Palestinians voted for Hamas because of our refusal to give up their
rights. But we are ready to make a just peace.
We will not sell our people or principles for foreign aid
Tuesday January 31, 2006
It is widely recognised that the Palestinians are among the most
politicised and educated peoples in the world. When they went to the
polls last Wednesday they were well aware of what was on offer and
those who voted for Hamas knew what it stood for. They chose Hamas
because of its pledge never to give up the legitimate rights of the
Palestinian people and its promise to embark on a programme of reform.
There were voices warning them, locally and internationally, not to
vote for an organisation branded by the US and EU as terrorist because
such a democratically exercised right would cost them the financial
aid provided by foreign donors.
The day Hamas won the Palestinian democratic elections the world's
leading democracies failed the test of democracy. Rather than
recognise the legitimacy of Hamas as a freely elected representative
of the Palestinian people, seize the opportunity created by the result
to support the development of good governance in Palestine and search
for a means of ending the bloodshed, the US and EU threatened the
Palestinian people with collective punishment for exercising their
right to choose their parliamentary representatives.
We are being punished simply for resisting oppression and striving for
justice. Those who threaten to impose sanctions on our people are the
same powers that initiated our suffering and continue to support our
oppressors almost unconditionally. We, the victims, are being
penalised while our oppressors are pampered. The US and EU could have
used the success of Hamas to open a new chapter in their relations
with the Palestinians, the Arabs and the Muslims and to understand
better a movement that has so far been seen largely through the eyes
of the Zionist occupiers of our land.
Our message to the US and EU governments is this: your attempt to
force us to give up our principles or our struggle is in vain. Our
people who gave thousands of martyrs, the millions of refugees who
have waited for nearly 60 years to return home and our 9,000 political
and war prisoners in Israeli jails have not made those sacrifices in
order to settle for close to nothing.
Hamas has been elected mainly because of its immovable faith in the
inevitability of victory; and Hamas is immune to bribery, intimidation
and blackmail. While we are keen on having friendly relations with all
nations we shall not seek friendships at the expense of our legitimate
rights. We have seen how other nations, including the peoples of
Vietnam and South Africa, persisted in their struggle until their
quest for freedom and justice was accomplished. We are no different,
our cause is no less worthy, our determination is no less profound and
our patience is no less abundant.
Our message to the Muslim and Arab nations is this: you have a
responsibility to stand by your Palestinian brothers and sisters whose
sacrifices are made on behalf of all of you. Our people in Palestine
should not need to wait for any aid from countries that attach
humiliating conditions to every dollar or euro they pay despite their
historical and moral responsibility for our plight. We expect you to
step in and compensate the Palestinian people for any loss of aid and
we demand you lift all restrictions on civil society institutions that
wish to fundraise for the Palestinian cause.
Our message to the Palestinians is this: our people are not only those
who live under siege in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip but also the
millions languishing in refugee camps in Lebanon, Jordan and Syria and
the millions spread around the world unable to return home. We promise
you that nothing in the world will deter us from pursuing our goal of
liberation and return. We shall spare no effort to work with all
factions and institutions in order to put our Palestinian house in
order. Having won the parliamentary elections, our medium-term
objective is to reform the PLO in order to revive its role as a true
representative of all the Palestinian people, without exception or
Our message to the Israelis is this: we do not fight you because you
belong to a certain faith or culture. Jews have lived in the Muslim
world for 13 centuries in peace and harmony; they are in our religion
"the people of the book" who have a covenant from God and His
Messenger Muhammad (peace be upon him) to be respected and protected.
Our conflict with you is not religious but political. We have no
problem with Jews who have not attacked us - our problem is with those
who came to our land, imposed themselves on us by force, destroyed our
society and banished our people.
We shall never recognise the right of any power to rob us of our land
and deny us our national rights. We shall never recognise the
legitimacy of a Zionist state created on our soil in order to atone
for somebody else's sins or solve somebody else's problem. But if you
are willing to accept the principle of a long-term truce, we are
prepared to negotiate the terms. Hamas is extending a hand of peace to
those who are truly interested in a peace based on justice.
Khalid Mish'al is head of the political bureau of Hamas
Hamas Accuses West of Blackmail
"This aid should not be linked to unfair conditions," said Haniya.
GAZA CITY, January 31, 2006 (IslamOnline.net & News Agencies)
Rejecting demands from the Middle East peacemaking Quartet to
recognize Israel and "renounce violence" if it wants aid and support,
Hamas Tuesday, January 31, accused the West of blackmail.
"The international aid which is offered to our people is a
humanitarian need for the Palestinian people who are still living
under Israeli occupation," Ismail Haniya, who led the list of Hamas
candidates in last week's election, told Agence France-Presse (AFP).
"This aid should not be linked to unfair conditions," he added.
While funding would continue for the time being, the quartet said in a
late-night statement Monday, "it was inevitable that future assistance
to any new government would be reviewed by donors against that
government's commitment to the principles of nonviolence, recognition
of Israel, and acceptance of previous agreements and obligations."
But cracks were already showing Tuesday in the quartet's united
resolve, with Russian President Vladmir Putin saying the international
community must continue to provide aid to the Palestinians despite
"Refusal of aid to the Palestinian people would be a mistake in any
event," Putin said at a news conference.
The EU is the biggest donor to the Palestinian Authority, with aid of
500 million euros ($612 million) last year.
The donor-dependent Palestinian Authority is already facing a
financial headache in trying to find the money to pay salaries for
January, a problem which Israel's decision to suspend customs revenues
payments will only exacerbate.
Two hundred million shekels (40 million dollars) were due to be handed
over to the Palestinian Authority Wednesday, February 1, before acting
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced that he would not "in any way to
allow a situation in which money transferred by the government of
Israel will somehow end up in the control of murderous elements."
Hamas won a surprising 74 of the 132 seats in the Palestinian
legislature, against 45 for the ruling Fatah party.
The group's soaring popularity is attributed to its uphill struggle to
end the Israeli occupation, fighting corruption and for extensive
charity and social work.
"The Quartet should have demanded an end to (Israeli) occupation and
aggression," said Zuhri.
Commenting on the Quartet's demands, Hamas MP Mushir Al-Masri said
that they served only Israel's interests.
"The conditions posed by the quartet constitute pressure which serves
the interests of Israel and not the Palestinian people," he told AFP.
"The main problem is the (Israeli) occupation and not the democratic
choice made by the Palestinian people," he said.
Masri added that if the international aid continued to flow "the next
(Hamas) government will ensure that it is used according to the law
and not allow corruption."
Hamas Spokesman Sami Abu Zhuri, on his part, said the Quartet should
have demanded an end to (Israeli) occupation and aggression "not
demanded that the victim should recognize the occupation and stand
handcuffed in the face of the aggression."
Meeting in London, the diplomatic Quartet on Middle East peace --
which includes the United Nations, the EU, Russia and the US --
pledged to keep money flowing into Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas'
interim caretaker administration.
"We do believe that Abu Mazen needs to be supported," said US
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, using Abbas' nom de guerre,
ensuring that funds will be available to pay for Palestinian police
officers and civil servants.
But the Quartet warned that the Palestinians' critical lifeline of
foreign aid could be lost in the longer term unless Hamas "abandons
violence," recognizes Israel and embraces the diplomatic "road-map" to
Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal has played down American and European
threats to strip Palestinians of economic assistance.
"We are not beggars and will not beg their aid," he said defiantly.
"The international community has the moral responsibility of aiding a
people under occupation; however, we will not beg for their money,"
"Should you be overly punitive, then obviously it will backfire,"
American analysts, meanwhile, warned that a "highly punitive" approach
against Hamas would backfire at the end of the day.
"The challenge for the US and for other donors is not to make
conditionality look too heavy-handed and too negative," Scott
Lasensky, a Middle East expert for the Washington-based United States
Institute of Peace, told AFP.
"Should you be overly punitive, then obviously it will backfire."
Some experts have suggested it was fruitless to expect Hamas give up
its cause overnight, and a more gradual process was needed to strike a
They suggested setting a series of benchmarks for Hamas, such as
continuation of the truce with Israel and respect for a ban on the
public display of weapons, and rewarding it for compliance.
"Seeking to engage with Hamas is not an attractive option, but it is
the least bad one," said Jon Alterman, Middle East program director
for the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).
"The key task for Israel, the United States, and their allies, is to
shape punishments and incentives that help guide Hamas in a desired
direction," he said in a commentary posted Monday on the CSIS Web site.
On the other extreme, some analysts believe the only way to deal with
Hamas was to stick rigidly to demands that it acknowledges Israel's
right to exist and disarms, holding out inducements and punishments
"We cannot afford to soften these conditions," Dennis Ross, a former
US Middle East peace envoy, told a forum Monday at the Washington
Institute for Near East Policy.
"The Writing was on the Wall"- Hamas in power, what next?
By Nadim al-Mahjoub
Wednesday, 01 February 2006
"Terrorists voted into power," thus went a front-page headline of a
British newspaper, a day after the results of the parliamentary
elections that won Hamas 76 seats of the 132 of the Palestinian
Legislative Council (The Daily Telegraph, January 27, 2006). The
mainstream media have described Hamas' victory as `startling',
`stunning', `an earthquake', etc.
Fatah, the nationalist movement founded more than 35 years ago by
Yasser Arafat and which has been the major partner in the so-called
"peace process" with Israel, took only 43 seats after the first
Palestinian Legislative Council elections for a decade.
It is worth mentioning that the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC)
is in fact a body which has no real power or effect. Any agreement
that may be reached between the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the
Israeli state during the interim period, "shall have no effect and
shall be void ab initio." (See article 18 of the Declaration of
The 1.3 million Palestinians inside the so-called Green Line and the
millions of refugees outside of Palestine/Israel were excluded from
voting. That is the majority of Palestinians!
Western governments have largely expressed caution towards Hamas after
its victory, threatening to cut off financial aid to the PA, saying
that a Palestinian government with an Islamic group in power would not
be recognised, or negotiated with only under certain conditions,
though they expressed satisfaction with what they call the democratic
process that has brought the Islamic movement to power.
Hamas has been on ceasefire for more than a year. It is said that it
has been responsible for more than 400 deaths of Israeli civilians in
some 58 suicide bombings during the past five years.
Hamas, (Haraket al-Mukawama al-Islamiyya, `Movement of the Islamic
Resistance') or `zeal', describes itself as a branch of the Muslim
Brotherhood and linked with the `chain of Jihad' through Izz al-Din
al-Qassam (leader of the 1930s revolt). The Hamas Movement started as
a charity organisation with a registered status granted by Israel in
the late 1970s, and funded, directly and indirectly, by Israel as
well. "Israel, forever inclined to back divisive movements, surfaced
as another supporter of Islam and began to fund the Muslim Brotherhood
and the Palestinian Islamic movement Hamas." [Saiid Aburish, Brutal
Friendship, p. 62 and Jochen Hippler and Andrea Lueg, The Next Threat,
p. 128]. Aburish also says that the Palestinian Islamic movement Hamas
received money from Saudi Arabia "to keep Arafat from becoming too
It was a conscious policy in "an attempt," states a former CIA senior
official, "to divide and dilute support for a strong, secular PLO by
using a competing religious alternative." (See: What is behind the
Hamas-PA conflict? by Yossi Schwartz). In fact, it was the policy of
imperialism at that time to aid, support and fund Islamic groups to be
used as a counterbalance against Arab nationalist movements and the left.
When the first Intifada erupted neither the official Palestinian
Liberation Organisation (PLO) in exile in Tunisia at the time nor
Hamas had any hand in initiating or leading the revolt. The leadership
of what was to be known as the stone-throwers' Intifada arose from PLO
members within the popular movements in the Occupied Territories as
well as the prisons. It was a secular leadership based on students,
trade unions, women's organisations, etc. Massive strikes involving
more than 60,000 labourers paralysed Israeli construction and
agriculture as well as factories and workshops, inflicting huge
financial loss to the economy. The mass movement on the West Bank did
more for the Palestinian cause in a few months than Arafat and Co. had
achieved in thirty years.
Hamas was to be established in 1988 under the pressure of its members
who wanted to take an active part in the Intifada. Hamas' charter
advocated the destruction of the State of Israel, Palestine as part of
the Muslim world, and an anti-communist stand. After the al-Aqsa
massacre in late September 2000, Hamas launched its terrorist attacks
inside Israel itself targeting mainly civilians. The first Intifada
failed to achieve its goals when its leadership accommodated itself
with both the official PLO leadership and Oslo Accords. From the first
Intifada leadership, today Marwan Barghouti (now in an Israeli prison)
probably remains the main figure who represents a `continuation' of
the embittered group of grass roots activists.
When during the first Gulf War Arafat sided with Saddam Hussein,
support for the PLO in the West, greatly enhanced by the Intifada and
the Temple Mount killings, faded away. Hamas, however, appealed to
both the Iraqi regime and the US to withdraw their forces. And with no
alternative leadership to the PLO, Hamas saw the opportunity: if
Saddam Hussein lost the war, as seemed likely, the PLO would be
further weakened and support for Hamas increased. Indeed, in the
aftermath of the war, with the PLO's finance dwindling, increasing
numbers of Palestinians left the PLO and joined Hamas. Money coming
from the Gulf States changed direction to end up in Hamas' coffers.
The Palestinian Authority, doing the job for the Israelis, arrested
thousands of Hamas supporters, and even outlawed the Izz al-Din
al-Qassam Brigades in 1996 and by an order from Arafat, the PA placed
the then spiritual leader of Hamas Sheik Ahmed Yassin (later to be
killed by Israel) under house arrest. In the same year the CIA made
arrangements to train Palestinian security officers in order to
increase Israel's confidence in their capabilities when dealing with
Hamas opposed the Oslo Accords in principle. In 1996, it boycotted the
polls and continued to strengthen its popularity among the
Palestinians in Gaza, where it has been a dominant force, and in the
West Bank. Along with Islamic Jihad, it also carried out military
operations using suicide bombings. This was met by a wave of
assassination operations by the Israeli Intelligence and forces
targeting its frontline leaders, including its spiritual leader Sheik
The second Intifada of September 2000 posed a difficult question to
the Israeli ruling class: `who controls the Territories for us'? Thus
began the quest for a partner: if Arafat is not able to do the job for
us, we have to do it ourselves until we find a partner. Not only did
Israel's option to isolate Arafat and discredit him deepen the
conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, but also within the PA
itself. A vacuum has been created and this provided Hamas with a
second opportunity, but this time to climb to power.
Like the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Hamas runs its own nurseries and
schools that offer free meals for children, education for women, and
youth and sports clubs. Hamas also established medical clinics with
subsidized treatment; it has even extended its financial and technical
support to those who had their homes demolished by the Israeli forces,
and help to Palestinian refugees. And unlike Fatah, Hamas is not
tainted with a tradition of corruption.
In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood increased its seats in parliament
thanks to both the corruption and negligence of Mubarek's party and
the support the Brothers have among the poor people in particular
because of their charity and community work. And like the Muslim
Brotherhood, Hamas is willing to compromise and share power with the
bourgeoisie of Fatah. "Most Palestinians still prefer compromise with
Israel and oppose Sharia law, thus going against two of Hamas's core
tenets. So Hamas may at first demand less controversial ministerial
posts, such as health or public works, that showcase its reputation
for efficiency and clean hands. The party campaigned mainly on
domestic issues such as corruption and welfare." [The Economist,
January 26th 2006]
While it is the Palestinian Authority's policy of capitulation,
corruption, incompetence and negligence that pushed many Palestinians
to vote for Hamas, it is primarily the occupation itself and the
colonial imperialist policies of the state of Israel that led to such
a result. Certainly, Ariel Sharon's policy has been sowing seeds of
hatred as well: the killing of the front line Hamas leadership, the
unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, the apartheid Wall, the continuation
of building settlements on the West Bank, and the suffocation of the
Palestinians in their movement and their livelihood. A change was
needed: "Of course I voted for Hamas. Why not try them? We need a
change," said Nuha. "Fatah is paying the price for its negligence of
its own people," stressed Tayseer, a member of the Palestinian
National Council. (The Independent, January 27th 2006).
The same newspaper states: "Palestinian electors were actually showing
they thought that not all their suffering could be laid at the door of
the occupier; that better, cleaner, Palestinian governance could help
too." On another online newspaper a certain K. Bargouti said: "the
majority [in this village] can't explain why they voted for Hamas, but
if you sit with them they will say: we hate Fatah. They did nothing
for us. A few poor people suddenly became rich people. Hamas worked in
another way. They worked with society. They worked with the poor."
Fatah did nothing for the Palestinians, or better said, for the
majority of the Palestinians. The present result has its origin in a
long process that goes back to the nature of the Palestinian
bourgeoisie and its leadership, but without, of course, downplaying
the role of neither the occupation itself nor the imperialist
In a pamphlet published in the year 2000, we wrote: "Having failed for
decades to advance the Palestinian cause on step, the PLO leaders were
greedy to enjoy the `fruits of office' which had been conquered by the
people. What they accepted amounted to a betrayal of the national
struggle of the Palestinians
"The national aspirations of the Palestinian people naturally express
themselves in the striving for their own territory and state. The
present so-called Palestinian Authority in no sense fulfils this
aspiration. It has proved to be a cruel trap for the Palestinian
people. To the degree that this truth has dawned on the masses, it has
given rise to burning sense of injustice and betrayal. The anger of
the masses is directed not only against Israel but also against the
PLO leadership." (Alan Woods & Fred Weston, Middle East - On the brink
of the abyss, October 2000)
In effect, the so-called Palestinian Authority has been just a tool
used by Israel. And it was used quite well until the tool was worn
out. The PA's role was that of policing the Palestinian people; it had
elements of a police state from the beginning. With its corruption and
repression, backed by both the Mossad and the CIA, it consolidated the
power of Arafat and his hangers-on. Fatah's traditional leaders, `the
Tunisian group', after their return to the Territories, were given top
positions in the PA and worked to establish a pragmatic leadership
that was to achieve a cordial relationship with Washington and work
out a final agreement, no matter how derisory, with the Israeli state.
The lawmaker Hanan Ashrawi, who won one of two seats in the parliament
under the Third Way List said that "Hamas responded by getting the
angry vote and the rejection and revenge vote and the protest vote and
of course the reform vote, and not necessarily all the ideological
vote. Part of Hamas' victory was made by Fatah." (Al-Jazeera.net,
January 26, 2006)
Nearly two-thirds of the population on the West Bank and Gaza live
below the poverty line. Unemployment reaches 70 per cent in Gaza. A
huge share of the total budget, which depends on international aid,
goes to security. The total outside assistance to the Palestinians
mounts to more than $1 billion a year. But given the level of
gangrenous corruption and cronyism within the PA, the majority of the
people have been left to grinding poverty or to Hamas' social
assistance. Adding all the other regional and international factors,
the outcome has come as no surprise. As it was pointed out by Roni
Ben-Efrat a few weeks before the elections, "if the public decides to
opt for a fundamental change or for a party with internal discipline,
its vote will go to Hamas." (Challenge Magazine, No 95,
January-February 2006, my emphasis, N.M.).
In addition, a wider view shows us that other factors have
significantly contributed to the rise of Hamas in particular and of
the Islamic movement in general. The imperialist powers, the
`defenders of democracy' in the Middle East, have for decades used the
tactic of divide and rule to keep their interest untouched in the
region; control of the strategic sphere of influence, oil, and Israel.
The imperialist collaboration with terrorist groups is well-recorded
in the annals of history, not in the schoolbooks however. But what is
important here is their support of regimes and groups as long as it
suits their interests. Let us not forget that the PLO itself was
listed as a terrorist organisation, but later was ' baptised' and
became a major partner and Arafat became someone who they could
achieve "peace" with.
In fact, there were lots of talks and warnings prior the elections
because the Israelis knew about the probability of Hamas getting a
high vote, and tried to push for postponing the elections in order to
prevent Hamas from taking part in them. Former Minister Silvan Shalom
said that Hamas' overwhelming elections victory was "an earthquake
that will set us back 50 years and lead the entire region to chaos
For months I attempted to prevent Hamas' participation in the
I warned him [Mahmud Abbas] they will remove him by
assassination or in the elections themselves
He should have done what
Arafat did in 1986, when he shaved their beards and detained hundreds
of them. Abu Mazen (Abbas) out of fear and weakness did the exact
It would have been better to prevent the elections from
being held, because the writing was on the wall." (My emphasis, N.M.)
So, Silvan Shalom was looking for someone to do the job for him, but
Mahmud Abbas was not the right person and Hamas was the last they
could think of. Even Arafat, in spite of clamping down on the movement
detaining hundreds of them, putting their spiritual leader under house
arrest, etc, before he died was not a good partner to rely upon
anymore. Is it possible then to think that everything got out of
Israeli control, or, as some fans of conspiracy theories might
suggest, that the Israeli state just let it happen? We would go for
the first possibility, and leave the second to those who can provide
One of the outcomes of the elections is that Hamas has taken the bait.
This may sound like wild speculation. But look at what happened to
Hizb Bollah. After Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon, it has lost its
raison d'être. It is likely that the same will happen with Hamas. By
bringing the Movement into the political arena, Israel and the Western
powers will be able to accommodate Hamas and tame it. They will use
pressure and dictate their terms and conditions; otherwise serious
consequences will fall not only on Hamas, but also on the Palestinian
people as a whole. In the long run, Hamas will be weakened.
The leaders of Hamas have called upon Fatah to form a national unity
government. Hamas does not want to be isolated internationally, and
Fatah does not want to be a mere puppet in a Hamas-dominated
government. So the Movement is aware of the difficulties it will face.
And as Hanan Ashrawi predicts, Hamas will seek to form a coalition
with other parties. The Movement has no technocrats to run the `state'
apparatus. Furthermore, how will Hamas live with more than 100,000 PA
employees and a security service mostly loyal to Fatah?
"Being in power, Hamas finds itself in the middle of international
balances it can not ignore. Such balances will force it to amend some
of its constants and lower its political ceiling," states Hossam
Tammam, an expert on Islamic movement's affairs. The Economist
magazine, however, has some doubt and thinks that "the view that Hamas
might be persuaded gradually to abandon armed struggle for politics,
as Irish Republicans have over the past few years, gets short shrift
here." [The Economist, Jan 26th 2006]
Why should Hamas abandon `armed struggle' for politics? Is it not
Hamas' right to possess weapons, and use them, when the occupier is
the third or the fourth strongest military power in the world, with,
according to the CIA, the ninth biggest army? Furthermore, the Irish
Republicans have been brought to the table of negotiations, but to
achieve nothing of their historical goal: the unification of Ireland
on the basis of socialism.
Diaa Rashwan from the Cairo-based Al-Ahram Centre went further by
saying that "Hamas would accept pragmatic positions as it would manage
the political process in Palestine amidst a turbulent regional
Washington," continues Rashwan, "does not totally reject
Hamas. It merely wants to trim the movement's political project to
fall in line with US plans for the region." This was confirmed by
Ismail Haniyeh, a leading Hamas candidate, who told the BBC: `Don't be
afraid. Hamas is an aware and mature movement... which is politically
open in the Palestinian arena, and to its Arab and Islamic hinterland,
and similarly open to the international arena.'" [The Independent,
January 27, 2006] In the short-term, at least, Hamas would share power
with the Palestinian bourgeoisie.
Internationally, the imperialists have started their attack on the
democratically elected group by threatening to cut off the aid that
the PA used to receive from international donors. Hamas has been told
to meet certain conditions and `behave itself' before it could be
recognised. The Islamic group is listed as a terriorist organisation
by the U.S. and the European Union. Hamas will find itself between the
hammer and the anvil: how it could be considered a partner to deal
with by the big powers, including Israel, and how it could maintain
its popularity and support among the Palestinians who voted it into power.
The first reactions came from Israel. Ben Eliezer, former Defence
Minister (Labour) said: "the equation is simple. Whoever recognises
the state of Israel, and I stress, as the Jewish people's state, we
will be ready to talk to him." A statement issued by the Israeli Prime
Minister's Office declared: "The state of Israel will not hold
negotiations with a Palestinian government led by an armed terror
organisation that advocates its destruction. Israel will continue to
fight terror resolutely." The occupier always claims he has the upper
hand and the bigger stick. Do as we say, or face the consequences.
That is how it worked with the PLO and Arafat and Saddam Hussein, and
many others who rebelled against their masters. A new partner must be
either found or tamed. "There is no partner. We have to wait for
international pressure to be exerted here, because it is not going to
be simple," added Ben Eliezer.
Back in 1988 Itzhak Rabin, the supposed peacemaker, said: "the
inhabitants of the territories are subject to harsh military and
economic pressure." He explained, "In the end, they will be broken,"
and added that they would accept Israel's terms. That was Itzhak Rabin
in 1988 speaking about the PLO after the latter had expressed peace
initiatives. At that time the U.S. called upon the PLO to call off the
`riots' (i.e., the Intifada) in the Occupied Territories, which they
viewed as "terrorist acts against Israel," and to ensure the return of
the status quo. Israel's strategic interest has always been to
separate the Palestinian people from the PLO and create an alternative
leadership. That is why it was even ready to kill Arafat.
The Islamists of Hamas, "who have vowed to destroy the state of
Israel," have come to power. This argument has been repeated again and
again in every media outlet as if it was a fact that Hamas could
really destroy Israel. According to this argument it is Israel that is
under threat, when it is in fact the main power in the region. We are
asked to ignore the facts on the ground: that the Israeli state and
the settlers have already not only destroyed the livelihood of the
Palestinians, but have destroyed thousands of lives, including women
and children, and houses, created enclaves on the West Bank, created
three million refugees, controlled land, air and sea, water and
electricity, employment, etc. It has been exercising ethnic cleansing
for decades. If this is not destruction, we don't know what it is.
Tens of thousands of lives have been destroyed by the bombing of Iraq
and Afghanistan, the infrastructure is in chaos, individual terrorism
is rife more than ever. Of course, we are supposed to think that
suicide bombing is `evil' while state terror is not. Paraphrasing the
U.S. ambassador to Nicaragua in 1984, "When they do it, it is
terrorism. When we do it, it is freedom." We oppose individual
terrorism, but not for the same reasons put forward by the
perpetrators of state terrorism, the Bushes and the Blairs, and the
Sharons (the war criminals on a big scale), but because we believe
that it is counterproductive.
Hamas, through suicide bombing has alienated the Jewish people and
strengthened Ariel Sharon's policies. The withdrawal from Gaza was not
the fruit of the methods used by Hamas. If it was so, why then do not
Hamas keep using such successful methods? Why emerge from underground
and participate in elections? Why not stay as before and 'liberate the
West Bank too'? The Gaza withdrawal was due to Sharon's failure to
achieve a strategic advantage; it was a disengagement aimed at ending
Israeli economic responsibility (closing access to jobs and markets
for the Gazans), but continuing its control of air, sea and land.
Hamas does not have a revolutionary programme and method to stand up
to the imperialists. At the end it has to find a compromise between
its aims and the aims of international capitalism in the region. In
fact Hamas is not fundamentally different from the Muslim Brotherhood;
its leadership and programme do not oppose the capitalist economy and
they have a reactionary project concerning women's rights, art,
freedom of expression and other democratic and human rights. It will
try to implement some aspects of the Shari'a (the Islamic law) but
this will be limited and met by resistance from a large secular
And this is Hamas' own tragedy. The euphoria of today won't last. If
Hamas shows any intransigence, and tries to go back to the old methods
of suicide bombing etc, it will face its death knell.
The electoral victory of Hamas, apart from being a resounding slap in
the face for Fatah, is also a slap in the face of the Bush
administration, `the preacher of spreading democracy to the entire
Greater Middle East'. The imperialists' policies have backfired. After
the failure in Iraq and the coming to power of another Islamic group,
the wrestling with the Islamic regime in Iran, the shift to the left
and the radicalisation of the masses in Latin America, the most
powerful state in the world is harvesting an utter bankruptcy from its
Another factor that will have an impact on Hamas is a probable rift
that could open up between what the mainstream observers call the '
moderates' (such as Hamas' leadership in Jordan) and the `hardliners'.
Regarding disarming Hamas, for example, a few months ago Ahmed Andur,
a Hamas leader, explained that the Islamic group would not give up on
its weapons and would not become a part of the PA apparatus. Now Hamas
says that what it wants is to participate in power. Here is one of the
disagreements within Hamas, which might be compromised by renouncing
violence and recognising Israel, but keeping itself armed so that the
Movement, or, a section of it, could resort to military attacks again
in the future. Here, it is worth remembering that the Islamic Jihad
group, which is armed and uses suicide bombings, has boycotted the
So, while Sharon's policy has strengthened Hamas and weakened Fatah,
Sharon's successors will carry on with their policy unhindered. Deaf
ears from the Israeli side would meet any opposition by Hamas to
Israel continuing its occupation. In the long-term, Israel, because of
the `demographic threat', might consider giving some kind of
`autonomy' to the Palestinians by creating a de facto, caricatured,
client state dependent on Israel, which would not really be independent.
"But on the American side," argues Martin Indyk, a top Middle East
negotiator in the Clinton administration, "the conceptual failure that
contributed to disaster was the president's belief that democracy and
elections solve everything." (New York Times, January 30, 2006). We
would tend to agree with Indyk, though not completely. Since the
toppling of the Taliban in Afghanistan and the invasion and the
occupation of Iraq, the rhetoric has been that elections would bring
democracy to the peoples in the region, and with 'democracy' people
would be happy. Unfortunately for the imperialists and the warmongers,
that has remained mere wishful thinking.
As long as so-called democracy remains out of the realm of economy
nothing fundamental will change. The workers and the poor may elect
this or that person, this or that party, but what affects their
livelihood and decides the price of bread, oil, transport, housing,
healthcare, education is dictated by the global capitalist market and
the rich and the powerful who control the state apparatus, parliament
and the Judiciary. Whether an Islamic group or a secular one is in
power, does not change these basic facts. Only the revolutionary
transformation of society by the working class can bring real liberation.
G. W. Bush insisted that if Hamas wants to cease being a pariah it has
to renounce violence. Then that clever lady at the White House, who
has been touring the world in a messianic mission to `democratise the
un-democratic countries' also added her great wisdom. Commenting on
the elections in the Occupied Territories, Condaleezza Rice said,
"there is a huge transition going on in the Middle East, as a whole
and in its parts. The outcomes that we're seeing in any number of
places, I will be first to say, have a sense of unpredictability about
them. That's the nature of big historic change. It's simply the way it
Undoubtedly, the Middle East is experiencing a very big change, but to
say that the change is unpredictable is utter hypocrisy. It is
America's brutal aggression, combined with Israeli state terrorism,
that has engendered such mayhem and the rise of Islamism. The region
has never been as unstable as it is today. Ms Rice's sheer hypocrisy
ignores the fact that the outcome is largely of their own making.
What is going to happen next will also depend on the coming elections
in Israel. The present victory of the Islamic Movement Hamas will
certainly leave its impact on the voters in Israel. The contenders
(Likud, Kadima and Labour) will take this change into consideration.
As happened before, the right-wing parties in Israel will sing the
same tunes: uniting the Jews by whipping up anti-Islamic chauvinism
combined with anti-Arab chauvinism. Even Amir Peretz, the Labour
Party's new leader, has hinted at a unilateral option that would be
reached through peace talks.
The Israeli ruling class, as well as the international one, have
started screaming about the threat of Hamas establishing an Islamic
state and strengthening Iran. Likud officials say: `Olmert and Kadima
are setting up a Hamas terror that will be a branch of Iran, several
kilometres from Israel's population centre." On the one hand we should
note that the reactionary Israeli ruling class itself has a whole
`philosophy' and outlook that is at the root of the ongoing antagonism
between Jews and Arabs. From the moment of its foundation, Israel has
been conceived as a racist state with theocratic characteristics.
Israeli civil law is based on the `Halacha' or Jewish medieval
religious law which now threatens to turn in the direction of
According to the `Halacha' and at least as a utopian desire "the
aim is to transform the current polity into a system ruled by Jewish
Law. The world is perceived as a binary order of `us' (the Jews)
versus `them' (the rest of the world)." (Baruch Kimmerling, Politicide
Ariel Sharon's War against the Palestinians, p.142) So before we
look at whether Hamas, as part of the resistance movement against
occupation, will establish an Islamic state, we should look at the
policy of the occupier itself and never equate the violence of the
slave-master and the slave.
We, revolutionary socialists, distinguish between the reactionary
violence of the ruling class and imperialist oppressors and the
violence of the oppressed people fighting in self-defence.
On the other hand, it is Israel that has been built as a colonial
project to serve the imperialist powers in the Middle East, it is
Israel that has nuclear warheads, it is Israel that is the biggest
receiver of U.S. aid, it is Israel that invaded Lebanon, it is
Israel's policy along with the US's that have caused the instability
we have in the region today, and it is the Israeli ruling class that
thinks that all its actions are founded on the Bible (`an eye for an
eye, a tooth for a tooth'), and has been applying this rule ten-fold;
the life of one Jew/Israeli, for example, must be paid by the lives of
The coming period will be marked by the Israeli elections. The
election of Hamas will have its effects inside Israel as well as
outside. The class struggle in Israel and the beginning of a shift to
the left after Amir Peretz became leader of the Labour Party have
already brought changes and increased class polarisation (see: Israel:
the shift in the Labour Party reflects growing class polarization). As
Yossi Schwartz in Israel explained, after being a junior partner in
Sharon's coalition, Peretz' Labour Party has become an opposition
party raising social issues, which itself is a reflection of this
developing struggle and reveals the potential of the struggles to come.
It is the lack of a credible working class based left alternative
among the Palestinian population that has allowed Hamas to replace
Fatah as the main party in the PA. The Palestinians are facing
terrible social and economic problems. On top of this they face the
constant, daily oppression at the hands of the Israeli state. The
Palestinian Authority under Fatah has failed them. It is an urgent
task of genuine Palestinian socialists to reappraise the situation and
work to build a viable alternative.
The same applies on the Israeli side. While the Israeli ruling class
oppresses the Palestinian people it also attacks the Israeli workers.
Positive signals have emerged recently in the changes that taken place
in the Labour Party, which reflect changes among a layer of the
Israeli working class. On this basis an alternative can be built.
If this is not done, then in the long run terrible reactionary
tendencies can come to the surface on both sides, which would not bode
well for either of the two peoples.
"Eating Palestine for Breakfast"
By Kathleen and Bill Christison
January 11, 2006
On the morning of the day Ariel Sharon had his stroke last week,
Ha'aretz ran an analysis -- aptly titled "Eating Palestine for
Breakfast" -- that captured the real Ariel Sharon. It may be the last
honest analysis ever to see the light of day in the mainstream media,
now that Sharon is being lionized so widely as a heroic peacemaker, a
man "who could deliver real peace," and other such absurdities. The
Ha'aretz article, elaborating on a prediction by a leading political
commentator and an Israeli think tank, laid out a scenario said to be
Sharon's vision for Palestine following his expected electoral victory
in March. According to the scenario, Sharon would set Israel's borders
and reshape the West Bank by formally annexing the major Israeli
colonies there (colonies in Palestinian East Jerusalem have already
been annexed) and establishing the separation wall as the official
The major West Bank settlement blocs outside Jerusalem house
approximately 80 percent, or about 190,000, of the West Bank settlers
and are rapidly expanding. In addition, the nearly 200,000 Israeli
settlers in East Jerusalem, whom no one in Israel intends to remove,
would also remain in their colonies, under full and permanent Israeli
control. Sharon would also annex a strip of land in the eastern West
Bank along the Jordan River and would then dismantle the colonies
remaining in between the two annexed areas, evacuating their
40,000-50,000 settlers. This scenario would incorporate into Israel 90
percent of the total of approximately 425,000 Israelis now living in
occupied territories on confiscated Palestinian land.
The result of this maneuvering would of course be the permanent end of
any hope for true Palestinian independence in any kind of decent,
defensible state. The areas left to the Palestinians would constitute
perhaps 50 or 60 percent of the West Bank, plus Gaza -- something
between ten and twelve percent of the Palestinians' original Palestine
homeland -- and that small area would be surrounded on all sides by
Israeli territory and broken up by Israeli fingers of land jabbing
deep in to the West Bank. Other astute analysts have seen a similar
scenario unfolding, most particularly Israeli activist Jeff Halper,
whose article "Setting Up Abbas: Yet Another 'Generous Offer' from
Sharon," appeared on CounterPunch October 8-9, 2005.
According to the scenario, Sharon would have sought massive additional
aid from the United States to pay for the costs of establishing a
border and compensating the evacuated settlers. The scenario-writers,
recognizing the Bush administration as a willing accomplice and
paymaster in this naked expansionism and as the most supportive
administration ever likely to come along, were operating on the
assumption that, while Bush remained in office, Sharon would have a
three-year window of opportunity to accomplish his plan to devour
Although Sharon will almost certainly either not be around, or will
not have the faculties, to implement his vision, the major
commentators and editorialists of the U.S. and Israel have already
decreed that this plan to break Palestine, or something very like it,
is the future for Palestine-Israel -- and either explicitly or by
implication have pronounced their approval, bestowing on Sharon the
mantle of peacemaker and savior of Israel. The adulation has been
overwhelming: Sharon the warrior turned peacemaker, Sharon the war
hero who dedicated his life to Israel's preservation, Sharon the bold
pragmatist, Sharon the sensible compromiser, Sharon the man who sought
reconciliation with the Palestinians and preserved Israeli security at
the same time, Sharon the seeker after truth and justice.
Never mind that Sharon has a history of quite literally massacring
Palestinians, in numerous instances dating from the 1950s up at least
through the refugee camp massacres in Beirut in 1982; that his
military forces kill and steal from Palestinians daily; that he was
until his last conscious thought planning a land theft in Palestine on
a scale not previously seen; that he and his henchmen openly touted
the small Gaza withdrawal as a means of facilitating the near-total
absorption of the West Bank and the permanent demise of any prospect
of genuine Palestinian independence. Never mind that, as he was eating
his last actual meal, he was contemplating the prospect of eating
Palestine for breakfast the next day.
Most Israelis loved this, because Sharon made them feel secure. He was
brutal and strong enough to keep them safe. He hated Arabs, as most
Israelis basically do, and he wanted them gone -- out of sight, out of
mind, out of Palestine -- as most Israelis essentially do. He had a
voracious appetite that they knew would not be sated until he had
packed away all of Palestine. This was fine with Israelis.
Israeli novelist David Grossman, who usually comes from a leftist
perspective, recently wrote describing Sharon as "much loved by his
people," for whom he had become "a kind of big, powerful father figure
whom [they] are willing to follow, with their eyes closed, to wherever
he may lead them." Grossman himself, writing with no small measure of
approval, seems to have fallen for the Sharon myth. Asserting that "we
cannot but admire his courage and determination," Grossman contends
that Sharon "set Israel on the road to the end of the occupation."
Others, of varying political stripes, have similarly labeled Sharon
"the best hope for peace" (Israeli historian Benny Morris); "the man
who could deliver real peace" (Palestinian-American leader Ziad
Asali); "a great statesman and leader [who] has brought new hope to
the region" (leftist Israeli analyst Gershon Baskin); and the man who
appeared to be pursuing "the one viable way" to bring peace "to
Israel" (Tikkun's Michael Lerner).
It all depends, of course, on what the definition of "is" is. What
does Grossman mean by "occupation," a word Sharon used only sparingly
and a concept he never truly recognized; as a matter of fact, what
precisely does "end" mean -- complete, partial, half-hearted? And what
does "peace" mean, or "real peace"? The kind of peace that Sharon and
most Israelis and Americans imagine is quite different from the kind
of peace Palestinians envision. Does it come with justice, and for
whom? Will it give the Palestinians freedom, or only give the Israelis
the safety from which to continue oppressing Palestinians? Would
"peace" be a peace of conquest for Israel but of subjugation for
Palestinians -- like the peace imposed on American Indians? Or would
peace, in the Sharon conception, come with a real state for the
Palestinians -- a genuinely independent, viable, defensible state with
borders and an economy and a polity the Palestinians themselves could
Not likely. You can call a sow's ear a silk purse, but it will always
remain a sow's ear. There was no silk purse for the Palestinians on
Ariel Sharon's political horizon.
Aaron David Miller, a leading member of Bill Clinton's peace team,
recently wrote that Sharon had abandoned the dream of Greater Israel,
of ultimately extending Israel's writ over all of Palestine from the
sea to the river. David Grossman claims that finally, in his eighth
decade, Sharon came to realize that force is not a solution, that
concessions and compromises are necessary. But this is all nonsense,
the silly blather of otherwise sensible commentators who desperately
wish it were true. In fact, like the pragmatist he was, Sharon had
simply stopped talking about Greater Israel, stopped actively planning
for it, in the hope that people like Miller and Grossman would be
fooled. And he succeeded. None of the Indian reservations Sharon was
in the process of creating, in either Gaza or the West Bank, would
give the Palestinians any assurance of permanence or freedom from
Ariel Sharon had become a comfort station for those who positioned
themselves squarely in the middle on Palestinian-Israeli issues, those
who tried to strike some kind of artificial "balance" between the two
unbalanced sides -- people like Tikkun's Michael Lerner, who has
espoused a "progressive middle path" as the best way to achieve
Palestinian-Israeli reconciliation, as if moral right lies anywhere
near the middle in this conflict. Sharon the pragmatist allowed these
people in the middle to think he had joined them, to think that he
wanted genuine peace for Palestinians as well as Israelis, and to
think that they therefore did not need to press any further for
justice or equity in Palestine-Israel.
Because Sharon recognized that, at least for now, Israel had to trim
its vision of exerting sovereignty and control over all of Palestine
and therefore decided to shuck responsibility for administering Gaza
and squeeze West Bank Palestinians into multiple small enclaves where
Israel would have no responsibility for their daily needs, the Michael
Lerners and others of the so-called progressive center have declared
victory and shucked their own responsibility. Unable to see the utter
futility, to say nothing of the immorality, of their effort to achieve
"balance" between one helpless party with no power whatsoever and one
all-powerful party holding all the cards and controlling all the
territory, and unable therefore to achieve anything toward true peace
and justice, Lerner had already turned away from activism on behalf of
peace in Palestine-Israel and is concentrating his efforts on domestic
politics in the U.S.
His latest word on Sharon is a typical up-the-hill, down-the-hill
Lerner effort: Sharon "has systematically ignored the humanity of the
Palestinian people, violated their basic human rights," etc., etc.
"Yet the loss of Sharon will be mourned by many of us in the peace
movement because his current moves, insensitive as they were to the
needs of Palestinians, seemed to be the one viable way to build an
Israeli majority for concessions that might eventually create the
conditions for a more respectful and mutual reconciliation with the
Palestinians, thereby bringing peace to Israel." (Emphasis added.) In
other words, Sharon was a bastard, but there is no one better in
Israel, and because he was a pragmatist, he might, just might, someday
have done something to satisfy the Palestinians, which we in the peace
movement hope for because we so desperately want peace for Israel.
Another centrist peace organization, Brit Tzedek, which espouses a
position on what it calls the "moderate left," issued a statement
after Sharon's stroke that is almost identical to Lerner's in tone and
import. The overweening concern for Israel put forth in this position
demonstrates clearly why, despite what the organization calls "deep
disagreement" with Sharon's tactics, so many so-called leftists have
embraced his overall strategy -- because ultimately it is, they think,
good for Israel. Applauding Sharon for his "unwavering commitment to
safeguarding the future of the Jewish homeland," Brit Tzedek accepts
the myth that Sharon and his new political party intended "to bring
the necessity of further withdrawals from the West Bank and the
creation of a Palestinian state to the front and, more importantly,
the center in Israel's political landscape." No one else in Israel
"could have galvanized Israeli popular opinion" as Sharon did.
And so the myth grows: Sharon may be a bastard but he is our bastard
-- our American, our Israeli bastard -- and if he wants to eat
Palestine for breakfast, so be it. As long as he preserves Israel's
security, devouring Palestine is fine. We'll simply call it a silk
purse. And if we're lucky, Mahmoud Abbas will go along, will
capitulate to Sharon's kind of peace. He has little choice, after all.
The United States, the EU, Israel, and now most of the U.S. peace
movement are marching in unison, carrying out Ariel Sharon's legacy.
Only Abbas' own Palestinian people object, but what power do they have?
Ariel Sharon, at least at this emotional moment of his political
incapacitation, when the myths about him are at their strongest, has
come to be the standard bearer for the hypocrisy of much of the
American peace movement, which is interested not in peace or justice
for Palestinians in any objective sense, but only in peace and
security for Israel. There are objective measurements of what
constitutes justice for both Palestinians and Israelis, but the peace
movement seems to care less than ever that neither Sharon nor any of
his legatees have ever intended to come anywhere near meeting these
standards. Today, the spread of myths about Sharon is the single most
damaging factor for any prospect of achieving greater justice for the
Kathleen Christison is a former CIA political analyst and has worked
on Middle East issues for 30 years. She is the author of Perceptions
of Palestine and The Wound of Dispossession.
Bill Christison was a senior official of the CIA. He served as a
National Intelligence Officer and as Director of the CIA's Office of
Regional and Political Analysis.
They can be reached at kathy.bill @ christison-santafe.com.
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