In all of the vicious propaganda swirling around the Palestinians’ newly found reconciliation, there is one point that needs to be emphasized if the propaganda is ever to be dismissed, especially about Hamas. While Israel, the United States and pretty much the entire western world is more than comfortable with designating Hamas as an irreversible terrorist organization, the fact remains that Hamas is first and foremost a political movement.
This fact has been clear to many Palestinians from Hamas’ first emergence back in the late 1980s. Hamas, which sells itself as a “resistance movement” is also very keen on being part of the political system here in Palestine. In 2006, Hamas decided to run for parliamentary elections and become once and for all a member of Palestine’s political realm, even as it maintained that armed resistance was the only option to liberate Palestine.
This is how all Palestinian nationalist movements started out. Fateh also embraced the armed struggle at the outset and only turned to negotiations with Israel in the early nineties. Hamas, if you will, is running its course.
Today, Hamas’ stances have taken on even more significance. After a long-awaited reconciliation agreement between Hamas and its rival Fateh, the question now is whether the two can pull it off and share power after four years of separation. An equally important question is whether the international community will not repeat its mistakes of the past and isolate Hamas once more, thus pushing it into a corner of intransigency. This time, maybe they should listen to the statements coming out of Hamas officials, which have been increasingly conciliatory to the overall mood of acceptance.
Right off the bat, in his Cairo speech on May 4, Hamas politburo Chief Khaled Meshaal said his movement’s goal was to establish and independent sovereign Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with Jerusalem as its capital", mirroring the exact sentiments of the PLO and the West Bank government under President Mahmoud Abbas.
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Meshaal said his movement would henceforth make all important decisions concerning Palestine with the other Palestinian factions.
“How to manage the resistance, what’s the best way to achieve our goals, when to escalate and when to cease fire, now we have to agree on all those decisions as Palestinians," he said.
Even Fateh has caught the bug of conciliatory language. Presidential aide to Mahmoud Abbas and Fateh veteran Nabil Shaath said during the Cairo signing, “They [Hamas] accept nonviolent resistance. That’s what Meshaal said in closed meetings," Shaath said. "He said ‘we cannot do violence and you do nonviolence. It does not work out.’
No doubt, it is still too early to tell whether this reconciliation deal with stick or not. We also cannot gauge just how sincere Hamas or Fateh are in really pushing towards reconciliation. There are several creases in their damaged relationship that need to be ironed out before being able to say they are truly united.
The hope however, is that this reconciliation will last and will reap positive results, at least for Palestinians who have felt the bitter sting of a people turned on themselves. However, we must remember there are other factors at play. A replay of 2006, where the international community, the United States and of course Israel, painted Hamas as the evil and destructive devil bent on destroying democracy itself, will surely help bring about the demise of yet another attempt at unity. If the international community –” barring Israel, which we cannot depend on, neither in times of war nor in those of peace –” lets the Palestinians decide their own fate and method of governance, the outcome could be very positive indeed.
Finally, it is ultimately up to our leaders to keep the common goal in sight. Be it Hamas, Fateh or any other Palestinian faction, it is the liberation of Palestine that we all want. Thus, united rather than divided makes the path towards this goal that much shorter.