Misha’al (and Clegg)
The media love to ‘balance’ the occupied with the occupier. But if there was really balance, Khalid Misha’al, the leader of Hamas, would have as much airtime as Livni, Barak and Olmert. I congratulate the Guardian for publishing this excellent article by Misha’al. I republish it here because everybody should read it, and because I agree with it.
I do so with reservations, however. Although I support Hamas’s resistance, and although I think the Palestinians should be represented by the people they voted for and not by collaborators, I believe Hamas to be a flawed organisation. It is anti-Semitic, for a start; there’s no point pretending otherwise. It’s understandable that a population brutalised in the name of the Jews might latch on to ready-made racist generalisations about the Jews, but quoting the Protocols of the Elders of Zion in the Hamas constitution is not only morally wrong, but also stupid. It hampers clear analysis of the situation, and of the enemy. I wrote about that here: http://qunfuz.blogspot.com/2008/03/what-hamas-should-do.html
And I have a reservation to my reservation: the anti-Semitism of Hamas cannot be compared to the anti-Palestinianism of Zionism. Hamas fumes for justice. If justice comes, Palestinians will fume less. Zionism, meanwhile, has destroyed Palestine, and is doing its best to destroy the Palestinians. It is being helped by Europe, the US, and the client dictatorships of the Arab world. It is time to listen to, and to actively support, the victims.
This Brutality Will Never Break our Will to be Free
For six months we in Hamas observed the ceasefire. Israel broke it repeatedly from the start
For 18 months my people in Gaza have been under siege, incarcerated inside the world’s biggest prison, sealed off from land, air and sea, caged and starved, denied even medication for our sick. After the slow death policy came the bombardment. In this most densely populated of places, nothing has been spared Israel’s warplanes, from government buildings to homes, mosques, hospitals, schools and markets. More than 540 have been killed and thousands permanently maimed. A third are women and children. Whole families have been massacred, some while they slept.
This river of blood is being shed under lies and false pretexts. For six months we in Hamas observed the ceasefire. Israel broke it repeatedly from the start. Israel was required to open crossings to Gaza, and extend the truce to the West Bank. It proceeded to tighten its deadly siege of Gaza, repeatedly cutting electricity and water supplies. The collective punishment did not halt, but accelerated – as did the assassinations and killings. Thirty Gazans were killed by Israeli fire and hundreds of patients died as a direct effect of the siege during the so-called ceasefire. Israel enjoyed a period of calm. Our people did not.
When this broken truce neared its end, we expressed our readiness for a new comprehensive truce in return for lifting the blockade and opening all Gaza border crossings, including Rafah. Our calls fell on deaf ears. Yet still we would be willing to begin a new truce on these terms following the complete withdrawal of the invading forces from Gaza.
No rockets have ever been fired from the West Bank. But 50 died and hundreds more were injured there last year at Israel’s hands, while its expansionism proceeded relentlessly. We are meant to be content with shrinking scraps of territory, a handful of cantons at Israel’s mercy, enclosed by it from all sides.The truth is Israel seeks a one-sided ceasefire, observed by my people alone, in return for siege, starvation, bombardment, assassinations, incursions and colonial settlement. What Israel wants is a gratuitous ceasefire.
The logic of those who demand that we stop our resistance is absurd. They absolve the aggressor and occupier – armed with the deadliest weapons of death and destruction – of responsibility, while blaming the victim, prisoner and occupied. Our modest, home-made rockets are our cry of protest to the world. Israel and its American and European sponsors want us to be killed in silence. But die in silence we will not.
What is being visited on Gaza today was visited on Yasser Arafat before. When he refused to bow to Israel’s dictates, he was imprisoned in his Ramallah headquarters, surrounded by tanks for two years. When this failed to break his resolve, he was murdered by poisoning.
Gaza enters 2009 just as it did 2008: under Israeli fire. Between January and February of last year 140 Gazans died in air strikes. And just before it embarked on its failed military assault on Lebanon in July 2006, Israel rained thousands of shells on Gaza, killing 240. From Deir Yassin in 1948 to Gaza today, the list of Israel’s crimes is long. The justifications change, but the reality is the same: colonial occupation, oppression, and never-ending injustice. If this is the “free world” whose “values” Israel is defending, as its foreign minister Tzipi Livni alleges, then we want nothing to do with it.
Israel’s leaders remain in the grip of confusion, unable to set clear goals for the attacks – from ousting the legitimately elected Hamas government and destroying its infrastructure, to stopping the rockets. As they fail to break Gaza’s resistance the benchmark has been lowered. Now they speak of weakening Hamas and limiting the resistance. But they will achieve neither. Gaza’s people are more united than ever, determined not to be terrorised into submission. Our fighters, armed with the justice of their cause, have already caused many casualties among the occupation army and will fight on to defend their land and people. Nothing can defeat our will to be free.
Once again, Washington and Europe have opted to aid and abet the jailer, occupier and aggressor, and to condemn its victims. We hoped Barack Obama would break with George Bush’s disastrous legacy but his start is not encouraging. While he swiftly moved to denounce the Mumbai attacks, he remains tongue-tied after 10 days of slaughter in Gaza. But my people are not alone. Millions of freedom-loving men and women stand by its struggle for justice and liberation – witness daily protests against Israeli aggression, not only in the Arab and Islamic region, but worldwide.
Israel will no doubt wreak untold destruction, death and suffering in Gaza. But it will meet the same fate in Gaza as it did in Lebanon. We will not be broken by siege and bombardment, and will never surrender to occupation.
• Khalid Mish’al is the head of the Hamas political bureau
And here’s an excellent interview from the Counterpunch newsletter, in which Misha’al gives good answers to the ‘terrorism’ and ‘not recognising Israel’ questions:
Khaled Meshal, leader of Hamas, on the Palestinian Resistance, the Occupation, and Israel’s downward path
From Misha’al to Nick Clegg, leader of Britain’s Liberal Democrats, who has called for an arms embargo on Israel and for suspension of the EU cooperation agreement with Israel. He is the only British party leader to have suggested that Israel should be punished in some way, that Israel is culpable, and he’s the only one to call for practical action against the aggressor. Clegg is unlikely to win an election (Britain is stuck in a two-party charade, like America), but his position at least shifts the debate a little. And that’s enough for me: I’ll be voting Liberal Democrat from now on, and I encourage everybody else to do so too. I will post Clegg’s statement below. I don’t agree with his obligatory attachment of the ‘terrorist’ label to Hamas, or his comments about the Qassam rockets, but for a mainstream British politician this is remarkable:
In mid-May of 2008, CounterPunchers Alexander Cockburn and Alya Rea were among a group of Americans who sat down in a house in a Damascus suburb for two hours with Khaled Meshal, chairman of the political bureau of Hamas. Significant portions of the exchange follow.
Meshal: We, as Palestinians, have the honor of representing a just issue. We have endured atrocities and occupation. Because of the Israeli occupation, half of the Palestinian people live under occupation inside Palestine, and the other half is living without homes outside. Today we, as a Palestinian people, a Palestinian nation, are looking only to live in a peace without occupation. We reject the occupation. We reject the atrocities. And we reject being without a home and away from home. We have no problems with any religion in the world, nor any race in the world. We learned very well that the almighty god Allah created human beings with different races and different religions and he asked us to accommodate these diversities. Hence, we request the same with the nations all over the world to accommodate this just issue.
Our problem is with unfair policies in the international community: pre-eminently the policies of the American administration. And, of course, we do not consider the people of America responsible for that. I have visited America many times. And I know very well that the American people are very kind people. But our problem is with the foreign policies of successive American administrations. We accepted a state of Palestine on the borders of 1967. The international community failed to pressure Israeli to do the same. So, what is left for Palestinians to do, except resist? For our part, we prefer the peaceful path. But we find the peaceful path blocked. Hence, the Palestinians are left with no option but the resistance. And this is what explains why the Palestinian people elected Hamas and why, amid famine and hunger and siege inflicted on the Palestinian people today, you find the same thing- the Palestinian people are supporting Hamas.
Gaza is the biggest detention camp in history. Remember Newton’s law that to every action there is always an equal opposing reaction. The Israeli occupation is the action, and resistance is the reaction. Whenever you increase the level of atrocities in an occupation, at the same level you increase the reaction of the resistance. So our rockets come within this formula. If the atrocities and occupation stopped, the rockets would stop.
Israel’s habit is to set its own agenda, to put its match to the fire any time it wants and to stop the fire anytime it wants. They don’t want a reciprocal commitment. You know why? Because they feel that the Arabs are weak. Why should they respect them? Why should they manufacture any reciprocal formula with them? Hence, I say that the peace cannot be made between a weak party and a strong one. Peace is manufactured by strong parties. We are ready for peace, but one forged from competition and reciprocity, without atrocities and without occupation.
AC: What do you think Israel’s ultimate strategy or vision is? What is its idea of a solution?
Meshal: I believe that Israel wants to keep the land of Palestine. Gaza is an exceptional case. Because of Gaza’s high population density and size, it was OK for the Israelis to leave. But because of religious considerations, issues of access to water, military outposts, Israel will never surrender the West Bank. Yes, they may offer to withdraw from 60 or 70 per cent of it. Sometimes they offer 40 or 50 per cent of the land. But this is a temporary tactic in order to win time, to build or to establish a “reality on the ground,” to expand settlements, and chop up the land in such a way that it is impossible build any national entity. In any peace proposal, Israel always wants to keep four settlement blocs on the West Bank. The biggest is the one surrounding Jerusalem; the second bloc is the northern area of the West Bank. The third is in the southern area of the West Bank and the fourth in the Jordan Valley. So, what is left of the West Bank then?
When former President Carter visited over here, I told him that the circumstances surrounding the Camp David peace agreement between Egypt and Israel no longer exist. In those days, Israel was compelled or pressured to sign the agreement for two reasons. First, the war of 1973. By then, the Israelis understood that Egypt was not an easy country to defeat. The second reason is that the then Prime Minister Begin saw that Israel had a major interest in isolating Egypt from the general Arab constituency. Today, Israel is not under the weight of any such compulsions. We told former President Carter that the Palestinian resistance is the only power to force Israel to move.
Q. Would you accept a single state?
Meshal: The problem is not with what
the Palestinians or the Arabs might accept. The Palestinians have accepted many things. And the Arabs have accepted many things. But Israel refused. Even what the Israelis did endorse, under the auspices of the Americans, the American organizations, Israel did not abide by. The main question is: is Israel going to accept or not? The mistake in Arab strategy and in the strategy of the former Palestinian leadership consists in the various easy offers, duly rejected by the Israelites. We will not adopt that track. Israel has to offer. They have to propose what they want to accept. Then we will respond.
AC: You’ve said that force and the ability to resist is the only thing that Israel and its backers will understand. How will this resistance continue and unfold under the leadership of Hamas?
Meshal: The resistance in Palestine is living in a very abnormal situation. Under classical conditions of resistance, there should be no resistance in Palestine. There’s no international party, which supports us. The Arab neighborhood and the regional neighborhood do not welcoming the resistance, though there are some regional parties who collaborate with the resistance. So, from a holistic perspective, the “whole” wins against the resistance. So, what is the secret behind the steadfastness of the resistance? First of all, the ferocity of the occupation. Hence, with such pressure there is a reaction from the people, which is the resistance. The second element is Israeli intransigence. The Palestinians have tried the negotiation option, and they gave chance for the peace process to succeed: with Oslo agreements, its aftermath, with 1991 and the Madrid conference. The Palestinian people tracked the peace process, the negotiations, and the result was negative. Hence, the Palestinian people understood that all other paths are blocked. This reality has pushed the Palestinians to steadfastness in their resistance. Third, there is no other party internationally that the Palestinians can depend on. An American administration could pressure the Israelis, but they don’t do so. When we talk about the international community, they are helpless in front of Israel.
Hence, the Palestinian people consider resistance not as an option or as an alternative but as a way of life, a way to survive. Now, does this resistance have a future or is time against it? I would say that the future is for the resistance and the future is for the Palestinian people. Today, Israel refuses the proposals offered by the Arabs and the Palestinians: it’s Israel’s loss because the future is not in its favor.
Q: Is Hamas willing to accept a two-state solution if Israel withdraws to the ’67 borders?
Meshal: In order to unify the Palestinian position politically, we agreed on one political platform in 2006, in a document we signed. We called it the National Conciliation Document. And we said in it that we accepted a state of Palestine on the basis of the borders of 1967, including Jerusalem, without settlements and with the right of return to the refugees. This is a platform we agreed upon. But we, in Hamas, have a very important issue and that is not to recognize Israel. But not recognizing it does not imply war with Israel. What we want is a state of Palestine on the borders of 1967. Then, there will be a cease-fire between us and Israel. We say that international relations between states are not always established on the basis of reciprocal recognition. And when a Palestinian state is established, it will specify the level of relation with Israel. The big challenge for all of us today is to give a chance to Palestinians to live in peace. The problem today is that the Palestinian people are the victim. Half live under Israeli occupation amid deadly conditions. The rest are refugees in the camps, without a homeland. And so the victim here – the Palestinian people – is being asked to recognize Israel? This is unfair.
Q: You mean, they’re saying, “Recognize Israel now.” They’re asking the Palestinians to say, “It’s okay to go ahead and steal our land, we forgive you.”
Meshal: Of course.
AC: If we’d been having this conversation 30 years ago, there would’ve been a mention of the U.N., but no one here today has mentioned the U.N. Do you think now the U.N. is purely an instrument of the United States?
Meshal: Unfortunately, United Nations is rendered a joke.
Q: You’re with the Israelis on that point.
AC: Earlier you said the future of Israel is not that good, not that bright. Could you elaborate on that?
Meshal: When we tried to read the future, we read it with the perspective of the past and the present. And we read it with the measurements of the nation’s values and the people. Is there any future for occupation and settlement? Is there any nation in the history of the world that insisted to establishing its own rights and failed to do so? Third question: since 1948, if we want to draw a curve of Israel’s progress, do you think that this curve is still heading up, or maybe is at a plateau, or is heading down? I believe that the curve is now in descent. And today, the military might of Israel is not capable of concluding matters to Israel’s satisfaction.
Since 1948, you may notice that Israel has defeated 7 armies. In ’56 they defeated Egypt. In ’67 they defeated 3 countries: Egypt, Syria, and Jordan. In ‘73, the war was somewhat equal 0n both sides between Egypt and Israel; if not for Nixon’s airlift to Israel’s forces at that time, the map of the world would be different. In ’82 Israel defeated the PLO in Beirut. But since ’82, 26 years ago, Israelis has not won any war. They did not defeat the Palestinian resistance, and they did not defeat the Lebanese resistance. Since that time, Israel has not expanded but has contracted. They have withdrawn from southern Lebanon and from Gaza.
These are indicators that the future is not favorable to Israel. Then today Israel, with all its military capabilities – conventional and unconventional – are not enough to guarantee Israel’s security. Today, with all these capabilities, they can’t stop a simple rocket from being launched from Gaza.
Hence the big question is, can military might ensure security? Hence, we may say that when Israel refusing the Arab and the Palestinian offer, a state of Palestine on the border of 1967, Israel is losing a big opportunity. Some years down the road, a new Palestinian generation, new Arab generations, may not accept those conditions, because the balance of power may not be in Israel’s favor.
Alya R.: My question is about using violent means. When people use violent means, inevitably innocent people suffer, in particular children – not only on the Palestinian side, but Israeli children too. What do you think about the use of violence?
Meshal: Good question. We do not like to see any victim, such as a child or a woman, even on the Israeli side, even though at the start it was the Israelis who attacked us. But, unfortunately, the insistence on violent repression by our assailants leads to innocent blood on the street. Since 1996, 12 years ago, we have proposed to exclude civilian targets from the conflict (on both sides). Israel did not respond to that. When Israel insists on killing our kids, our elders and senior citizens and women, and bombard houses with the guns ships, F16s and Apaches, when Israel continues these attacks, what is left for the Palestinians to do? They are defending themselves with whatever they have. If the situation was such that we had a smart missile, we would never launch it, unless at a military target. But our missiles and rockets are very crude. Hence we fire it, within its own capabilities, in reaction to Israeli atrocities. And we do not know specifically what it will target. Had it been that we had smart missiles – and we wish that some countries could give us these – rest assured that we will never aim at anything except the military targets. CP
We Must Stop Arming Israel
Article from The Guardian, 7th January 2009
Brown has to stop sitting on his hands, halt British weapons exports and insist the EU do the same
The world watched in horror yesterday as the conflict in Gaza claimed its latest innocent victims in the rubble of a UN school. Any hopes of reconciliation are being snuffed out as anger spills into protests around the world.
The past two weeks have been a telling indictment of the international community. We have an outgoing US president sanctioning Israel’s military response and an aching silence from the president-elect. We have a European Union encumbered by clumsy decision-making and confused messages.
And at home we have a prime minister talking like an accountant about aid earmarked for Gaza without once saying anything meaningful about the conflict’s origins. Gordon Brown, like Tony Blair, has made British foreign policy effectively subservient to Washington. But waiting for a change of heart in Washington is intolerable given the human cost.
Of course, Israel has every right to defend itself. It is difficult to imagine what it must be like to live with the constant threat of rocket attacks from a movement which espouses terrorist violence and denies Israel’s right to exist. But Israel’s approach is self-defeating: the overwhelming use of force, the unacceptable loss of civilian lives, is radicalising moderate opinion among Palestinians and throughout the Arab world. Anger in the West Bank will make it virtually impossible for Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority president, to continue to talk to Israeli ministers.
Brown must stop sitting on his hands. He must condemn unambiguously Israel’s tactics, just as he has rightly condemned Hamas’s rocket attacks. Then he must lead the EU into using its economic and diplomatic leverage in the region to broker peace. The EU is by far Israel’s biggest export market, and by far the biggest donor to the Palestinians. It must immediately suspend the proposed new cooperation agreement with Israel until things change in Gaza, and apply tough conditions on any long-term assistance to the Palestinian community.
Brown must also halt Britain’s arms exports to Israel, and persuade our EU counterparts to do the same. The government’s own figures show Britain is selling more and more weapons to Israel, despite the questions about the country’s use of force. In 2007, our government approved £6m of arms exports. In 2008, it licensed sales 12 times as fast: £20m in the first three months alone.
There is a strong case that, given the Gaza conflict, any military exports contravene EU licensing criteria. Reports, though denied, that Israel is using illegal cluster munitions and white phosphorus should heighten our caution. I want an immediate suspension of all arms exports from the EU, but if that cannot be secured, Brown must act unilaterally.
Finally, the world’s leaders must accept that their response to the election of Hamas has been a strategic failure. The removal of the EU presence on the Egypt border in response to Hamas’s election, for example, has made it easier for the rockets being fired at Israel to get into Gaza in the first place. An EU mission with a serious mandate and backing from Egypt and Israel would help Israel deal proportionately and effectively with the threat from weapons smuggling.
Attempts to divide and rule the Palestinians by isolating and punishing Gaza will not succeed. To secure peace in the Middle East, Hamas must turn its back on terrorism, and help create Palestinian unity. Only unified leadership in the West Bank and Gaza can offer Israel the security guarantees that it rightly seeks.
My proposals to stay Israel’s hand in this conflict may be unwelcome to some, but they have the country’s long term interest at heart. No terrorist organisation has ever been defeated by bombs alone. Only a new approach will secure lasting peace for Israel itself.