Saturday, January 28, 2006

Hamas’ victory: the reasons and the implications!

What was described by an Israeli Government spokesperson as the political “earthquake” of the landslide win of Hamas in the Palestinian parliamentary election was in fact widely expected by political experts. They are now expected to win around 60% of the votes, which means an absolute majority.

The reasons:

A 13 year failed peace process, which already entailed big and historic compromises from the Palestinian side, did not change anything of the daily misery of Palestinians under occupation.

After 13 years of this peace process, all territories remain under occupation. The only free one is the Gaza strip, which was freed unilaterally outside Oslo and the Road Map.

During the last 13 years of the process, consecutive Israeli governments were making excuses to not implement the agreed matters. Each agreement apparently needed subsequent agreement to start implementing it, which then needed a new agreement to approve it, until the government would collapse and the new government would say that it was not obliged to implement these dozen of agreements, as it did not sign them.

The Palestinian people were going in circles waiting to start the peace. The Palestinian people agreed, according to Oslo, to recognise the right of Israel to exist, which was a historic compromise from the indigenous people. They also agreed to stop violence against Israel, and if there was violence, the Palestinian security agencies would deal with them according to law.

The Palestinians waited for the release of Prisoners of war, which started to happen during Rabin’s time, but stopped immediately after his assassination, then more prisoners of war were detained or extra-judicially killed.

The freedom of movement is nil, the security is absent, unemployment has skyrocketed and daily humiliation became routine.

On the other side, Israel and US were happy to deal only with Palestinian Authority (PA) officials, even after the many counts of corruption. They saw that it was easy to get signatures, guarantee full cooperation (to the extent of collaboration) and get dirty things done from corrupted people than from transparent ones. I can mention here the incident of Qurei’s companies scandals, where these companies sold donated cement (from Egypt to Palestinians) to Israeli contractors to build the Apartheid wall.

Israel, US and the European Union knew about all this corruption, but turned deaf ears, for the same reasons as mentioned above. But the implications were clear: the Palestinians lost their faith in the PA and its army of bureaucrats and security agencies.

What helped Hamas here is the welfare work they’ve done to close the gap. Hamas built wide-spread networks of hospitals, schools and welfare payment to orphans, invalids and unemployed at the time when PA agencies were fighting for their own interests and welfare.

Also Hamas was declaring that it would not accept any compromises on the rights of the Palestinians as the indigenous people of the land, in accordance with the UN resolutions and international conventions. Hamas did not rule out that they could recognize Israel’s existence, but according to these principles. UN resolutions would, for example, guarantee the rights of return, compensation, and an independent state and sovereignty.

The narrative of Hamas was very attractive to the Palestinians and was based on the fact that there should be many lessons from the failed peace process. The clearest lesson should be that if you made bigger compromises, you will end up getting nothing, while if you insist to get your rights, even your enemy would respect you and take you more seriously.

Successive Israeli governments were not taking PA as a serious partner or even a serious service-deliverer. They looked at PA as their deputy sheriff to oppress the Palestinians.

Successive Israeli governments, according to this understanding, did not help PA to win the hearts and minds of the Palestinians. They did not give them any “bones” to play with. Instead of freeing prisoners, coordinating withdrawals with PA, stopping assassinations of Palestinians (even only during the election campaign) and easing movement restrictions – they intensified the oppression. In addition to the reason above, Israeli governments (especially the latest) wanted to wash their hands of any obligation towards the peace process by claiming that they will not negotiate with Hamas.

The implications :

Well, there are great implications of the landslide win of Hamas. These could be looked from 3 perspectives:
1. Hamas and Palestinian perspective
2. Israeli perspective
3. International perspective

1-Hamas and Palestinian perspective:

There is no doubt that the Hamas victory was the “enough is enough” message. The Palestinian Fateh movement must look at its structure, policies and tactics. If they want to stay active and effective in the Palestinian streets and life, they should show some leadership. They should show some discipline, stop lawlessness, reduce the corruption and denounce decisions made before in which they gave a lot of compromises, without anything in return.

So the expectations are that the Palestinian society will be more toughened against the corruption (this already happened where many of the corrupt and Israeli collaborators (like Jebril AlRjoub) had lost their seats). They will also be more demanding of historical rights and more unified and proud of its leadership. Although the Palestinian Muslims are moderate on the whole, but their vote yesterday was a vote for political transparency and principled demanding of their historical and human basic rights)

But this victory will put Hamas under pressure, too. It will be required to make tough decisions about the basis of any peace process, about negotiating with Israel and possible signing of a peace accord!
Hamas at the moment is giving very little detail about this.

2- Israeli perspective

Israel too will have a more tough opponent now. The Israeli politicians should start to think about how they will deal with the new facts on the ground: Hamas is the ruling party!

It is very clear that the Palestinian people had made up their minds. The message is: we want some of our rights, no more mucking around. The other choice is total anarchy. The Palestinians announced yesterday that they have nothing more to lose, and it is now time they should get something in return.

The ball now is in the Israeli court. Any refusal to negotiate with Hamas and start making real compromises would mean more bloodshed and on large scale.

3- International perspective:

The initial response from the leaders of the Western countries could be described as unreal, at least. Hamas was chosen by democratic means to represent the Palestinian people. Any denial of such facts would be undemocratic.

Furthermore, the demand of Hamas to lay down its arms before any negotiation is unrealistic and hypocritical too. The US negotiated with the VeitCong, while the war was raging. The same happened with the French in Algiers, English in Egypt…

The whole idea of negotiation is to settle down violence. If the violence could be settled down without negotiation, why should we have it anyway!

After all, was Israel not negotiating with the PA (dominated by Fateh), while the AlAqsa martyrs brigades were full of arms?

There is occupation, and a very brutal one, and the international community should ask the perpetrators to stop its aggression, and not ask the victims to stop complaining. The international community (including US and Australia) should start to ask Israelis to recognize UN resolutions, international laws and conventions and honor their commitments according to treaties they signed.

The Palestinians sent a clear message to the international community yesterday: we are sick of your hypocrisy.

Palestinians are really sick of the whole world ignoring their daily suffering, and the treatment of such suffering only as yet another news item.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Sharon’s death: is this divine justice?!

It is natural to send sympathy and condolences to the family and friends of anyone suffering severe illness or death. And thus it should be with the deterioration of Ariel Sharon’s medical situation and his possible death today.

Nevertheless this should not prevent us from recognizing that his particular death will not be mourned by millions of people who were affected by his monstrous war crimes.

The victims of Qybya, the small Palestinian village near Ramallah, who in 1953 lost 45 houses and 69 civilians, most of them women and children, are probably feeling better today.

The families of 270 Egyptian prisoners of war who were butchered in Sinai in 1956 in cold blood under his command may also feel some comfort. They were demanding justice for such horrendous crimes from the UN, ICJ and international law but it seems that divine justice is the only one they will get.

The kids who were uprooted from their houses, which were there family homes for centuries, and were enforced to live without fathers as refugees in neighbouring countries would also be feeling some sense of justice today.

The sons, wives, husbands, fathers, mothers and relatives of the 30,000 (mostly civilians) killed during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982 (when Sharon was Defence Minister) are still having tragic nightmares because of such crimes. Can anyone blame them if they might celebrate the death of this war criminal?

Can the UN and the international community explain to the relatives of more than 2,700 Palestinian civilians butchered in Sabra and Shatila camps in September 1982, how this war criminal escaped indictment and persecution?

What do you think is the feeling of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who lost their historical lands for new settlements under his minsterialship?

All the Palestinians and peace-loving people are asking why the UN Security Council did not move to impose sanctions on Israel after it refused, under his leadership, to implement the Security Council’s resolution to investigate the Jenin massacres on 2002!
This name nicknamed “bulldozer” was really a bulldozer: a bulldozer of blood, international law violations, massacres and genocides.

This bulldozer is also responsible not only for Palestinian blood, but for Arab blood and Jewish blood alike. His neo-nazi ideas of imposing his own agenda by “iron and fire”, his refusal to negotiate with the Palestinians and neighbouring Arabic countries and his insistence on continuing to uproot Palestinians and assassinate their leaders and activists, cost “Israelis” more than a thousand deaths.

So at the end, the kids who have grown up in exile, with no security, with minimum rights, with nightmares of blood of their relatives spilt in battlefields, villages and camps, will understand that at least there is divine intervention to bring some justice.

But is this justice enough? Should not this “bulldozer” spend his last days behind bars in The Hague? Is this divine justice proving more and more that there is no human justice? Does this give the Palestinians and other oppressed people any hope in the future, if they will be required to wait for divine intervention to get rid of every monster war criminal?

Over recent years the world has watched as the last of the Nazi war criminals have been brought to justice, and as dictators like Pinochet are finally being called to account. So it should be with those who have been responsible for horrendous state-sponsored violence which has been investigated and repeatedly condemned by the United Nations.

All peoples wish to live peacefully under a rule of law. However for any role of law to be respected it must be just and seen to be just by those it governs.

As we move to mark what might soon be the passing of a confirmed perpetrator of international war crimes and crimes against humanity, let us not rush to eulogise him, but stop to remember those who suffered at his hands.