Hasil serangan Israel ke Gaza?
Hamas telah jadi matelar ....
On Engaging Hamas
Ramzy Baroud (PALESTINE CHRONICLE)
25 February 2009
The political outcomes of the Gaza war are yet to be entirely decided with any
degree of certainty.
However, the obvious political repositioning which was reported as soon as
Israel declared its unilateral ceasefire promised that Israel’s deadly bombs
would shape a new political reality
in the region.
In the aftermath, Hamas can confidently claim that its once indisputably
‘radical’ political position is no longer viewed as too extreme. “Hamas” is no
longer menacing a word, even amongst Western public, and tireless Israeli
attempts to correlate Hamas and Islamic Jihadists’s agendas no longer suffice.
The Israel war against Gaza has indeed proven that Hamas cannot be obliterated
by bombs and decimated by missiles. This is the same conclusion that the US and
other countries reached in regards to the PLO in the mid 1970’s. Of course,
that realisation didn’t prevent Israel from trying on many occasions to destroy
the PLO, in Jordan (throughout the late 1960’s), getting involved in the
Lebanese civil war (1976), and then occupying south Lebanon (1978), and then
the entire country (1982). Even upon the departure of PLO factions from
Lebanon, Israel followed its leadership to Tunisia and other countries,
assassinating the least accommodating members, thus setting the stage for
political ‘dialogue’ with the ‘more acceptable peace partners’. The history of
the Arab-Israeli conflict has taught us that political ‘engagement’ often
follows wars; the military outcome of these wars often determines the course of
political action that ensues
afterward. For example, a war, like that of 1967 (the astounding defeat of the
Arabs), strengthened the notion that a military solution is the primary option
to achieve ‘peace’ and ‘security.’
Of course, this logic is erroneous when it is applied to popular struggles.
Conventional armies can be isolated and defeated. Popular struggles cannot, and
attempts to do so often yield unintended and contradictory results. Israel’s
victory (thanks in part to US and European military, financial and logistical
support) drove Israel into the abyss of complete arrogance. Arabs responded in
kind in 1973, and were close to a decisive victory when the US, once again came
to the rescue, providing Israel with the largest transport of arms recorded
Still, the 1973 war created new realities that even Israel could not deny.
Then, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat earned prestige (as a statesman) following
the war, as US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger (Israel’s most dedicated
friend of all time) conditioned any American engagement of Egypt on the
latter’s departure from the Soviet’s camp. To win American acceptance, Sadat’s
language and perception on the conflict began to shift, while a ‘peace process’
fragmented the conflict, from its previous totality, into a localised version,
which eventually saw the
exit of Egypt from the Arab-Israeli
The PLO, dominated by its largest faction, Fatah, found itself in a precarious
position. Its political stocks were rising, true, but its liberation rhetoric
was expected to shift in favour of a more ‘pragmatic’ and ‘moderate’ approach.
Kissinger was keen on ensuring that the ‘maximalist’ Arab agenda, including
that of the PLO would be transferred into a minimalist one. That was the price
of recognition and political legitimacy. Not only Sadat, but the PLO, like
Hamas today, was asked to moderate its expectations, but the real buzzword then
was accepting UN resolution 242. The price of legitimacy of the Palestinian
struggle remains unchanged, but the new era yielded new demands and conditions.
Neither then, nor today, was Israel ever asked to reciprocate.
The more the PLO of the 1970’s met conditions, the more Yasser Arafat rose to
prominence. In June 1974, Fatah-led PLO revised and approved a political
programme that adopted a ‘phased’ political strategy which agreed to
establishing a Palestinian state “over every part of Palestinian territory that
is liberated,” as opposed to Fatah’s own previous commitment to a “democratic
state on all (of) Palestine.” The phased strategy split the somewhat unified
PLO between ‘moderate’ and ‘rejectionist’ fronts, but allowed for political
gains, such as the Arab designation of the PLO, in Rabat as “the sole
legitimate representative of the Palestinian people”. More, Arafat was invited
to speak at the UN General Assembly, where the PLO received the status of an
“observer”. In his speech on November 13, 1974, Arafat uttered his most famous
statement: “Today I have come bearing an olive branch and a freedom-fighter’s
gun. Do not let
the olive branch fall from my hand.”
Let historians contend on whether Arafat was tricked by a peace ploy, which saw
the softening of the PLO’s position, while the Israeli position continued to
harden unchecked. The fact is, however, the seeds of Palestinian division were
planted during these years and Palestinians were compartmentalised — between
moderates, extremists, maximalists, minimalists, pragmatists, rejectionists and
so on. However, the political gains of the PLO of those years were made
irrelevant, and were later used exclusively for personal gains, starting in
1974, passing through Oslo, the subsequent ‘peace process’, and finally
reaching today’s dead-end.
World Media are now reporting that European countries are in direct contact
with Hamas leaders, although officials are insisting that this contact is
independent and not linked to larger government initiatives. More, several US
congressmen visited Gaza, again with similar disclaimers. US Senator John
Kerry, who led the US delegation, claimed that the US position regarding Hamas
has not changed, and repeated the conditions that Hamas must meet before any
engagement is possible.
One has to be wary of the history that rendered the once influential PLO, the
trivial organisation that it is today. History often repeats itself, true, but
it doesn’t have to if one remembers such historical lessons. Peace is not a
‘process’ — at least not in the Kissinger sense — and true dialogue and
positive engagement require no stipulations and conditions. Hamas is now in the
same precarious position that the PLO was in earlier years. Its future
decisions shall influence the coming stage of this conflict, thus the fate of
the Palestinian people in inconceivable ways.
Ramzy Baroud (www.ramzybaroud.net) is an eminent Arab American author and
editor of PalestineChronicle.com
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