Guest post by Tim Johnston
Following a turbulent week for Israel, Tim Johnston argues that the only path to peace is engagement with Hamas
Hamas, founded in 1987, was elected by the Palestinian people in January 2006 by a landslide. Almost immediately after the elections, they were forced out of power by the US, UK, EU and Israel, leading to the Gaza “takeover” in the June of 2007 as Hamas struggled to maintain its right to govern.
To claim that the US, UK and EU believe in Democracy is to approach lunacy. Hamas is the democratically elected government of Palestine and therefore a peace deal is impossible without them. It is the voice of the Palestinian people and one the West has tried desperately to silence, forcing them to form a unity government with Fatah. If Labour won the next election and was then forced to share a government with the Conservatives, we wouldn’t accept this. Neither should the Palestinians.
The purpose of Hamas’ creation was and still is to help the Palestinian people through the implementation of policies such as free education, the construction of affordable housing, schools, hospitals and jobs. All of which are based on social democratic values, not some crazed Taliban-esque theocracy. Despite all this, Hamas is never recognised as a social movement, rather as some sort of evil terrorist force, hell-bent on blowing Israel to pieces. And whilst Hamas does have a military wing, the Izz Ed-Din Al-Qassam Brigades, that carries out attacks on Israel, to ignore its social legitimacy whilst accepting that of the Israeli government, which is responsible for atrocities on an even greater scale, is pure hypocrisy.
In the last week alone, Israel has rejected a UN investigation into Israeli war crimes in Gaza, taken over the Al-Aqsa mosque (for the second time in the past few weeks), made plans to remove the term “ethnic cleansing” from its school history books in reference to the explusion of Palestinians in 1948 and has been found to be denying Palestinians of clean water. In some areas Palestinians receive 20 litres per capita, per day, compared to 300 litres per capita, per day, for Israelis in the West Bank. All the while it continues to build settlements in the West Bank whilst evicting Palestinians from their homes and bulldozing their houses. All of this has gone on whilst Israel has maintained that it is trying to reach a peace deal with the Palestinians under the shaky pretense that the only people preventing this peace deal from its actualisation are the Palestinians themselves. Ridiculous.
The people of Palestine are more than pawns. They are human beings who have suffered at the hands of Israel with our help and the billions of dollars in aid and military equipment which the West provides. Hamas is the only legitimate movement of the Palestinian people, and is therefore the only means to establishing peace. Rockets will stop once a fair and just peace deal has been reached. Such a deal has to include Israel’s withdrawal to the pre-1967 war borders, East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine, the removal of “the wall”, check-points, border patrols and outposts, all of which are illegal and in the direct contravention of human rights. It has to grant Palestine its own military (the right to resist) alongside economic independence and the ability to determine its own destiny, uninterrupted and free from coercion.
There has been some progress within the past few weeks due to the publication of the Goldstone Report, which has paved the way to make possible the trial of Israeli leaders and Hamas fighters for war crimes. This is a necessary step in the pursuit of justice, but it doesn’t address the Israeli/Palestinian conflict as a whole, given that the report is a document only of Operation Cast Lead (December 2008 – January 2009, in which Israel invaded Gaza killing over 1,400 Palestinians. Hamas killed 13 Israelis, three of whom were civilians).
The daily atrocities committed by Israel are horrific. Palestine has suffered for more than sixty years and Hamas is the actualisation of that suffering. To pretend that Israel is somehow justified in doing these things is utterly wrong. Hamas is the only solution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, and to refuse diplomatic engagement with them is only to refuse the solution. Hamas is Palestine, and we’d do well to get over it.--MORE--"
Also see: Hamas: don't allow sham elections to take place