Hamas may not be only barrier to peace in Palestine / Israel conflict

Philadelphia Tribune writer Trudy Rubin wrote in the article, “Cycle of Violence Overrules peace in the Middle East” ( June 16, 2003) that “the only way to end this cycle of violence is to persuade the Palestinians that Hamas violence is blocking a process that offers a real state.” Ms. Rubin’s comments seem to parrot those of so many pundits, both in print and television media who have decided that they will encapsulate all of the evils of the Palestine/Israel conflict into a neat little package called “Hamas,” and blow it away. They seem to believe that if there was no Hamas, there would be peace, yet neither history, nor any other test of judgment supports that idea, even though it is very popular. We should not accept, without question, the idea that Israel is poised for peace through the acceptance of a Palestinian state, or that it is being thrown off balance by Hamas, when there is every reason to believe that Israel is very interested in seeing t! he roadmap fail, and this might be why Israel is instigating a stepped up assault on Hamas. Israel knows that its rhetoric against Hamas is provocative, and that it will perhaps lead to greater violence, and ultimately to US military intervention on the ground, which would of course tip the scales in future negotiations more in favor of Israel, if any more is possible. Israel is perhaps betting that Arab governments are so intimidated by the US show of force in Iraq that they will now capitulate to any US demand, or threat of force, and especially a show of force. This means, perhaps that the US must avoid any and all of such strategy unless we give up hope of being a world leader, and downsize our aspirations to leading only Israel and Palestine, since only so much of this sort of a unilateral peacemaking policy is likely to be accepted by a world of people who are increasingly alarmed by the ease with which we are mislead and fooled by others into harms way.

Israel had its opportunity to prove its commitment to peace. They chose to use that opportunity to launch attacks against Palestinian civilians almost within hours of the roadmap’s acceptance. Israel’s attack on Hamas leader Rantissi was not the first Israeli attack on Palestine following Sharon’s Aqaba meeting with President Bush and Palestinian prime minister Mahmoud Abbas. This illusion, perpetuated by the media, that Hamas retaliated against Israel solely because of an Israeli attempt to kill Rantissi makes it appear that Israel may have been doing something that made sense in its targeted assassination attempts, wrong only because such behavior might cause the roadmap to fail, when the truth is that targeted assassination is criminal and immoral, and should not be tolerated by civilized people, and especially not tolerated of a government military, and a US funded military at that, against civilian people supposedly under its protection. The Palestine/Israel conflict is not a state against state conflict. To date there is no Palestinian state. Israel is an occupier according to the Fourth Geneva Conventions. This media telling of events that attempts to pit the entire civilized world against Hamas distracts us from the real issues that must be resolved, and real advances toward peace that can be made. Advances that encourage trust, and compromise, rather than violence.

Double standards, including the United State’s tolerance for Israeli violence, and our hatred for only Palestinian violence, along with our inability to be objective and honest, has helped to fuel the Palestine/ Israel conflict over the years. These same vices threaten now, to prevent the roadmap’s success. So long as we attempt to use smoke and mirrors to arrive at a solution in Palestine/Israel, we should be prepared for disappointment, not only with outcomes, but also with our inability to be a forthright, sincere, conscientious and honest people, and brokers of peace.

The Palestine/Israel conflict existed before Hamas, and it existed before President Bush, and the roadmap. And while this is not a plea for Hamas, nor an attempt to excuse Hamas for any crimes it may have committed, it is a word of caution to all involved, that if we oversimplify the solutions to this conflict too much, we risk becoming absurd, and driven more by our own hatreds and passions, than any amount of law, reason and common sense. In fact the very arrangement, or prioritization of the first steps to be taken on this roadmap, might in itself be a self destructive, and illusory tactic designed to focus our attention and energy upon the destruction of Hamas, rather than upon the real steps needed to end all violence, and to secure peace. The very fact that the most important issues that are truly essential to peace, have been set-aside for negotiations at a later date could be proof positive that the real reasons for the Palestine/Israel conflict and ! the violence that colors this conflict is not Hamas, or at least not Hamas alone.

Attempts to base the success of the roadmap to peace upon the elimination of Hamas is also dangerous because it might become the single most compelling reason to introduce US troops as peacekeepers into this conflict, and that would be a mistake of monumental proportion. It was this same type of ideology driven hatred for a single group of people that justified the Holocaust. Jewish people suffered tremendously in Nazi Germany as a result of the Reich’s virulent propaganda that dehumanized and vilified these people to the extent that the world ignored their suffering for too long before the truth was known, and their suffering ended. We must not allow this to happen again. Hatred and fear, and dehumanization of Hamas cannot become the definition of this conflict, nor our raison d’étre for US intervention on the ground there as peacemakers. Before the US enters this conflict as peacemakers, we must ask ourselves what tools do soldiers use to make peace ? They! use violence and the threat of violence. Do we believe that violence and the threat of violence leads to peace? If not, and we repeatedly say that we do not believe this deceptive premise for intervention, then why are we contemplating sending soldiers to be peacemakers? Why can’t our diplomats arrange peace? The answers are obvious to some of us. They cannot achieve peace so long as someone, or group, or groups of people do not want peace, but rather they want Israel to win this conflict, or they want Palestine to win, and there is no logic, law, or decent approach to this conflict through, or by which these desires can be accomplished, and so these governments lie, bully, and intimidate and kill. When we conclude that both people can be winners through compromise, we can achieve peace.

Any person who believes in God must believe that God is opposed to all of this lying and deception, as must every conscientious person, regardless of race, religion, political affiliation etc. Perhaps we need a multinational body of respected and independent arbitrators, and not governments, since they are bound by political attachments and ideology. An independent body of referees and intermediaries could arrange a peaceful settlement to the Palestine/Israel conflict. The intellectual premise of such a negotiated settlement might be that everyone will get some of what they want, no one will get everything they want, and the moral high ground is declared off limits to either side, until there is an absolute end of violence on any side. We also might need to ask ourselves how can we talk about ending violence by disarming Hamas, when no one has once mentioned disarming the settlers? Allowing the Israeli settler’s to bear arms while denying the Palestinians the right to bear arms is not only unfair, but it supports the argument and enhances the appearance that in a vicinity where it is illegal for civilians to bear arms, only the military, or members of militias are bearing arms. In our attempts to deceive we have spun webs so dangerously complex that even spiders can’t figure them out. and wont enter them.

Rubin is wrong in her assertion that Hamas violence alone is jeopardizing peace in the Palestine/Israel conflict, and the success of the roadmap. End the occupation of Palestine. Give Palestine a legal definition through which the world can honestly observe and judge its behaviors as a nation/ state. Make each state’s elected government responsible for the actions of its citizens, and its policies, and laws, and its impact upon world peace, and terrorism, just as we did with Saddam Hussein. To prove that we are not prejudiced, biased, or hypocritical in our willingness to surgically remove troublemakers from power, let it be known that no troublemaker is off limits, and that the policy of preemption was not devised only as a means to intimidate and punish Arab and Muslim governments and peoples.

If the US is to be recognized and respected as an international leader, we must not depend upon brute force, and intimidation to guide. And we cannot engage in leadership only to the perceived benefit of our supposed friends. An international world leader must be unbiased and objective, unattached, and able to arbitrate and resolve conflicts based on fairness, and the rule of law, applied fairly and without bias. In the past such bias might have been understandable and even reasonable considering that in the past there was another formidable world power, Russia, that backed the Arab states. That is no longer the case. The cold war is over, and one world power is left standing, and so we must be the first to renounce unjust violence of any kind, and to usher in a new era of peace under our leadership. Our era of preeminence should be an era marked by our ability to guide the world to peace, and to show how a powerful and intelligent people use their blessings! to save and guide the world to prosperity through human effort and ingenuity, rather than to ruin the world through violence and deception used to advance wrongheaded policies.

The writer is the Founder and President of the National Association of Muslim American Women and host a weekly internet radio program at IBN.Net, named “A Civilizational Dialogue.” (1-2 PM each Wednesday). The author is also head of the International Assoc. for Muslim Women and Children, an accredited NGO with the UN Division on the Rights of the Palestinians.