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Polarization in Palestine And Goldstone’s Report PDF Print E-mail
Written by Mumtaz Ahmad   

Policy Perspectives , Volume7 , Number 1, Special Issue 2010

 

Question: What is the basis of division between Hamas and Fatah and what will be the long term implications of this division on the peace process with Israel?

Hamas and Fatah today represent two different approaches to solve the problem of Palestine. Fatah, at least after the signing of the Oslo accords, has accepted the two major pre-conditions dictated by Israel and the United States to begin the so-called peace process: recognition of Israel as a legitimate state; and renunciation of violence. Since then the Palestinian Authority under Fatah has effectively acted as a Deputy Sheriff for Israel in the occupied territories by maintaining law and order in the West Bank on behalf of the occupier and preventing attacks inside Israel. This has helped Israelis to redeploy their forces from West Bank to Gaza to crush the resistance by the Islamic groups such as Hamas. Fatah is also closely connected with the US and its European and Arab allies who are deeply concerned about the rise of Islamic forces in the region.

Hamas, on the other hand, remains committed to its original charter that rejects the legitimacy of the state of Israel as a national home for the Jews only. It considers armed struggle for national liberation as a natural right (and Islamic obligation) of occupied people that has also been recognized by the UN Charter. Hamas wants to restore the sovereignty of the Palestinian people over all of historic Palestine with the right of the Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties appropriated illegally by the Jewish settlers since the establishment of Israel. Hamas does not reject outrightly the idea of negotiated settlement of the Palestinian issue; however, given the history of Israeli intransigence in all previous peace talks, Hamas is not willing to lend Israel the credibility of a peace partner as it continues to build more illegal settlements in the occupied territories and kill Palestinians at will. At the same time, however, Hamas leadership has publically indicated that it is willing to sign a long term Hudna (truce) with Israel if it agrees to completely withdraw from the areas it seized in the 1967 war. This position was clearly stated by the late spiritual leader of Hamas Sheikh Ahmad Yasin. The political leadership of Hamas based in Damascus has also reiterated this position on several occasions in recent months.

While there are fundamental differences between Fatah and Hamas on how to go about restoring the political rights of Palestinians, one should not overlook the fact that Hamas has never opposed any meaningful peace talks between the Palestinian Authority and Israel. On the contrary, Hamas gave full moral and political support to President Yasser Arafat during his crucial peace talks with Israel mediated by President Clinton during 1990s. Hamas has made it clear that it will not get in the way of any negotiated settlement reached between the Palestinian Authority and Israel as long as the peace accord brings about an independent, truly sovereign and viable Palestinian state, seeks complete Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories, acknowledges East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestinian state, and recognizes the right of return of Palestinian refugees. Thus, the internal divisions within the Palestinian ranks will adversely affect the so-called peace process only in case the Fatah leadership capitulates to an accord that goes against the consensus of the Palestinian people. Seen from this perspective, one cannot say that the differences between Fatah and Hamas are irreconcilable as for as the peace talks with Israel are concerned.

At the same time, however, one cannot deny the fact that the Fatah-Hamas conflict has not only provided a convenient alibi to Israel for the indefinite suspension of peace talks but has also tended to demoralize the Palestinians people and their well wishers.

 

Question: What are the reasons of US’s rejection of Goldstone’s Report? Will it cause any damage to the efforts of winning “hearts and minds” in the Middle East, Obama’s good-will gestures and initiatives?

Judge Goldstone’s report, howsoever inadequate and cautious in its approach, was, nevertheless, the first ever document by an international organization to raise the possibility of indicting Israel for committing war crimes and crimes against humanity. Unfortunately, however, moral and legal considerations are rarely taken into account when it comes to the imperatives of power politics in international arena. And given the history of the US-Israeli relations as well as the inordinate influence of the Israeli lobby in Washington, it was simply inconceivable that the United States would have allowed this report even to have been discussed in the United Nations forums, what to speak of adopting and implementing it.

For all practical purposes, the US policy toward the Arab-Israeli conflict is a direct extension of the American domestic politics. It is interesting to note that an overwhelming majority of US congressmen signed a petition to oppose the Goldstone Report without even reading it. It was enough for them to sign the petition after receiving instructions from the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the pro-Israel lobbying group in Washington. It was, therefore, a foregone conclusion that that Washington would not allow any discussion of the Report. What was more disgraceful in this whole Goldstone affair was the fact that the US used its Arab-Muslim allies (including the spineless Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas) to withhold any discussion of the Report.

President Obama said in his Cairo speech about a year ago that the Arabs and Muslims will judge him by his actions, and not by his words. His words in Cairo evoked a great deal of hope among Muslims all over the world; his actions (and inactions) so far have been nothing but greatly disappointing.

 

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