HAMAS in power? What does it mean? Is it the end of the ‘peace process’? What next?
These are some of the questions abounding in political circles and being debated behind closed doors of many think-tanks following the stunning news that HAMAS attained a comprehensive and decisive victory in the Palestinian legislative elections.
Analysts and commentators are not only grappling with the implications of a HAMAS dominated parliament in the Ramallah-based Palestinian Legislative Council; they are also confounded by new facts on the ground which reveal overwhelming support for the Islamic Resistance Movement, classified as a "terrorist organisation" by the United States, the European Union and Israel.
Amongst the recurring demand placed upon HAMAS is that it suspend its ‘armament’ in lieu of ‘parliament’. This in addition to new forms of intimidation which borders on blackmail. The European Union for instance has insisted that it will not acknowledge a HAMAS government unless it "renounces violence and recognises Israel". The USA too has announced that it will halt its funding of the Palestinian Authority and least surprising is the position that Israel has taken: "No negotiation with terrorists"!
HAMAS’ resounding victory has turned all conventional ‘wisdom’ regarding the ‘war on terror’ on its head. The Bush administration, which views Israel’s continued existence as much more than a strategic interest and has been pumping millions of dollars to the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority in order to keep HAMAS in check and out of power, has failed to stifle the free choice of the electorate. Indeed, this pathetic policy whereby Israeli violations of fundamental human rights and its defiance of international conventions is approved and supported financially will in all likelihood be subjected to new debates – thanks to the people’s choice: HAMAS!
A perplexing question which has now surfaced afresh is how to deal with a liberation movement which for a decade at least has been tarnished and criminalised as a "terrorist organisation"? While it is true that South Africa’s experience holds valuable lessons in that a former "terrorist organisation" – the ANC – was transformed into a legitimate government, it is unlikely that the Jewish state will capitulate as easily as the former Apartheid regime. So while the focus is on HAMAS and whether it will relinquish the armed struggle, the reality is that the people’s choice is in fact an endorsement of HAMAS’ quest for total liberation.
This places a new burden on the international community which much review it’s unconditional support of a racist, colonial enclave associated with apartheid, oppression and injustice. Israeli intransigence and contempt for human rights as reflected in land grabs, arbitrary arrests and torture and the denial of the right of return of millions of Palestinians in the diaspora cannot be ignored any longer. Instead in solidarity with the Palestinian people whose confidence in HAMAS has been demonstrated at the polls, the issue of Israel’s sustainability as an ethnically pure Jewish state made up of foreign emigrants and its continued existence as a nuclear-state in the heart of the Middle East must be a central tenet.
Right-wing think-tanks such as the Heritage Foundation have in tandem with pro-Israeli pressure groups like AIPAC and the American Jewish Committee [AJC] been demanding that HAMAS "renounce violence and recognise Israel’s right to exist" without blinking an eye. This rhetoric betrays a bias against the rights of on occupied people which is not surprising given that many such institutions are in bed with neo-conservatives. Like embedded journalists they make no apology for "collateral damages" flowing from their passionate support for the "war on terror". Now that a "terror group" has been elected through a democratic process to lead the occupied people to freedom from Israeli bondage, their plans for a final solution – an emasculated Bantustan with all its trimmings such as casinos and night-clubs – have been thrown into jeopardy!
HAMAS is keenly aware that its new found legal-status as the people’s choice places additional responsibility in leading Palestinians on its long walk to freedom. It is a new phase of the Intifada which to-date has been courageously waged against Israeli brutality. Far from being the end of the road, victory at the polls ushers new challenges requiring fresh initiatives to overcome sophisticated blackmail.
In earlier discussions with HAMAS leadership, particularly with Khaled Meshaal it became clear to me that their opposition to the Oslo "peace-process" stems from an understanding that accepting the establishment of a truncated state within the paradigm of a "two-state solution" as embodied in the present framework would be equivalent to remaining "stateless". The Gaza Strip provides a perfect example of this "statelessness" where despite the evacuation of Jewish settlers, Israel controls all aspects of life there.
HAMAS’ surge in popularity – surpassing even the most optimistic predictions – saddles it with challenges to not only overcome internal strife with disgruntled Fatah supporters, but also to circumvent demands to force it abandon the armed struggle and forfeit its own legitimacy by acknowledging Israel’s "right to exist". By insisting that countries such as South Africa which emerged from similar freedom struggles, assist in advancing the Palestinian cause with the ultimate objective of securing a unitary state, HAMAS will be able to break out of the logjam which the American/Israeli axis is currently exerting upon it.
As Palestinians savour the results of what has been described as a "political earthquake" it is imperative that the international community embraces HAMAS without any inhibition of flouting the neo-con’s short-sighted "war on terror". In fact such solidarity would also be an appropriate gesture to reaffirm disdain and disgust for Israeli policies which are no different to the essential elements of apartheid formerly applied in South Africa: separation, inequality and dependency.