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Hamas Accuses West of Blackmail

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    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
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 3, 2006
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      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
      Khalid Mish'al
      Tuesday January 31, 2006
      The Guardian
      http://www.guardian.co.uk/israel/Story/0,,1698702,00.html


      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
      discrimination.

      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
      http://www.islamonline.net/English/News/2006-01/31/article02.shtml


      "This aid should not be linked to unfair conditions," said Haniya.
      (Reuters).

      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
      Hamas' victory.

      "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.

      Serving Israel



      "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
      peace.

      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,"
      Meshaal added.

      Backfire



      "Should you be overly punitive, then obviously it will backfire,"
      Lasensky said.

      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
      fruitful dialogue.

      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
      accordingly.

      "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
      http://www.marxist.com/hamas-power-palestine-israel010206.htm


      "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
      Principles, 1993).


      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
      powerful."


      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
      `terrorists'.


      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
      Ahmed Yassine.


      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
      encroachment internationally.


      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
      elections… 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
      opposite… 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
      any evidence.


      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
      atmosphere… 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
      Palestinian population.


      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
      foreign policy.


      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
      elections.


      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
      is."

      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
      fundamentalist reaction.

      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
      many Palestinians.


      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
      http://counterpunch.com/



      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
      Israeli border.



      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
      Palestine.



      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
      control?



      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
      future interference.



      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
      Palestinians.



      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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