“Now and then, the call goes out for the convening of an international conference to look for ways of solving the (Palestinian) questionéThe Islamic Resistance Movement does not consider these conferences capable of realizing the demands, restoring the rights or doing justice to the oppressed. These conferences are only ways of setting the infidels in the land of the Moslems as arbitrators. When did the infidels do justice to the believers?”
Covenant of the Islamic Resistance Movement
(Article 13), Aug. 18, 1988
For all their differences, Israeli, Palestinians and Americans agree that the Islamic Resistance Movement is an obstacle to a negotiated peace. If this group seems unfamiliar, its name in Arabic is Harakat al-Muqawama al-Islamiya, nicknamed Hamas (“zeal”).
Unlike the secular Palestinian Authority, which is trying to negotiate an independent Palestinian state, the religion-based Hamas wants to liberate all of Palestine, not just the Occupied Territories. It considers Palestine to be a waqf (holy inheritance) and the presence of Zionists therein is an affront to Allah (God).
“The question of the liberation of Palestine is bound to three circles: the Palestinian circle, the Arab circle and the Islamic circle. Each of these circles has its role in the struggle against Zionism” (Art. 14).
To wage the struggle, Hamas encourages individual Muslims to join the jihad (struggle). Tactics include sacrifice bombings against Zionists and opposition to moderate Palestinians, like those of Yasser Arafat’s al-Fatah group, who want to negotiate a separate peace (piece?) with Israel.
Hamas’ sanctification of violence and absolute hostility toward Israel have caused virtually all media to depict it-along with the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade and Islamic Jihad-as terrorist. Although this caricature is understandable, it is not accurate because it begs the questions of who is a terrorist and whether negotiations serve the Palestinian interest.
Despite scores of conferences, summits, resolutions and official statements, Israel still occupies Palestine, and Palestinians must endure humiliations and privations that beg allusion to the Nazis’ treatment of Jews.
An examination of the documentary record will shows that Hamas is a legitimate resistance movement, and a more honourable champion of Palestinian rights than the Palestinian Authority.
Right of return and compensation
é Nov. 29, 1947, to May 15, 1948–Zionist forces under the authority of the Jewish Agency dispossess more than 300,000 Palestinians so that incoming Jews can have their land.
é By December 1948, 418 Arab villages have been destroyed, and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency registers 726,000 Palestinian refugees. Walter Eytan, Director-General of Israel’s Foreign Ministry, accepts this figure as “meticulous,” and even suggests that the number was closer to 800,000.
é Dec. 11, 1948, the UN General Assembly passes Resolution 194, Creation of a Conciliation Commission for Palestine, which states in part:
“[The General Assembly] resolves that the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid or the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsibleé” (Para. 11)
é On May 11, 1949, Israel joins the UN under UNGA Res. 273, which states:
“Recalling its resolutions of 29 November 1947 [UNGA Res. 181 “The Partition Plan”] and 11 December 1948 [UNGA Res.194] and taking note of the declarations and explanations made by the representatives of the Government of Israel before the Ad Hoc Political Committee in respect of the implementation of the said resolutions, The General Assemblyé decides to admit Israel to membership in the United Nations” (emphasis added).
Ordinarily, General Assembly resolutions need Security Council approval to become binding on the parties involved, but Res. 194 is unique. Because it was embedded in Res. 273, which Israel formally acknowledged, it became compulsory. Thus, the question of Palestinian compensation and right of return was resolved 54 years ago.
Within six weeks of being admitted to the UN, Israel’s delegation to the Conciliation Commission refused to accept the boundaries set out in 181, illegal as they were.
As ben Gurion said in 1953: “The acceptance of partition does not commit us to renounce Transjordan. One does not demand from anybody to give up his vision. We shall accept a state in the boundaries fixed today-but the boundaries of Zionist aspirations are the concerns of the Jewish people and no external factor will be able to limit them.”
When Nahum Goldman stepped down as president of the World Jewish Congress in 1977, he lamented: “In 30 years, Israel has never presented the Arabs with a single peace plan. She has rejected every settlement plan devised by her friends and by her enemies. She has seemingly no other object than to preserve the status quo while adding territory piece by piece.”
Article 32 of the Covenant expresses the same sentiment: “Today it is Palestine; tomorrow it will be one country or another. The Zionist plan is limitless. After Palestine, the Zionists aspire to expand from the Nile to the Euphrates. When they will have digested the region they overtook, they will aspire to further expansion, and so on.”
Hamas is absolutely correct to assert that conferences and other forms of polite palaver are incapable of rendering justice to the Palestinians. As such, Hamas is also correct to condemn the Palestinian Authority for negotiating with Israel while these issues were outstanding. If Israel can so cavalierly thumb its nose at the world, the authority should know that Israel cannot be trusted to honour any agreement.
The Occupied Territories
After the June 1967 war, Israel found itself in possession of East Jerusalem, the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Golan Heights. On Nov. 22, 1967, the Security Council passed the binding Res. 242, which emphasizes the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war, and demands that Israeli armed forces withdraw from these territories.
(Zionist casuists and dissemblers argue that absence of “all” before “occupied territories” gives Israel the right to some of this land, but this is a lie. Great Britain’s UN ambassador Hugh Foot, achieved unanimous council support, 15é0, for Res. 242, and affirmed its comprehensive intent. Moreover, the Zionist interpretation would make the resolution self-contradictory, and a contempt of the UN Charter.)
Unfortunately for Palestinians, the U.S. government is an obedient tool of the domestic Zionist lobby, and as such has vetoed more than 35 Security Council resolutions that would have held Israel accountable to international law, including Res. 242.
Because of the U.S., Israel has been allowed to compound its criminality. Since 1968, it began establishing Jewish colonies in the territories. Euphemistically called “settlements,” these enclaves are designed to “Judaize” Palestine and make life so miserable for Arabs that they either die or are forced to leave. On this score, Hamas is dead right about Zionist aims:
“Our enemy relies on the methods of collective punishment. He has deprived people of their homeland and properties, pursued them in their places of exile and gathering, breaking bones, shooting at women, children and old people, with or without a reason. The enemy has opened detention camps where thousands and thousands of people are thrown and kept under sub-human conditions. Added to this, are the demolition of houses, rendering children orphans, meting cruel sentences against thousands of young people, and causing them to spend the best years of their lives in the dungeons of prisons.
“In their Nazi treatment, the Jews made no exception for women or children. Their policy of striking fear in the heart is meant for all. They attack people where their breadwinning is concerned, extorting their money and threatening their honour. They deal with people as if they were the worst war criminals. Deportation from the homeland is a kind of murder.” (Covenant, Art. 20)
Resolution 242 addresses only the effects of the 1967 war, and as such presents an ethical dilemma. By mandating that Israel withdraw forces from the Occupied Territories, the resolution tacitly acknowledges Israel’s borders, which, as we saw, are illegal and deliberately undefined.
Hamas vs. the Palestinian Authority
For Hamas, Res. 242 is irrelevant because it does not speak to the crimes of 1947-48 or to the presence of infidels in Palestine. However, for the PA, Res. 242 is important. On Nov. 15, 1988, four months after Jordan gave up its claim to the West Bank, the Palestine National Council abandoned open hostility toward Israel in favour of accommodation. It declared a Palestinian state in the Occupied Territories, and agreed to abide by Res. 242.
It is no coincidence that the Charter of the Islamic Resistance Movement was issued between these two events. In fact, the history of Hamas overlaps the entire history of the Oslo peace agreement.
On Sept. 13, 1993, Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin signed the Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-government, which Arafat called “the beginning of the end of a chapter of pain and suffering that has lasted throughout this century.”
Doubtless one reason for his optimism was Rabin’s promise to put a freeze on new Israeli colonies to prevent any change to the status quo in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip during the negotiations.
But if Yasser Arafat really wanted to establish a Palestinian state according to Res. 242, he had no business signing this deal. Annex II at the end of the Declaration reads: “It is understood that, subsequent to the Israeli withdrawal, Israel will continue to be responsible for external security, and for internal security and public order of settlements and Israelis. Israeli military forces and civilians may continue to use roads freely within the Gaza Strip and the Jericho area.”
Moreover, the number of colonists over this period gradually doubled to more than 200,000, which not only violated Israel’s promise of a settlement freeze, but also Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention concerning the protection of civilians in time of war:
“Individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the Occupying Power or to that of any other country, occupied or not, are prohibited, regardless of their motiveé The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.”
In the end, Arafat had the good sense to reject the deal. He was expected to agree to a total of four Bantustan-like enclaves, and cede to Israel control over all water, roads, borders and security, as well as East Jerusalem. Official propaganda, however, still contends that he rejected a “generous offer” of 90 percent of the Occupied Territories, and was therefore uniquely responsible for the failure of the talks, but this is easily refuted.
But the sad fact is, this farce should never have happened. It raised unrealistic expectations and proved the impotence of the Palestinian leadership. Hamas is correct to say: “These conferences are only ways of setting the infidels in the land of the Moslems as arbitrators.”
Even now, Israel is demanding that the PA negotiate away the right of return in exchange for an independent Palestinian state. Not only is this demand absurd for reasons already mentioned, but the right of return and the right of compensation are individual rights under the Fourth Geneva Convention and cannot be bargained away by any contracting party.
Hamas and the second Intifada
The farce of Oslo ended when Ariel Sharon became prime minister in February 2000. On Sept. 28, he made a provocative visit to the Temple Mount under armed guard. The result was the start of the second Intifada. Sacrifice bombings, which were virtually non-existent since 1996, because of the faux optimism the Oslo process engendered, began again in November 2000. The targets were not only the Zionists, but also the feeble PA leadership.
Occupiers need collaborators among the occupied to ensure control. That’s why the Nazis got along so well with the Zionists-they betrayed and sabotaged the Jewish resistance.
Similarly, Israel wants the PA to betray and sabotage Hamas activities. Mahmoud Abbas, head PA negotiator at the Aqaba Summit, has agreed to disarm Hamas, which refuses to be a party to this farce.
Israel, though, isn’t waiting. It has declared open season on any Palestinian remotely suspected of being affiliated with Hamas. The very day the summit opened, Sharon sent troops into Tulkarem to kill two “suspected” Hamas activists.
Israel is committing willful murder, yet few if any in the media seem to care. Hamas is Islamic, advocates bombings, and opposes the state of Israel. Therefore, it is deemed to be an enemy to peace and must be eliminated. But who is the real enemy-Hamas, the passionate defender of the Palestinians, or the PA leadership, who is following the same capitulationist path that led from Oslo?
It is not necessary to accept every word of the Covenant, or even Hamas’ Islamic program, to recognize that it has something the Palestinian negotiators over the last 15 years haven’t had-moral consistency and a clear sense of history, especially about Israel.
Hamas’ fundamental opposition is morally and legally justified. Popular myth notwithstanding, Israel could not have been created by the UN, because the Partition Plan never received Security Council approval. In fact, the U.S. was preparing to withdraw its support.
In mid-March 1948, American UN ambassador Warren Austin observed that Res. 181 could not be enacted peacefully, and, on orders from President Harry Truman, recommended that it be suspended for two months, pending a meeting of the General Assembly. In place of the plan, the U.S. advocated a temporary UN trusteeship to prevent further bloodshed.
The pre-emptive declaration of Israeli statehood on May 14, 1948, amounted to theft. To this day, Israel has neither moral nor de jure political legitimacy, despite what we’re meant to believe. How can it be wrong for Hamas to attack a usurper?
We did not condemn World War II French and Dutch resistance fighters because they conducted sabotage and guerrilla attacks against Nazi occupation. Therefore, the media should not condemn Palestinian resistance fighters who are fighting against Zionist occupation.
The essentially criminal, acquisitive nature of Israel should provide ample proof that a two-state solution is a dangerous illusion. The only possibility for peace is a single democratic state in a de-Zionized Palestine. So long as the Zionist Reich exists, Hamas, and groups like it, will be the real champions of Palestinian justice.
Mr. Greg Felton is a Canadian writer on the Middle East, and the author of an upcoming book on Osama bin Laden. His “Mind over Media” column appears every month in the Greater Vancouver Arabic/English newspaper al Shorouq. He can be reached at [email protected]