Creating people's geographies
ICH | 1 Sept 2006
The Bush administration should seriously consider removing Hamas from the State Department’s list of terrorist organisations. Most people don’t realize that Hamas (Islamic Resistance Party) has kept its truce with Israel and stopped all suicide bombing missions for over a year and a half. Their restraint shows that they are serious about finding a peaceful way to resolve the decades-long dispute.
Despite Hamas’ attempts to forgo violence, Israeli attacks on Palestinians have increased dramatically since Hamas was elected in January 2006. Israel refuses to recognize the democratically-elected parliament and has done everything in its power to remove them from office. This is why the United States should get involved and persuade Israel to accept the sovereign right of the Palestinian people to choose their own representatives. Removing Hamas from the terrorist list would be a good first step in this effort. It would acknowledge Hamas’ transformation into a political organization and deny Israel the moral justification for kidnapping officials in the Hamas government. Over 64 party officials and members of parliament have been abducted in the last two months.
This must stop. The Bush administration needs to act as an “honest broker” and show that it is willing to back up its rhetoric about “spreading democracy” in the Middle East.
If Hamas demonstrates its willingness to foreswear suicide-bombing and join the political process, it should be rewarded for its behaviour. The US should be encouraging Hamas’ participation in politics as well as acknowledging its year-and-a-half record of compliance to the terms of its truce. These are promising signs that the overall landscape of the conflict may be changing.
We shouldn’t forget that other so-called terrorist organizations have made the changeover to legitimate political organizations. Sinn Fein in Ireland evolved as the political-wing of the IRA and presently has 3 members in the British Parliament.
Israel has its own history of terrorist groups, the Irgun and Stern Gangs, which played a major role in the founding of the Israeli state, produced two of its future prime ministers, Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir. Hamas should be given the same opportunity to move from armed struggle to political engagement as long as they remain steadfast in their commitment to peace.
The State Dept’s terrorist list shouldn’t simply be a chronicle of “evil-doers” and enemies of the state. It should be one part of a larger strategy to draw people and groups away from militancy.
Hamas’ Struggle to keep the Peace
The occupied territories have been in a constant state of siege since the January elections. Israel has steadily intensified its campaign of provocations, bombings, missile attacks, house demolitions and targeted assassinations even though Hamas has refused to retaliate. Over 200 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli raids since IOF soldier, Galid Shalit, was captured on June 28. (The capture of Shalit is protected under the Geneva Conventions as a legitimate act of resistance against an illegal occupation. There is no indication that he has been hurt or mistreated)
The security situation has gotten so bad that Israeli agents are now approaching suspected militants on the city streets of Ramallah and gunning them down in public. This is simply gangland violence and a clear breach of international law. Eliza Ernshire recounts an appalling incident of Israel’s “execution-style” police-work in her recent counterpunch article, “Murder on Rucarb Street”. It is a shocking story even for those who are familiar with Israel’s heavy-handed tactics against a defenseless civilian population.
Israel’s ongoing operations in the territories have been accompanied by a complete blockade of humanitarian aid and medical supplies. The region’s main power plant has been flattened by Israeli missiles leaving 800,000 Palestinians without electricity or clean water.
Even though Hamas has been faced with daily incitements, kidnappings, assassinations and brutality, they have not authorized EVEN ONE SUICIDE ATTACK ON ISRAELI CITIZENS.
What more must they do to get Washington’s support?
Hamas leaders worked tirelessly for the release of the two FOX journalists who were kidnapped by the Islamic Jihad Brigades. There’s no question that without their involvement the outcome would have been disastrous.
Doesn’t this prove that they and can be a reliable asset in resolving critical security issues?
We have to accept that ‘change is possible’ for things to get better. Groups, like people, are capable of transformation. Hamas has made significant changes in its approach, but it needs help from the Bush administration. They need to know that Bush is serious in his support for a “two-state solution” and that they will be treated fairly if they stop their attacks on Israel.
The administration has an opportunity to mitigate the hatred it has sown through its cynical support of the war on Lebanon. It can change directions, revise it’s failing policies and make an honest attempt to resolve an issue that continues to consume the hearts and minds of every Muslim, Christian and Jew in the Middle East.
Removing Hamas from the State Department’s list of terrorist organizations is a “win-win” situation for everyone. It legitimizes the Palestinian election, it moves Israel closer to a negotiated settlement with the PA, and it elevates the Bush administration in the eyes of its critics. Washington can still play a central role in this long-running conflict, but it will take bold action and perseverance.
The Hamas parliament represents the national aspirations of the Palestinian people. Israel has no right to disrupt or disband the government unless it poses a clear threat to its national security. As long as Hamas is willing to maintain its truce, it poses no such danger and should be allowed to carry out its responsibilities.
If Hamas returns to its campaign of suicide bombings, Bush can always put them back on the State Dept’s list. But, for now, he should take a more constructive approach, give Hamas the benefit of the doubt, and strengthen these early signs of Palestinian democracy.