The Hamas leadership in Gaza has embarked on an innovative PR project using social media to reach out to people worldwide and give an opportunity to sympathisers and critics alike to ask the movement leaders directly whatever they feel they needed to know about it. The project may have been overdue but it is hoped that it will be the first in a series of steps to talk to the "other" about who Hamas is, what it stands for, what it wants to achieve and why it came into existence in the first place.
However, addressing the "other" is not as easy as it may seem. One would be talking to people with diverse cultures and diverse backgrounds. Many people may already have prejudged positions and preconceived ideas thinking that what they already know is nothing but the absolute truth.
There is, on the one hand, the ultra-powerful pro-Israel propaganda machine whose influence and impact spans the globe. To challenge the front of Zionist propaganda one needs to fortify one's own front in anticipation of fierce counterattacks. On the other hand it is imperative for one to be unequivocal in expressing ideas and positions and to avoid ambiguity. One would have to deliver a consistent discourse about what one believes to be legitimate rights and national or Islamic fundamentals that cannot be compromised.
Yet, at the same time, one needs to show a level of flexibility and pragmatism in responding to proposals or ideas that are not inconsistent with these rights and the fundamentals but may fall short of the long term aspired objective.
Having had some knowledge of the nature of this "other" that Hamas is seeking to speak to, I would like to propose to the Hamas rank and file a few suggestions about how Hamas ought to be presented to the world.
1.Hamas is a national liberation movement struggling for the liberation of Palestine from Zionist invaders. In this regard, Hamas is not different from any of the liberation movements that struggled against colonialism.
2.Hamas is in harmony with the cultural and political inclinations of the Palestinian people whose rights it has risen to defend. Evidently, the majority of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza voted for the movement when they had the chance to freely choose their representatives initially in municipal elections and eventually in the legislative elections that were held in 2006.
3.It does not bother us being designated a terrorist organisation by our Zionist oppressors, for this is expected. After all, Neilson Mandela was called a terrorist by the apartheid regime that oppressed the indigenous population of South Africa. However, it saddens us when such designations are made by democratic countries that claim to sanctify liberty and uphold the rule of law. Some of these countries had a long and impressive history of struggling against foreign colonialism, such as the United States of America which waged a war of independence against the British Empire and France which waged resistance against the Nazi occupation. Therefore, we have been delighted by the news that the European Court ruled against designating Hamas as a terrorist organisation. Hamas has never resorted to any act of violence outside occupied Palestine and when resorting to violence within Palestine it does so only in self-defence and against those who occupy the land of our people and have been tormenting it on a daily basis for decades.
4.We do recognise that the balance of power in the region and in the world is not in favour of our people's struggle. To the contrary, such a skewed balance of power creates an ever growing heap of obstacles in the path of our struggle for emancipation from Zionist colonialism. However, these adverse circumstances do not mean that we should simply surrender and agree to give up our rights. We have learned from history that the strong does not remain strong forever nor does the weak remain weak forever. For this reason we reject all the deals concluded by any Palestinian party with the Zionists in the shadow of this skewed balance of power so long as these deals compromise any of our basic rights.
5.Hamas has offered, as early as 1994, a formula for putting the conflict on hold for a while by virtue of a long term truce (hudna). There were three basic conditions for this proposed deal at the time: an Israeli withdrawal from the territories occupied in 1967; the evacuation of settlements built in those territories since occupation; and the release of all Palestinian prisoners in Israeli detention centres. We still believe that this formula, which does not stipulate conceding any of our rights – although it obliges us to stop all military action for the duration of the truce, is capable of bringing all violence to an end up to a date mutually agreed by the two sides. When the truce period expires, the signatories to the deal will have to decide whether they desire to renew it or not. Hudna in our faith and culture, and also in the norms and experiences of human communities across history, is well known. It does not mean that one or the other of the two conflicting parties has conceded defeat but it means that neither party is able - at the time being - to settle the conflict in its own favour. Should both parties find the truce viable, this may very well open the horizon for a new mode of thinking.
6.The new mode of thinking is not at all far-fetched. We do not consider our conflict with the Zionists in Palestine to be a conflict with the Jews. In fact we do not have a problem with the Jews as followers of a religious tradition recognised by the Muslims as a divine faith. Our conflict is, in fact, with those who transgressed against us, occupied our country and came as overseas invaders under the impression that they could in this way resolve a chronic problem they had been enduring in the West. We do acknowledge that the Jews were indeed oppressed and persecuted in various parts of Europe. Some of the most heinous crimes were perpetrated against them from the Russian pogroms to the anti-Semitic attacks in France to the Holocaust perpetrated by Nazi Germany. But why should our people pay for the crimes of others? Should the West in fact feel guilty about its maltreatment of the Jews, it should compensate them from what belongs to it rather than from what belongs to others. As a matter of principle, Palestine was never kept open to all religions in history except when it was ruled by the Muslims. Our faith does not permit us to deny access to it by those who desire to visit it or even settle in it so long as they do not come as aggressors and invaders.
7.Despite Hamas's readiness to observe a period of calming (tahdi'ah), or even to enter into a truce deal (hudna), the Zionist entity and those who support it in the West have thus far refused to even consider this concept. Instead, Israel continues to transgress against our people. It is today maintaining a suffocating siege of the entire Gaza Strip in the aftermath of a series of devastating wars with the aim of forcing us to surrender. In the meantime, Israel continues to seize land and expand settlements in the West Bank thus augmenting the suffering of the Palestinians and sawing the seeds of explosive rage against the Zionists and those that support them.
8.It is the duty of the international community to approach our case from the position of neutrality rather than from the position of siding with Israel and only caring about its security and existence while paying no attention to Palestinian rights and the facts of history that clearly show that our people have been the victims of aggression. So long as there is no neutral and influential party in the international arena that is capable of playing the role of a fair mediator in the conflict between us and the Zionists there wouldn't be much hope in reaching an acceptable settlement in the foreseeable future. This is especially so in the absence of a regional mediator capable of assuming that role.
9.The international community has in fact played a negative role with regard to Palestinian reconciliation. Influential world powers have consistently urged the Palestinian Authority and the PLO not to conclude a reconciliation deal with Hamas unless the latter succumbed the three Quartet conditions, which in fact were nothing but Zionist conditions initiated and marketed to Israel's allies in the West by former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Hamas has always been keen on accomplishing Palestinian reconciliation believing that this would help alleviate the suffering of the Gaza people who are living under siege and the people of the West Bank living under occupation. However, reconciliation efforts have always suffered and ended in failure because of the humiliating conditions regional and international parties seek to dictate to us.
10.The people of Gaza are enduring an unfair suffocating blockade imposed on them by the Zionists and regrettably by some of the Arabs. The objective of the siege has been to humiliate our people and force capitulation on it. However, we have full confidence in our people that the hardship emanating from the blockade will not weaken their resolve or force them to surrender. In these circumstances, it is our duty to look for ways and means of alleviating the suffering of our people by breaking the siege. Therefore we are fully prepared to cooperate with any regional or international parties that sincerely desire to see the blockade lifted and the suffering of our people come to an end. We call for reinstating the terms of the ceasefire agreed in Cairo following the end of the last war on Gaza. That ceasefire agreement would have guaranteed an end to the siege had the Israelis not breached it just as they have been doing all along.
11.We appeal to the mass media, research and studies centres, researchers, journalists, politicians, diplomats and persons interested in the developments taking place in our region not to be content with the information they receive about us from our opponents. We would welcome whoever desires to come and meet us and we are fully prepared to address directly and openly any questions put to us about any of our affairs. Let the people judge us on the basis of what they see from us and in us rather than on the basis of what they hear from others about us.
On 23 November 2019, EuroPal Forum and Middle East Monitor co-hosted a conference at the Holiday Inn Bloomsbury in London on the relations between Europe and Palestine. A first of its kind, the conference brought together individuals at the forefront of discourse on Palestine in
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