By Stuart Littlewood
One of Hamas’s top men, Mahmoud al-Zahar, says he doesn’t trust the United Nations to hand statehood to the Palestinians.
Dr al-Zahar notes that Bush promised an independent state and Obama can’t even stop the illegal settlement-building. There has been a long list of disappointments with the international community.
Asked whether Hamas was willing to accept the existence of the Zionist entity, al-Zahar replied: "The question is whether Israel is ready to accept the Palestinian state…"
It is interesting to see Dr al-Zahar speaking up more. A founder of Hamas and a member of its ‘politburo’, he is listed as the government’s foreign minister and was the Resistance movement’s first press officer back in 1987.
He’s regarded as a hard-liner. But who wouldn’t be if he’d suffered as cruelly at the hands of the Israeli regime as this man. Al-Zahar was expelled in 1992 (along with Ismail Haniyeh) to South Lebanon and subsequently targeted for assassination. In 2003 an Israeli F-16 bombed his home killing his eldest son and seriously injuring his wife. In 2007 another Israeli air-strike killed his youngest son.
A strict Islamist, he was brought up in Egypt and is a surgeon by profession.
However, the failure of Hamas to re-write their charter in less threatening language and revise their diplomatic stance in the light of international realities, continues to place a question-mark over al-Zahar and his senior colleagues at this critical time in Palestinian affairs.
They can point to many instances of mis-quotation and mis-interpretation of what they’ve said, which the Israeli propaganda machine skillfully exploits, but the fact remains that they still have work to do if they wish to be seen occupying the moral high ground.
Their refusal to address the issue of the charter only encourages Israeli prime minister Netanyahu’s preposterous sabre rattling. The Palestinian Authority must choose between a peace deal with Israel and one with Hamas, he now insists. “Peace with both is impossible, because Hamas aims to destroy the State of Israel and says that openly,” Netanyahu told the world on YouTube. “It fires missiles at our cities and at our children.
“I hope that the Palestinian Authority will make the right choice – that it will choose peace with Israel. The choice is in its hands.” Has any of Israel’s neighbours known peace? Nevertheless Netanyahu’s rants play well with the warmongers in Washington and London.
A few days later, in the Jerusalem Post, a senior official was rubbing it in. Israel would cut ties with the Palestinian Authority if it brought Hamas into government [even though Hamas won the 2006 elections and is the rightful authority]. “Abbas has to choose whether he wants peace with Israel, or peace with Hamas,” said the official. “He can’t have both. If he chooses peace with Hamas it will bury the peace process.”
But if Hamas accepted the Quartet’s three conditions – renounce violence, recognise Israel, and accept previous Israel-Palestinian agreements – it would be a different matter.
Reciprocal conditions are not required of Israel. If they were, there wouldn’t be a problem in the first place. But that’s not in the peacemakers’ script.
Worried by latest moves towards Palestinian unity and desperate to keep a wedge firmly driven between the main Palestinian factions – collaborators Fatah and resisters Hamas – Israel has once again decided to ignore its obligations and freeze the tax revenues it is supposed to transfer to the Palestinian Authority. Israel’s finance minister says it’s a “punishment” for Fatah’s signing a reconciliation agreement with Hamas.
Hamas: Essential Ingredient
Is there is anyone in Washington, London, Brussels or Strasbourg who still doesn’t understand that a peace process promoted by dishonest diplomats will never work?
Omar Abdul Razek, Hamas’s finance minister, said when interviewed by Aljazeera in May 2006: “Which Israel would you want me to recognise? Is it Israel from the Nile to the Euphrates? Israel with the occupied Golan Heights? Israel with East Jerusalem? Israel with the settlements? I challenge you to tell me where Israel’s borders lie.”
The 1967 borders, suggested the interviewer.
“Does Israel recognise the 1967 borders?” asked Rezek. “Can you tell me of one Israeli government that ever voiced willingness to withdraw to the 1967 borders?”
That’s it in a nutshell.
To be sure, Hamas want rid of Israel altogether and seem convinced that the Zionist entity will eventually fizzle out or self-destruct and “vanish from the pages of time”, as Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini and President Ahmadinejad so poetically put it. In the meantime Gaza’s prime minister Haniyeh, within days of being elected, offered long-term peace if Israel recognised Palestine as an independent state on the internationally accepted 1967 borders. Previously the PLO had foolishly “recognised” Israel without any reciprocal recognition by Israel. The Oslo Accords were supposed to take care of that by ending the Occupation and giving the Palestinians their independence. "What we’ve got instead are more settlements, more occupation, more roadblocks, more poverty and more repression," he said.
Bush and Obama and all the other Western loud-mouths have consistently failed to deliver. So the question remains: why should Hamas renounce violence against a foreign power that violently occupies their homeland, bulldozes their houses at gun-point, uproots their beautiful olive groves, sets up hundreds of armed checkpoints to disrupt normal life and block access to the holy places, batters down villagers’ front doors in the dead of night, builds an illegal ‘separation’ wall to annex their territory, steal their water and isolate their communities, and blockades exports and imports to cause economic ruin?
Haniyeh told fellow Palestinians yesterday, on the 63rd anniversary of Nakba (the ethnic cleansing programme that drove hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homes never to be allowed to return): “We will never recognize the [Israeli occupier]…There is no relinquishing the resistance program as the basic platform to achieve liberation…We will not relinquish the prisoners cause, and we will hold fast to all demands of the resistance in order to attain your freedom.
“Victory is coming. Your state is coming. And the refugees will return, and the occupation will reach its demise.”
Hamas chief Khaled Mesh’al last year rejected further negotiations as not being in the Palestinians’ interests, given the lopsided balance of power. “Negotiation in such conditions is a kind of fruitless gamble.”
These are some of the policy points he emphasised…
• Hamas is a national liberation movement with resistance its main tool.
• Its objective is ending the Zionist occupation and restoring Palestinian rights.
• Hamas only employ “legitimate resistance” – i.e. against the enemy occupying Palestinian land and holy places. They do not attack the enemy’s allies who supply the weapons and munitions used to kill Palestinians. Nor do they extend resistance outside Palestine.
• Peace cannot be made when one party is so powerful and the other so weak. Negotiation under these circumstances would only benefit Israel and would mean surrender.
• Hamas do not recognise Israel. Doing so would effectively legitimise the Occupation and the rest of Israel’s crimes against the Palestinian people. That would be unacceptable in terms of international law and human values.
• Hamas have the legitimacy of the ballot box. There will be no peace in the region until the Powers deal with Hamas and respect their interests and rights and quit favouring Israel at Palestine’s expense.
Could red-blooded patriots out there object to these principles if robbed of freedom in their own country?
Tiny Gaza’s extraordinary people have somehow survived every criminal nastiness the Israelis could throw at them, and have been humiliated by the shamefully inaction of the international community. They have resisted daily air strikes and armed intrusions for five years and courageously withstood the devastating blitzkrieg of 28 months ago.
They have endured the sort of barbarity and betrayal that would have brought lesser people to their knees. I wonder if the British could have clung on through the dark days of the London blitz, which my family lived under, if they’d had nothing to fight with, no Spitfires and Hurricanes, and nowhere to run, and if in addition they’d had to contend with Nazi tanks in the streets, thousands of checkpoints, Nazi rifle butts smashing down their front doors, and the vile Nazi storm-troopers in their jackboots ransacking their homes and dragging off family members.
And if, all the time, the great international Powers of western Christendom had just looked on as spectators… not intervening, not helping. It doesn’t bear thinking about.
But the brutal dispossession and suffering of the Palestinian people has continued for decades. The freedom-preaching West still plays the pathetic spectator while death and misery stalk the streets of Palestinian towns and villages. Today, as I write, reports are coming in about another outrage on the high seas by lawless Israel. A Malaysia-flagged ship carrying a humanitarian cargo of urgently needed sewage pipes to Gaza for The Spirit of Rachel Corrie Mission has been fired on and stopped by Israeli vessels in international waters. Where are the brave boys of NATO’s Mediterranean fleet when you need them?
An Egyptian vessel is said to have supported Israel’s act of piracy. What price the “revolution”, the Arab Spring?
Back to the rather mysterious Dr al-Zahar. Israel can huff and puff about Hamas but it seems they’re here to stay, an essential ingredient in the Middle East cake-mix.
We in the West ought to know more about these Hamas people but we don’t want to hear it from a Zio-compliant media. Hamas, for their part, need to introduce themselves properly and professionally.
The Resistance have said they aim to win more friends internationally. They’d better hurry if the bid for statehood is not to become another victim of US-Israeli blocking tactics.
– Stuart Littlewood is author of the book Radio Free Palestine, which tells the plight of the Palestinians under occupation. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.