Palestine Monitor, May 6, 2011: Al Manara Square, West Bank
Uri Avnery, 30 April 2011
IN ONE word: Bravo!
The news about the reconciliation agreement between Fatah and Hamas is good for peace. If the final difficulties are ironed out and a full agreement is signed by the two leaders, it will be a huge step forward for the Palestinians – and for us.
There is no sense in making peace with half a people. Making peace with the entire Palestinian people may be more difficult, but will be infinitely more fruitful.
Binyamin Netanyahu also says Bravo. Since the government of Israel has declared Hamas a terrorist organization with whom there will be no dealings whatsoever, Netanyahu can now put an end to any talk about peace negotiations with the Palestinian Authority. What, peace with a Palestinian government that includes terrorists? Never! End of discussion.
Two bravos, but such a difference.
THE ISRAELI debate about Arab unity goes back a long way. It already started in the early fifties, when the idea of pan-Arab unity raised its head. Gamal Abd-al-Nasser hoisted this banner in Egypt, and the pan-Arab Baath movement became a force in several countries (long before it degenerated into local Mafias in Iraq and Syria).
Nahum Goldman, President of the World Zionist Organization, argued that pan-Arab unity was good for Israel. He believed that peace was necessary for the existence of Israel, and that it would take all the Arab countries together to have the courage to make it.
David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s Prime Minister, thought that peace was bad for Israel, at least until Zionism had achieved all its (publicly undefined) goals. In a state of war, unity among Arabs was a danger that had to be prevented at all costs.
Goldman, the most brilliant coward I ever knew, did not have the courage of his convictions. Ben-Gurion was far less brilliant, but much more determined.
NOW WE have the same problem all over again.
Netanyahu and his band of peace saboteurs want to prevent Palestinian unity at all costs. They do not want peace, because peace would prevent Israel from achieving the Zionist goals, as they conceive them: a Jewish state in all of historical Palestine, from the sea to the Jordan River (at least). The conflict is going to last for a long, long time to come, and the more divided the enemy, the better.
As a matter of fact, the very emergence of Hamas was influenced by this calculation. The Israeli occupation authorities deliberately encouraged the Islamic movement, which later became Hamas, as a counterweight to the secular nationalist Fatah, which was then conceived as the main enemy.
Later, the Israeli government deliberately fostered the division between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip by violating the Oslo agreement and refusing to open the four “safe passages” between the two territories provided for in the agreement. Not one was open for a single day. The geographical separation brought about the political one.
When Hamas won the January 2006 Palestinian elections, surprising everybody including itself, the Israeli government declared that it would have no dealings with any Palestinian government in which Hamas was represented. It ordered – there is no other word – the US and EU governments to follow suit. Thus the Palestinian Unity Government was brought down.
The next step was an Israeli-American effort to install a strongman of their choosing as dictator of the Gaza Strip, the bulwark of Hamas. The chosen hero was Muhammad Dahlan, a local chieftain. It was not a very good choice – the Israeli security chief recently disclosed that Dahlan had collapsed sobbing into his arms. After a short battle, Hamas took direct control of the Gaza Strip.
A FRATRICIDAL split in a liberation movement is not an exception. It is almost the rule.
The Irish revolutionary movement was an outstanding example. In this country we had the fight between the Hagana and the Irgun, which at times became violent and very ugly. It was Menachem Begin, then the Irgun commander, who prevented a full-fledged civil war.
The Palestinian people, with all the odds against them, can hardly afford such a disaster. The split has generated intense mutual hatred between comrades who spent time in Israeli prison together. Hamas accused the Palestinian Authority – with some justification – of cooperating with the Israeli government against them, urging the Israelis and the Egyptians to tighten the brutal blockade against the Gaza Strip, even preventing a deal for the release of the Israeli prisoner-of-war, Gilad Shalit, in order to block the release of Hamas activists and their return to the West Bank. Many Hamas activists suffer in Palestinian prisons, and the lot of Fatah activists in the Gaza Strip is no more joyous.
Yet both Fatah and Hamas are minorities in Palestine. The great mass of the Palestinian people desperately want unity and a joint struggle to end the occupation. If the final reconciliation agreement is signed by Mahmoud Abbas and Khalid Meshaal, Palestinians everywhere will be jubilant.
BINYAMIN NETANYAHU is jubilant already. The ink was not yet dry on the preliminary agreement initialed in Cairo, when Netanyahu made a solemn speech on TV, something like an address to the nation after an historic event.
“You have to choose between us and Hamas,” he told the Palestinian Authority. That would not be too difficult – one the one side a brutal occupation regime, on the other Palestinian brothers with a different ideology.
But this stupid threat was not the main point of the statement. What Netanyahu told us was that there would be no dealings with a Palestinian Authority connected in any way with the “terrorist Hamas”.
The whole thing is a huge relief for Netanyahu. He has been invited by the new Republican masters to address the US Congress next month and had nothing to say. Nor had he anything to offer the UN, which is about to recognize the State of Palestine this coming September. Now he has: peace is impossible, all Palestinians are terrorists who want to throw us into the sea. Ergo: no peace, no negotiations, no nothing.
IF ONE really wants peace, the message should of course be quite different.
Hamas is a part of Palestinian reality. Sure, it is extremist, but as the British have taught us many times, it is better to make peace with extremists than with moderates. Make peace with the moderates, and you must still deal with the extremists. Make peace with the extremists, and the business is finished.
Actually, Hamas is not quite as extreme as it likes to present itself. It has declared many times that it will accept a peace agreement based on the 1967 lines and signed by Mahmoud Abbas if it is ratified by the people in a referendum or a vote in parliament. Accepting the Palestinian Authority means accepting the Oslo agreement, on which the PA is based – including the mutual recognition of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization. In Islam, as in all other religions, God’s word is definitely final, but it can be “interpreted” any way needed. Don’t we Jews know.
What made both sides more flexible? Both have lost their patrons – Fatah its Egyptian protector, Hosny Mubarak, and Hamas its Syrian protector, Bashar al-Assad, who cannot be relied upon anymore. That has brought both sides to face reality: Palestinians stand alone, so they had better unite.
For peace-oriented Israelis, it will be a great relief to deal with a united Palestinian people and with a united Palestinian territory. Israel can do a lot to help this along: open at long last an exterritorial free passage between the West Bank and Gaza, put an end to the stupid and cruel blockade of the Gaza Strip (which has become even more idiotic with the elimination of the Egyptian collaborator), let the Gazans open their port, airport and borders. Israel must accept the fact that religious elements are now a part of the political scene all over the Arab world. They will become institutionalized and, probably, far more “moderate”. That is part of the new reality in the Arab world.
The emergence of Palestinian unity should be welcomed by Israel, as well as by the European nations and the United States. They should get ready to recognize the State of Palestine within the 1967 borders. They should encourage the holding of free and democratic Palestinian elections and accept their results, whatever they may be.
The wind of the Arab Spring is blowing in Palestine too. Bravo!
Stephen Lendman, 2 April 2011
On April 27, the International Middle East Media Center headlined, “Rival Palestinian Factions Reach Reconciliation Agreement,” saying:
Meeting in Cairo, Palestinian media sources announced a Hamas – Fatah reconciliation draft agreement, signaling hope for rapprochement between the two sides.
Both parties agreed to form a transitional government soon. The two delegations, headed by Fatah President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal discussed security issues and ways to coordinate forces on both sides. They also chose an election date, but didn’t disclose it.
“A Hamas official (Izzat Ar-Rishiq) reported that all points of differences with Fatah have been overcome….Egyptian sources said that the two parties will be invited into Egypt soon (for an) official signing ceremony.”
Egypt’s official MENA news agency confirmed “a complete understanding after talks on all the points, including the formation of a transitional government with a specific mandate and setting a date for elections.”
Fatah delegation chief Azzam Al-Ahmad confirmed the report, saying both sides agreed to a “government of independents….tasked with preparing for presidential and legislative elections within a year.”
Palestinian factions welcomed the announcement, hoping years of conflict would end. Islamic Jihad’s Khaled Al Batsh said his organization welcomed the development, hoping implementation will begin quickly. He also called for ending West Bank political arrests, saying Palestinian priorities include resistance, unity, independence, the right of return, and Jerusalem as Palestine’s capital.
PLC deputy head Dr. Ahmad Bahar called the agreement historic, thanking Egypt for hosting and moderating important talks.
Dr. Abdul-Aziz Shiqaqi, head of Gaza’s coalition of independent figures, said the deal breaks new ground, offering a new reconciliation phase. Khalil Assaf, representing West Bank independent figures, called the agreement the best and most important development this year.
The Palestinian People Party (PPP) also welcomed the deal, hoping implementation will begin soon, as well as calling for efforts to marshal international support for Palestinian independence with Jerusalem its capital.
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu reacted sharply, demanding Abbas:
“choose between peace with Israel or peace with Hamas. There cannot be peace with both because Hamas strives to destroy the state of Israel and says so openly. I think that the very idea of reconciliation shows the weakness of the Palestinian Authority and creates the prospect that Hamas could retake control of Judea and Samaria just like it took control of the Gaza Strip.”
Netanyahu also said all necessary measures will be taken to continue Gaza’s siege, including blocking planned humanitarian flotillas.
He and other Israeli officials repeat the same canards, notably with regard to peace, reconciliation, and denying Hamas’ longstanding willingness to recognize Israel in return for Palestinian sovereignty inside pre-1967 borders, just 22% of its original homeland.
In September, it now hopes the UN General Assembly will affirm what Israel for decades spurned, including peace to perpetuate its war agenda based on lies and deception about Hamas threatening its security.
Getting Washington to bogusly declare it a terrorist organization, Western media ignore its legitimacy as Palestine’s democratically elected government, facts conveniently replaced by spurious claims about terrorism. In other words, twisting them to fit policy that includes on-and-off again wars, violence, land theft, severe repression, targeted assassinations, and violation of fundamental international law and standards, as well as core Judaic values, ones Israel long ago abandoned.
On April 27, New York Times writers Ethan Bronner and Isabel Kershner also covered the story headlining, “Fatah and Hamas Announce Outline of Deal,” saying:
They “create(d) an interim unity government (and agreed to) hold elections within a year, a surprise move that promised to reshape” the regional diplomatic landscape. Perhaps regional uprisings influenced the move. Also, Al Jazeera’s January released Palestine Papers. They revealed covert PA willingness to compromise much in return for little, amounting to de facto complicity and unilateral surrender to Israeli demands, a shameless betrayal like Oslo, what Edward Said called a Palestinian Versailles.
It gives pause about what PA negotiators now have in mind. This time, however, they’re dealing with Hamas, not Israel, but that specter remains powerfully omnipresent in lockstep with its Washington paymaster/partner.
Gaza Al-Azhar University Professor Mkhaimar Abusada believes the PA’s failure to negotiate peace with Israel, as well as anger over a February US Security Council resolution veto against new settlement construction encouraged Fatah to talk.
Hamas representative Moussa Abu Marzouk said:
“We have ended a painful period in the history of the Palestinian people where Palestinian division had prevailed. We gave the occupation a great opportunity to expand the settlements because of this division. Today we turn this page and open a new” one.
Hamas official Mahmoud al-Zahar said both sides agreed to changes in interim PLO leadership, a tribunal for elections, and a date. Both sides will nominate government members, a 12-judge election tribunal, and an oversight committee to handle security.
On April 27, Washington Post writer Jennifer Rubin headlined, “Congress to PA: No US aid if you merge with Hamas,” saying:
Florida Republican House Foreign Affairs chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehiten (a member of America’s extremist far right) signaled ending US aid, repeating Netanyahu’s lies, saying:
“The reported agreement between Fatah and Hamas means that a Foreign Terrorist Organization which has called for the destruction of Israel will be part of the (PA) government. US taxpayer funds should not and must not be used to support those who threaten US security, our interests, and our vital ally, Israel.”
New York Democrat Rep. Gary Ackerman, a notorious pro-Israel supporter, called the deal “a recipe for failure, mixed with violence, leading to disaster,” sounding as extremist as Ros-Lehiten. Other members of both houses concurred, succumbing to Israeli Lobby pressure to go along or face recrimination in 2012. Mindful also of Israeli support, selling their souls the price they pay keep it.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Israel would only negotiate with a Palestinian unity government that “dismantles (its) terror infrastructures and recognizes Israel as well as past PLO (negotiated) agreements.”
Israel’s foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, facing indictment for fraud, money laundering, obstruction of justice, and more, said Israel won’t negotiate with the interim government, adding:
“One of the clauses of the agreement is the release of hundreds of Hamas prisoners from Palestinian jails, which would flood the West Bank with armed terrorists, and the IDF must prepare accordingly….This agreement crosses a red line. Hamas has been defined as a terrorist organization….in addition to the fact that it has always been known that no talks can be held with groups calling for Israel’s destruction.”
Israel’s president Shimon Peres said:
“The move, as it stands is a fatal mistake,” nor will Israel negotiate with a “bona fide terrorist organization.” The deal “would lead to a regression and prevent the formation of a Palestinian state.”
Through public rhetoric and behind the scenes pressure, including through the Israeli Lobby, Israel is going all out to prevent reconciliation, a unity government, peace, and UN General Assembly recognition of an independent Palestine within 1967 borders this September.
Instead it plans to stay belligerent, choose violence over diplomacy, continue settlement construction, keep Gaza blockaded, launch air attacks with powerful weapons, make regular incursions into Palestinian communities targeting nonviolent civilians, and effectively reign daily terror on Palestine like it’s done for over six decades, blaming victims of its own crimes, still with world community support.
As a result, it’s for Palestinians to pursue their own agenda until one day liberated and free. A unity government and UN membership are important steps toward it.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.
A 2,000 strong crowd turned out in Ramallah today in support of unity between Fatah and Hamas. Fatah supporter, Loay Ghashash, emphasised the importance of overall Palestinian unity for reaching a conclusive solution to the occupation. ‘We cannot live divided, it weakens us’, he stated. ‘Unity will not end the occupation but it is the first step, after which we can work on other issues like the election process and reforming the PLO.’
Ghashash believes the ideological divergence between both parties is not insurmountable and is optimistic that a joint government can be achieved, ‘provided they meet in the middle; if not, they will find themselves isolated from the people.’ Ghashash went on to say that Hamas and Fatah should be talking about the rights of the Palestinian people rather than focusing on the political interests of the parties.’
Ghashash claims that Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza have different perceptions on the importance of unity, with those in the West Bank viewing it as more pressing. ‘They have an interest in unity because they are the ones that have to deal with settlers, which is not the case in Gaza.’ The rallies for unity, staged in several West Bank towns and in Gaza today, are essential in order to bring about change, Ghashash asserted. ‘Demonstrations such as this will create a snowball effect.’
Another local Fatah supporter, Salah Hanieh said, ‘I think the will is there.’ Hanieh feels that the primary concern of the Palestinian people is in bringing an end to the fractured nature of their governments, pointing to the sea of Palestinian flags in the crowd, Hanieh said, ‘We are seeing Palestinian flags, not political ones, thus public opinion is clearly supporting unity’ he continued.
‘The roots for compromise are there in the Cairo agreement,’ Salah asserted. He believes the basis for reconciliation is in finding a common ground for both parties by utilising the terms of previous agreements. ‘We can then take steps from there’.
The protest was attended by Nabil Sha’ath, head of the International Affairs Department for Fatah. When asked about the paradox of calling for unity between the Gazan and West Bank governments while Hamas members are being arrested by Fatah security forces, Mr. Sha’ath, replied, ‘Unity will put an end to this. The only problem for Hamas is the Israelis, who will arrest or assassinate its members caught operating here.’
The chief motor behind today’s events, according to Mr. Sha’ath, is for Palestinians of all political stripes to stand under one banner. ‘The two main slogans here, “end separation” and “end the occupation,” have merged into one,’ he noted. ‘Unity is possible although today it is Hamas who is obstructing such an outcome. A year ago, you could have said that it was all of us.’
Muna Namura, member of the Palestinian Popular Front, agrees that raising the Palestinian flag is the main goal of the protest. ‘No one here has come to represent their own party. We don’t want any other agendas in Palestine apart from ending the occupation.’
When asked about Hamas’s stance on the promotion of unity, Mrs. Namura stated that ‘it is deeds, not words that matter. Authorities in Gaza, announcing that unity demonstrations were forbidden, arrived at a gathering today bearing the Hamas flag.’
With regard to the turnout at today’s demonstration, Sha’ath commented, ‘We have learned something from the Egyptians. With large numbers comes qualitative, as well as quantitative change. There are roughly one thousand supporters here today but we should have had five times as many.’ Most participants seemed to believe that partisan differences ought to be put aside in order to achieve the ultimate objective, which is the liberation of both Gaza and the West Bank. Sahal remarks that ‘We both want the same goal but are trying to reach it through different means.’