April June 2008Leading Posts

Why Israel should start negotiating with Hamas

Yvonne Ridley

I recently addressed a debate at Durham University in which the question of: ‘Should Israel talk to Hamas’ was the main platform for the discussion. It was a great evening – regardless of the outcome – not least of all because it was a great exercise in that excellent British tradition of free speech. Days before I headed to my favourite English city I spoke to someone from Hamas and told them about the debate. I was very enthusiastic on several different levels and was rather crestfallen when he just sneered, shrugged his shoulders and looked singularly unimpressed.
When I pressed him and asked surely it was important for all sides to talk, he shrugged his shoulders again and then said: “Why do we need to talk? Why do we need to do anything? Time is on our side. We have waited 50 years for our country and we can wait another 50 years”.
I mentioned this to Jewish American author Dr Alice Rothchild, an amazing, compassionate woman who had just returned from the region and surprisingly she nodded in agreement.
According to Alice the so-called Zionist lobby in America is weakening by the day because young Jewish Americans no longer want to move to Israel and many want to forget about the so-called Promised Land because it was making them confront uncomfortable ideas about the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from their land. A case of the abused becoming the abuser is simply too unpleasant for some jewish people to contemplate.
But while it appears a growing number of young Jewish people from the West are content to remain in the West, the millions of young Palestinians living around the world are growing in their determination to return and demand the right to return to Palestine.
So you see, this could be why Hamas in particular and other Palestinians aren’t that bothered about talking to people who have no wish to talk to them or even discuss the notion of the right to return which could be demanded by as many as 7 million Palestinians. May be 50 years down the line no one but the Palestinians will really care about the return.As a journalist, I am deeply saddened by the censorship by omission which runs deep in western media coverage on Israel, especially in the US.
Hamas is dismissed as a “terrorist group sworn to Israel’s destruction” and one that “refuses to recognise Israel and wants to fight not talk”. The truth is that Israel is bent on Palestine’s destruction. Moreover, Hamas’s long-standing proposals for a ten-year ceasefire are loudly ignored, along with a recent, ideological shift within Hamas itself that amounts to a historic acceptance of the sovereignty of Israel.
“The [Hamas] charter is not the Quran,” said a senior Hamas official, Mohammed Ghazal. “Historically, we believe all Palestine belongs to Palestinians, but we’re talking now about reality, about political solutions… If Israel reached a stage where it was able to talk to Hamas, I don’t think there would be a problem of negotiating with the Israelis [for a solution].” The very fact that Israel is mentioned in the Hamas charter is surely proof in itself that Hamas recognizes the Zionist state.
Someone I spoke to who is very keen to see the Israeli political leaders sit down and talk with Hamas is former Tory Government minister Michael Ancram – this is the politician who sat down and began talking to the IRA on behalf of the British Government months before anyone knew what was happening behind the scenes.
When news leaked out what was happening he was pilloried and told he had blood on his hands. Some people said he was contaminated and Unionists refused to speak to him. The talks continued – even though some of the bombing continued which piled huge pressure and personal angst on Michael Ancram. But, if he had any doubts then that he was doing the right thing he must look at the long term result today and be very comforted by the growing peace in Ireland, and an environment where Gerry Adams can work amicably alongside Ian Paisley. Part of the trouble is that the history of Israel has often been portrayed as the triumph over tragedy of a people marked for extinction … the people who emerged from Nazi death camps to establish their own country in 1948.
I am not a Holocaust denier and nor do I want to play down the horrors and sufferings of European Jews, but the Holocaust Industry as described by Professor Norman Finkelstein does tend to protect and fireproof Israel against the charge of a devastating colonization by falsifying history and denying the awful future with which it now challenges the Jews, the West and the Muslim world.
The Zionists have somehow managed to shoehorn themselves into a space between two historical enemies, the capitalist West and Islam, and by using the strength of the former against the latter, it created and nurtured fertile conditions for a conflict that is growing by the day. But if my good friend from Hamas and Dr Alice Rothchild are right, then time really is on the side of the Palestinians and not the architects of Zionism or the Zionist state. They would have us believe that the emergence of Israel is a sensational triumph of good over evil, the evil coming from Europe's centuries-old anti-Semitism, in particular the demonic Nazi master plan to wipe out the Jewish people.
Theodore Herzl, the founding father of Zionism, was convinced that Zionism would only thrive if anti-Semitic Europe could be persuaded to push for its success. It is true that Jews and anti-Semites have been historical enemies, that Jews have been the victims of Europe's religious witch-hunt since Rome became Christianity’s capital.
While Arabs and Jews have lived in harmony over the centuries, the hate and suspicion towards Jewish people has always come from the West. So, for the Zionist project to succeed, a new enemy, common to the West and the Jews would have to be created. In choosing to locate their colonial-settler state in Palestine – and not in Uganda or Argentina as once mooted – the Zionists created a bogeyman that would deepen their partnership with the West. The Islamic world was a great deal more likely to ignite the West's imperialist and evangelical designs than Uganda or Argentina. And so, Israel became the west’s watchdog right in the heart of the Islamic world; guarding over the strategic crossroads of Asia, Africa and Europe.
And so it sits today, monitoring developments in the Gulf with its vast reserves of oil and gas. For the West as well as Europe's Jews, this was an opportunity to monopolise. Without the help of the West, there is no way the Zionists could not have created Israel on their own. The net effect has been to humiliate the Muslim world, making each new generation more resentful than the last. And with US puppets, dictators and despots placed to lead Islamic countries this has further driven Muslims to embrace increasingly radical ideas and methods to recover a lost dignity and power. Watching Arab leaders bow and scrape before Israel to please their western masters, as the Palestinians are enduring a slow genocide, has been too much for some to endure.
The roots of 9/11 are buried deep in the soil of the Middle East along with Bali, Madrid and the London bombings. The net result has been to drive the West into a direct confrontation against the Islamic world. We in the West are now staring deep into an abyss. Hamas might not want to sit down with Israel but it is in Israel and the West’s interests that the Knesset realizes that it must sit down and negotiate with Hamas. And the first thing Israel needs to do is cut out its victim mentality and the pointless invective about terrorism.
As we all know one man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter. We all know Margaret Thatcher called Nelson Mandela a terrorist and we all know what Ian Paisley thought of his new best friend Gerry Adams a few years ago. And before any of you continue to cite terrorism as a counter argument for not sitting down and talking to Hamas it might be worth remembering that the first aircraft hijacking was carried out by Israel in 1954 against a Syrian civilian airliner. Grenades in cafes were first used by Zionists against Palestinians in Jerusalem on 17 March 1937. Delayed-action, electrically timed mines in crowded marketplaces were first used by Zionists against Palestinians in Haifa on 6 July 1938.

Blowing up a ship with its civilian passengers still on board was first carried out by Zionists in Haifa on 25 November 1940. The Zionists did not hesitate to blow up their own people in protest at the British policy of restricting Jewish immigration to Palestine. The ship, Patria, was carrying 1,700 Jewish immigrants.

Blowing up of government offices with their civilian employees and visitors was first carried out by the Zionists against the British in Jerusalem on 22 July 1946. The toll was 91 Britons killed and 46 wounded in the King David Hotel. Menachim Begin, who masterminded and carried out the attack and later became Israeli prime minister, admitted that the massacre was coordinated with and carried out under the instruction of the Haganah.

Letter bombs sent to politicians was first used by the Zionists against Britain when 20 letter bombs were sent from Italy to London between 4 and 6 June 1947. I could go on – but I won’t. Israel really needs to sit down and talk with Hamas … if for nothing more than to secure its own long term future.

* Yvonne Ridley is a political analyst on Middle East and Asian affairs, as well as a presenter for The Agenda show on Press TV. Her website is: www.yvonneridley.org

 

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