AHMED YOUSEF: Pause for Peace
- The New York Times
November 1, 2006
Pause for Peace
By AHMED YOUSEF
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
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 ones opponents and understand their position
with the goal of resolving the intertribal or
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
its 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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