A while ago on the Huffington Post, the blogger Sharmine Narwani posted an interviewwith two leaders, Usama Hamdan from Hamas and Ammar Mousawi from Hezbollah. I found these statements to be extremely illuminated and in this post we'll be examining the words of these leaders. We should keep in mind two things: first, these leaders are the foreign representatives of these organizations and second, even when they were in the position to lie unchallenged, they were still unable to make reconciliatory statements, as we'll see below. Let's begin:
I think there has been no change since Obama became president. In fact, I believe we faced a great failure last month (when the US administration caved on the issue of an Israeli settlement freeze in the West Bank). It was a minor failure, but a failure nonetheless. Brings me as a Palestinian to ask why Palestinians should accept any conditions when Israel doesn't. I liked Obama's Cairo speech, but we have to see what happens on the ground.
The US is putting itself in a corner by thinking it is their responsibility to protect Israel in the region when Israel is doing the attacking. Someone has to be courageous enough - there must be conditions for Israel. If you have a child that doesn't have to follow rules, he will be spoilt. Israel is the US's spoilt child.
The US has to say to the Israeli government "That's it." They can do that. It is not so simple, but it is not too difficult either. Who in the world will support Israel against the US? Fifty percent of Europeans identified Israel as the biggest threat to peace and stability in the world -- not in the Middle East -- but in the world.
I understand that Obama is facing internal and external problems and pressures. But his priorities are not clear to us -- he seems confused. Palestinians will not wait forever.
First, the statement of "why Palestinians should accept any conditions when Israel doesn't". This statement makes no sense, as no conditions are being placed on the Palestinians to begin negotiations, only Israel. A better question would be, "why should Israel accept any conditions when the Palestinians don't have any?" In fact, why should there be any conditions at all for either side? Only the Palestinians, with their demand to freeze settlements before negotiations begin, and Obama who is unfortunately echoing them, are the only ones setting conditions.
As for the US doing what the Palestinians want and curbing Israel, if I were the Palestinians I wouldn't want Hamas and Hezbollah saying that. If I was Obama and I decided to demand a settlement freeze, and was met with unhappiness from Israel and Americans but happiness from Hamas and Hezbollah, that would set off warning bells. Usually, if terror groups like something it's a good idea to do the other thing, and that goes for all terrorists, including Jewish one.
Usama Hamdan: Netanyahu has always been against a genuine peace process. We had experience with him when he was prime minister from 1996-98 -- he undermined the Oslo Agreements, he divided the issues - there is a very bad experience with him. Adding to this is his foreign minister is Avigdor Lieberman -- the worst political figure in all the world. Add to that Ehud Barak. We are facing a government formed of extremists. Netanyahu, Lieberman and Barak? The worst combination in Israeli history.
First of all, the idea that a Hamas representative is complaining about extremists in the Israeli government is hilarious all by itself. The most extremist member of Netanyahu's government isn't anywhere near the average Hamas member. Also, this supposed crazy right wing government isn't nearly as bad as the Palestinians or the Huffington Post makes them out to be. It endorses a Palestinian state and is prepared to negotiate a peace treaty without preconditions, which is more than both Fatah and Hamas are willing to do. I'm not saying the current Israeli government is perfect and warm and fuzzy, but Hamdan is a pot calling the kettle black here. Lastly, you know who put that government into power? HAMAS. History shows us the following trend in Israeli history: Left wing government elected, government gives up concessions (occupation, Gaza, Sinai), Palestinians sense weakness and attack, Israeli public sick of violence and vote out left wing government, right wing government cracks down on violence, peace restored. Israeli public likes peace, becomes willing to make concessions again, votes in left wing government. And the cycle begins all over again. The best way for the Palestinians to stop "extremists" like Netanyahu from being elected is to not destroy the faith of the Israeli people in left-wing governments through violence. But hey, it's much better to pretend Israel elected Netanyahu because they are out to get the Palestinians.
Ammar Mousawi: The War on Terror's objective was to corner legitimate resistance and prevent it from achieving its mission. The West still resists differentiating between resistance and terrorism -- and that is done on purpose. Resistance is defined as a legal fight against occupation as opposed to terrorism, which is defined as systematically killing innocent people. We are interested in having a dialog with the West because we would like to make them aware of our point of view. Resistance is part of world history -- it is not an uncommon thing. All these negative positions taken by the West are because of their support for Israel and unwillingness to see that the people of this region have the right to exist in peace. After the failure of all their attempts to destroy these resistance groups through military and political means, they concluded that they must now know more about us, how we operate. And so the dialogue begins.
Fascinatingly, Mousawi correctly identifies the correct definition of terrorism: (intentionally) "killing innocent people". Of course, the definition of "innocent" depends on who you ask, I'm sure in Hamas' opinion there is no such thing as an innocent Israeli, but that definition works. But he denies "resistance groups" are terrorists despite the fact that they meet his definition and blames the West for unwillingness to recognize the rights of Arabs to live in peace and for trying to destroy "resistance groups". I don't know if he's doing it on purpose, but Mousawi is playing the "politically correct paradigm" perfectly. He argues that if the West made the effort to understand his "point of view", it would suddenly understand that killing innocent people is in fact resistance and therefore support his fight, or at least enter into a "dialogue." This aligns perfectly with HPers who argue that the Palestinians have no choice but to target Israeli civilians, and it's just as unconvincing.
Sorry, Mousawi, but you can twist the language as much as you like. Killing innocent people is what terrorist groups do, by your own definition, and killing innocent people is what Hamas and Hezbollah do. Ipso facto, Hamas and Hezbollah are terrorist groups and no amount of "dialogue" and "awareness" is going to make us change our minds about that.
Usama Hamdan: We were listed on the US terrorism list in 1993 just because Israel asked for it -- before that we had direct contacts with the Americans. We even sent a letter to then Secretary of State Madeleine Albright asking why. They know that they are wrong in this. They know that anyone who supports rights and justice supports the Palestinians. We want them to accept Hamas as the choice of the Palestinian people - they must respect the fact that Palestinians are committed to their rights. They will talk with us eventually. We are not in a hurry for that.
In the West, they try to shape you before dealing with you. This is the Palestinian experience. They've done this with Fatah. Hamas' position is to say what we are, what we stand for - clearly - and we can defend our rights best that way.
"Anyone who supports rights and justice supports the Palestinians". Once again, we see the twisting and ambiguity of language to suit the Palestinian worldview. What "justice" would allying with Hamas support? If it's regaining all the land of Palestine and punishing the Jews for their crimes, then I don't support justice at all. Ditto with "rights". Clearly, people who support the Israeli "right" to live without rockets coming down on their heads shouldn't support Hamas. Too often good-hearted people who want to see a Palestinian state free and strong next to Israel ally with people like Hamdan who claim to want such great values as "justice and peace" and disguise their true intentions with fancy language. It's a shame so many people fall for it.
Now, think hard for a second. Do you really want the US and the West to "accept Hamas as the choice of the Palestinian people"? Do you really want the US to believe the Palestinian people deliberately chose a group that attacks Israel for no reason, throws their own people off rooftops and kneecaps them, forces women and children to stand on roofs to prevent Israeli bombings, enforces sharia law and won't stop until Israel's completely destroyed? Such an acceptance would set back the Palestinian cause back sixty years!
Usama Hamdan: All Islamists should want the good of their people. The most important point is how they deal with their own communities. In my belief, you have to be a good man to your own people - not push them hard or kill them if they don't accept your point of view. In Rafah, Gaza this August, we had clashes with a minority group which started killing Palestinians just because they had different ideas, by putting bombs in internet cafes, beauty salons and wedding parties.
We are against groups like Al Qaeda and the Taliban for this reason. We condemned the attacks of 9-11, the explosions in London, the Madrid bombing when it was clear to us that these were not accidents.
Interesting. Palestinians killing other Palestinians in terror bombings. Bet you won't see that on the evening news.
Ammar Mousawi: We try to promote a positive image of Islam that is open to dialogue between people and cultures. We are not responsible for the actions of groups that present a different picture of Islam. We do not agree with the behavior of these groups -- they give a negative view of Islam. But the question is who created and supported these extremists?
What gives life to these entities is the policies of the West: unlimited support for Israel will cause this extremism. All the wars in Afghanistan will feed this extremism. We are in a situation where we will have wars with no end. Sovereignty, development, mutual respect, the right to determine your own destiny -- these issues need dialog, not wars.
Hezbollah condemns the deliberate killing of innocent people -- it promotes in us a sense of sadness as happened with 9-11, London, Madrid. And if there are some differences between us and the US, this is not the way to sort out our problems -- these acts are not excusable.
At some level I actually believe this. I think Mousawi and Hamas want to destroy Israel, that's their only goal. They know militant Islam is a powerful motivator for recruitment, especially for suicide bombings. As Napoleon said, "A man does not have himself killed for a penny a day or a petty distinction. You must speak to the soul if you wish to inspire him". But whether or not Hamas actually believes the fundamentalist Islam they're spreading, it doesn't matter. Regardless of your motivations, you're still attacking Israel without any inclination to compromise, and therefore you should be treated the same. As for Hezbollah condemns the deliberate killing of innocent people, let's see some statements condemning the deaths of Israeli civilians killed by Hamas rockets. Yeah, I didn't think so.
Usama Hamdan: ...There must be a change in the Israeli mentality because they must understand that without ending the occupation, there will be no peace.
To this I say the same thing I always say when anyone says this: There was no peace when there wasn't an occupation, so why will there be peace once it's gone? The occupation left in 2000 and the Second Intifada made the streets run red with Palestinian and Israeli blood. No one on either side should want that again (except, undoubtedly, Hamas and Hezbollah). Remember, Germany and Japan were occupied for decades after WW2, and they've been at peace ever since. There is no doubt in my mind that peace needs to come long before the occupation withdraws and that it wouldn't be that hard if the Palestinians stopped making excuses.
Ammar Mousawi: ...We would like to say to Americans that they are subjecting themselves to a double standard - on one hand talking about values and on the other hand resisting and undermining these very values through their unconditional support of Israel's actions. The way they have received and treated the Goldstone Report has caused an uproar here.
Once again, a Hamas or Hezbollah representative complaining about double standards is hilarious, as the Palestinians are given free reign to kill innocent people under the banner of "resistance" while Israel killing innocent people is always "murder". If anything, America is acting very much in tune with Israel by attacking the Goldstone Report. Both America and Israel are fighting people who use human shields and other tactics to cold-bloodedly increase the body count and if those people are rewarded for their actions the way the Goldstone Report rewards them (i.e., by making fighting against such tactics war crimes), America's next on the conviction list. By correctly pointing out the problems with the Goldstone Report, America is maintaining the cause of real truth and justice rather than the manufactured justice Mousawi is hoping for.
Usama Hamdan: The US administration has to realize that Israel is occupying Palestinian lands, not the other way around. But they are sending weapons to be used against Palestinians every day -- at least $2 billion worth is sent to Israel annually. They have to put these basic facts on the table before pointing a finger at Hamas' rockets. We have said before we are ready to engage in a prolonged ceasefire if there is a complete Israeli withdrawal from occupied Palestinian lands -- they did not even try to respond to this offer.
The US administration is about as likely to realize that as Usama Hamdan is likely to accept that the West Bank and Gaza are no more legally Palestinian land than Israeli. As for support sent to Israel, the US can stop sending "weapons" once the Palestinians refuse the millions of dollars they get from overseas. After all, we wouldn't want double standards, right?
Hamdan: There is a peace process. Hamas opposes that peace process, not because we like to be against it, but because we believe there is no real peace. The Israelis and the sponsors of the process, mainly the US administration, were not creating peace through negotiations, they were dismantling the Palestinian cause. If you go through the Oslo Agreement, you discover that this agreement pushed aside the main issues that created the conflict -the status of Jerusalem, the land, sovereignty of a future Palestinian state, the right of return for refugees, and our natural resources. They said all of these have to be negotiated afterward!
Exactly. There will be no real peace while Israel exists. He doesn't come out and say that, but he also doesn't come out and not say that either. I'm pretty sure negotiations have in fact helped the Palestinian cause, as they have made Israelis want to create a Palestinian state (an unheard of idea forty years ago), as well as given semi-autonomous rule to the West Bank and completely autonomous rule to the Gaza Strip. That's a lot better than Hamas' big plan for firing rockets until doomsday. As for the Oslo Agreement, it's true that it ignored the big issues because those negotiators knew something Hamdan didn't: it was more important and easier to improve the Palestinian day to day life than tackle the big issues. Of course, we can't really expect a Hamas representative to place Palestinian life over big issues, now, can we?
Hamdan: We have an Arab saying that goes: the one who is safe from punishment will act badly. Israel feels it is totally protected, that it can do anything -- it feels it is a country above the law when the US uses its veto to protect Israel at every turn. If the Arabs work to protect their own interests, talk to the Americans about their mutual interests, I think the Americans will see the value of re-balancing their strategic interests in the region.
Well, here's some mind-reading by Hamdan that doesn't have much basis in reality. I think the eyes of the world consistently being on Israel and every Palestinian death splashed on the BBC has done a good job making sure Israel doesn't get away with anything. Once again, Hamdan places the burden of action on the US to change its viewpoint, rather than look inward to ask himself if his organization is really doing what's best for peace.
Well, there you go. Hamas and Hezbollah representatives tell us just what the HPers don't want us to believe: they have no intention of ever ending the fight against Israel and are currently working on bringing the US around to see their "point of view".