Uri Avnery on the Hamas & Fatah Reconciliation: Good for Peace

Note from Rabbi Michael Lerner: We at Tikkun hate violence from whatever source, so naturally we’ve been extremely critical of Hamas through the years both for its violence and its glorification of violent acts of terror against Israeli civilians. We’ve similarly been critical of Israeli violence which is built into the very structure of the Occupation. And we’ve similarly been critical of the U.S. , Russia, China, Iran, Syria, Libya, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and the list goes on and on. But we also critiqued the Israeli government and the US for demanding that Palestinians become more democratic, then after Hamas won a popular election in 2006, rejecting any negotiations with a government that had Hamas as part, a decision which helped precipitate the split between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. Just as I supported negotiations with the Vietcong and North Vietnam to end the War in Vietnam, so I believe it is appropriate to negotiate with your enemies (not just the ones you approve of) if you really want to end a war and end violence. A peace with the Palestinian Authority but without Hamas as part would be a meaningless peace. So the words of Uri Avnery below deserve serious consideration. Avnery is the leader of Gush Shalom, the Israeli Peace movement based in Tel Aviv.

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.

Therefore: Bravo!

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.

He won.

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!

Uri Avnery is chair of Gush Shalom, the pre-eminent peace activist organization in Israel.
tags: Israel/Palestine   
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8 Responses to Uri Avnery on the Hamas & Fatah Reconciliation: Good for Peace

  1. David Kronfeld April 29, 2011 at 10:51 am

    As usual, Avnery makes some statements that are either very distorted or complete pie in the sky. His convoluted assertion that “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” is a tortured way of suggesting that Hamas will accept Israel. But Hamas has clearly stated that it will never accept Israel, never accept a Jewish state, never accept any Jewish sovereign presence in the middle east. Which is more believable? Similarly, he states that if Hamas is institutionalized it will “probably” become more “moderate.” On what does he base that? Is the Iranian theocracy more moderate, or Hezbollah, now that they have greater and more institutionalized political power? No — they are more belligerent and full of hate. Let Hamas modify its charter first, in which it seeks to “drink the blood of the Jews.” Then we can begin to consider if they are willing to consider real peace. And as everyone at Tikkun can recognize, a phony or deceptive peace is no peace.

    • dirar May 3, 2011 at 5:53 pm

      You can keep on ignoring the truth and blodshed, land theft, aparthied, occupation, will go on. Peace will be good for all. I know, you know Netanyaho is not interested in peace. He is only buying time. I know that You know Hamas said they will accept a peace deal if voted on by Palestinian parliment or the people. Do all teh childern a favor, quit being a party to spreading lies, it is not good for your soul.

  2. Barry Wright April 29, 2011 at 11:44 am

    Bravo indeed! Uri Avnery tells like it is, bravo for him as well.
    If even a little of the Arab Spring catches Palestinian sails, their ship of state might actually begin to move at last. It all
    seems too good to be true, pre-1967 borders and a unified
    sovereign Palestine, the dream and hope of humanitarians worldwide. Let it be so.

  3. Albertine Brand April 29, 2011 at 2:25 pm

    US war and oil shareholders want NO reduction in violence. The same must go on the very same principle for any Israelis who are also shareholders in any of that business. The violation of Geneva Conventions with settlement building was a setup for just the conditions that have been on the ground now for decades.

    The Israeli Left like the Left in the US are not any countervailing force for the money forces behind these conditions on the ground. The same goes for the Brits who set up the Gambit back in 1913 when they were dismembering the Ottoman Empire so they could control then newly being discovered oil fields, and the shipping lanes!

    We had all better wake up to the power imbalances in our own “democracies” because they are the root cause of conditions on the ground all over the world which lead to violence amongst Plebes who finally have enough! That reaction has always been well understood by the setters-up of unequal and untenable conditions of any kind anywhere! The framers of the Geneva Conventions understood that too, which is why they ban settlement building and mixing of people on occupied land if there is ever to be any lasting peace.

    And shame on us for buying into the way those shareholders and their bought media frame that story. They get away with pinning it on the Plebes who have to eke out a living every day in deliberately setup unequal and violent conditions. Conditions also designed to cause brain drain. They love to be able to get away with blaming them for whatever mechanisms they may come up with to defend themselves from their defenselessness. Like stone throwing, smuggling, or gangs of young thugs. The breakers of the Geneva Conventions were counting on just those mechanisms arising to fuel the hatred for the TV cameras for unwitting and manipulated Israeli and American TV audiences!

    There will be no peace as long as Reactionary Shareholder forces hold all the cards in these “democracies” and can serve themselves by seeding violence and destruction anywhere they want to and then blaming the victims using bought Pols like Netanyahu, Lieberman, Bush, Palin, Pete King, etc. These are constitutional failures for which we must wake up and take our own responsibility.

    • Karnak May 8, 2011 at 9:41 pm

      I think you are losing track of one part of the conflict, and that is called pride, or to be more accurate, Arab Muslim pride, which has nothing to do with business.

  4. Roger Schwarz May 1, 2011 at 9:41 pm

    The unity agreement between Hamas and the Palestinian authority seems designed to position the two Palestinian parties for the U.N. resolution expected this fall. On the surface this seems to increase Israel’s challenge in responding to that resolution. Too many ifs make it impossible to predict the outcome but for some reason I don’t yet understand, I think the outcome will be better than if the alliance had not been negotiated. We’ll know soon.

  5. Karnak May 8, 2011 at 9:38 pm

    I will never understand why right or left are so entrenched in their views. It always amazes me that no matter what the circumstances are, people will find their opinion reinforced.
    in this instance, how exactly having Hamas in the mix will reinforce peace, for a starter, I remember vividly 93 through 96, there was only division between Fatah and Hammas, one was talking the other was having fireworks at Israeli expanse.

  6. tahoevalleylines May 15, 2011 at 2:34 pm

    Islam’s birth pains in the Seventh Century were a series of military campaigns to butcher Jewish and Christian remnants in the region. Crusades, Tours, Truce, Armenian genocide, Oil for battleships, 1948, Oil for cars: battle joined.

    All the learned writings by moderns like Chomsky and lesser sages fail to reflect scriptural covenants & promises to Israel; be that as it may, does anyone pay attention to the writings and sayings of Muslims past & present? Peace with submission! Before 1948 the Nazis were in league with the Ba’ath party, and the Nazi sentiment to eradicate Jews has carried over to Hamas, Fatah, Hezbollah. The Koran is Mein Kampf in Arabic!

    The fruit of Islam talks peace in between abortive attacks to annihilate Israel. Even with the post 1967 borders, Israel is strategically indefensible except for the heavenly shield. Are there no scholars in Islam with intellectual honesty to assert the fact that Islam can not, shall not outlive Israel? If peacemakers ignoring covenant promise to Israel want to attempt a period of peace at least, they must solve the oil problem; removing the large powers from the picture. Good luck.

    In 1917, even as Lawrence was blowing up the railroad from Turkey, Jastrow wrote in his book: “The War & The Bagdad (sic) Railway” a plan for using a “Pilgrim”s Railway” for the Haj as a unifying element in the Middle East. Recent railway talk by Tony Blair as an apolitical link for Palestinians to connect with Lebanon, West Bank and Egypt is most significant and merits inclusion for this discussion.

    Islam has Israel surrounded, and we will let General Anthony Clement McAuliffe supply the appropriate comment. In a later time, General Moshe’ Dayan has said “The Minimum Required Effort To Achieve The Minimum Acceptable Result”. Dayan’s saying might apply to a modern “Pilgrim’s Railway” network used to improve the lot of Palestinians displaced persons, and make possible some new settlements and towns enroute. But of course expect even this Transportation Engineering effort to be used against Israel. So we look at at a third general’s saying: MacArthur saw theological basis in war, and warns of need for “A spiritual recrudescence and improvement of human character…”

    Greater use of railway in the United States would translate to less worldwide need for Middle East Oil, primary funding source for terrorism. Should reformed transportation policy in America be uppermost in the peacemaker’s solution set?

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