailored for European readers. He really stuck to the standard Palestinian narrative associated with the P.L.O. and Fatah:
"No plan will ever work without a guarantee, in exchange for an end to hostilities by both sides, of a total Israeli withdrawal from all the land occupied in 1967, including East Jerusalem; the release of all our prisoners; the removal of all settlers from all settlements; and recognition of the right of all refugees to return."


"Little will change for the Palestinians under Olmert's plan. Our land will still be occupied and our people enslaved and oppressed by the occupying power. So we will remain committed to our struggle to get back our lands and our freedom."
Haniyye's piece is devoid of the Hamas rhetoric about Palestine being Islamic holy land! There are no references to jihad and or to God-sanctioned resistance. Hamas, short for harikat al-muqawama al-islamiyya (the Islamic Resistance Movement) might as well change its name to Fatah.

What makes Haniyye's editorial especially disingenuous is that Hamas is trying to play victim. Thus, we find Haniyye bitching about European and U.S.'s policy-makers' "double-standards" vis-a-vis his government. After basically killing the Oslo process, a process underwritten by EU and US financial and political support, with its bloody terrorist attacks, Hamas suddenly wants them to kiss and make-up. How different would things have looked if Hamas had adopted its new "enlightened" stance in 1993?

The one thing that I do think is worth thinking about is Hamas's past commitment to the tahadiyya (تهادية) - a kind of lull in fighting agreed upon by most of the Palestinian factions, except for the Islamic Jihad- which it really appears to have enforced for a long period last year. This agreement was reciprocated by the IDF until it began to unravel in the run-up to the Palestinian elections, I believe. In any case, it has to be looked at carefully so that potential opportunities are not missed. I am not saying pressure should be taken off of Hamas. Recognition of the Hamas government by a few governments here and there will only make things more difficult, in the same way that dissension between European governments and the US on Iraq might well have led to Saddam Hussein believing that there would not be a war. But, I do think that Israel can't afford to miss an opportunity.

Just as important is that the post-Camp David (2001) "no-partner" narrative be re-examined. The fact that Israelis now view the idea of Palestinian partners in future peace negotiations as a complete joke and as absurd is not some natural, spontaneous outcome of the events of the intifada. The terrorist attacks certainly contributed to it, but the fact that the Palestinians, including very moderate voices among them, have become irrelevant to most Israelis and the fact that any talk of negotiations is greeted with guffaws by the average Israeli, also has to do with the spin put on Camp David by Barak to cover his ass. We can't lose sight of the fact that an agreement was very close at hand at Camp David.

There's a lot more to be said on this matter. Anyone interested should read Yoram Meital's book Peace in Tatters (2006, Lynne Rienner). The Hebrew edition is called שלום שבור - "Broken Peace". Yoram is a prof at Ben-Gurion University's Middle Eastern Studies department and current head of the Chaim Herzog Center for Middle Eastern Studies and Diplomacy. They have some really good conferences and frequently get speakers from Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinian territories. Not long ago, before the Palestinian elections, we had a Fatah politician from the Gaza Strip here -a real moderate who spent a lot of time in Israeli prisons in the 1980s and came out speaking fluent Hebrew and with a very nuanced, intelligent view of Israeli society.


Amos said...

BTW, I was intrigued by this aside:

"On this, all Palestinian factions and people agree, including the PLO, whose revival is essential so that it can resume its role in speaking for the Palestinians and presenting their case to the world."

Is this in here to reassure the old international supporters of the Palestinians who are unfamiliar and perhaps a bit wary of the newcomer, Hamas? Or is the reference to the PLO in here for domestic political concerns?

Amos said...

Also, do you think it's worth doing a paragraph-by-paragraph dissection of the Haniyyeh piece?

John said...

I think that PLO comment is more domestically oriented. Maybe it's a hint that Hamas wants to be incorporated into the PLO.
If you want to do a paragraph by paragraph dissection, go for it.