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AHMED YOUSEF: Pause for Peace

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  • MEW Editor
    The New York Times November 1, 2006 Op-Ed Contributor Pause for Peace By AHMED YOUSEF Gaza HERE in Gaza, few dream of peace. For now, most dare only to dream
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 1, 2006
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      The New York Times
      November 1, 2006
      Op-Ed Contributor
      Pause for Peace


      HERE in Gaza, few dream of peace. For now, most dare
      only to dream of a lack of war. It is for this reason
      that Hamas proposes a long-term truce during which the
      Israeli and Palestinian peoples can try to negotiate a
      lasting peace.

      A truce is referred to in Arabic as a “hudna.”
      Typically covering 10 years, a hudna is recognized in
      Islamic jurisprudence as a legitimate and binding
      contract. A hudna extends beyond the Western concept
      of a cease-fire and obliges the parties to use the
      period to seek a permanent, nonviolent resolution to
      their differences. The Koran finds great merit in such
      efforts at promoting understanding among different
      people. Whereas war dehumanizes the enemy and makes it
      easier to kill, a hudna affords the opportunity to
      humanize one’s opponents and understand their position
      with the goal of resolving the intertribal or
      international dispute.

      Such a concept — a period of nonwar but only partial
      resolution of a conflict — is foreign to the West and
      has been greeted with much suspicion. Many Westerners
      I speak to wonder how one can stop the violence
      without ending the conflict.

      I would argue, however, that this concept is not as
      foreign as it might seem. After all, the Irish
      Republican Army agreed to halt its military struggle
      to free Northern Ireland from British rule without
      recognizing British sovereignty. Irish Republicans
      continue to aspire to a united Ireland free of British
      rule, but rely upon peaceful methods. Had the I.R.A.
      been forced to renounce its vision of reuniting
      Ireland before negotiations could occur, peace would
      never have prevailed. Why should more be demanded of
      the Palestinians, particularly when the spirit of our
      people will never permit it?

      When Hamas gives its word to an international
      agreement, it does so in the name of God and will
      therefore keep its word. Hamas has honored its
      previous cease-fires, as Israelis grudgingly note with
      the oft-heard words, “At least with Hamas they mean
      what they say.”

      This offer of hudna is no ruse, as some assert, to
      strengthen our military machine, to buy time to
      organize better or to consolidate our hold on the
      Palestinian Authority. Indeed, faith-based political
      movements in Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait,
      Malaysia, Morocco, Turkey and Yemen have used
      hudna-like strategies to avoid expanding conflict.
      Hamas will conduct itself just as wisely and

      We Palestinians are prepared to enter into a hudna to
      bring about an immediate end to the occupation and to
      initiate a period of peaceful coexistence during which
      both sides would refrain from any form of military
      aggression or provocation. During this period of calm
      and negotiation we can address the important issues
      like the right of return and the release of prisoners.
      If the negotiations fail to achieve a durable
      settlement, the next generation of Palestinians and
      Israelis will have to decide whether or not to renew
      the hudna and the search for a negotiated peace.

      There can be no comprehensive solution of the conflict
      today, this week, this month, or even this year. A
      conflict that has festered for so long may, however,
      be resolved through a decade of peaceful coexistence
      and negotiations. This is the only sensible
      alternative to the current situation. A hudna will
      lead to an end to the occupation and create the space
      and the calm necessary to resolve all outstanding

      Few in Gaza dream. For most of the past six months
      it’s been difficult to even sleep. Yet hope is not
      dead. And when we dare to hope, this is what we see: a
      10-year hudna during which, inshallah (God willing),
      we will learn again to dream of peace.

      Ahmed Yousef is a senior adviser to the Palestinian
      prime minister, Ismail Haniya.

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