Eclectic Grounds

conflicts and conversation

Posts Tagged ‘hamas

“Talking to Hamas”: Israel’s paradoxical stance

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From Gideon Levy, columnist for Haaretz:

Why is it permissible to talk to Hamas about the fate of one captive soldier and another several hundred prisoners, but forbidden to talk to them about the fate of two nations? Never has Israeli logic been so distorted. Now, when our hearts look forward to the deal’s implementation, when every human heart should look forward to Gilad Shalit’s release – and yes, to the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, some of them political prisoners for all intents and purposes, not just “terrorists with blood on their hands” – now is the time to finally rid ourselves of some of the foolish prohibitions we have imposed on ourselves and the entire international community. […]

Yes, we are conducting what we are denying to ourselves: negotiations with Hamas – and the sky hasn’t fallen. Whether direct or indirect, there are talks; whether or not we recognize Hamas, there are negotiations. For us, as usual, the method that should come first waits for last. Only after we try all the rest – killing and destruction, war and starvation – do we turn to the direct route: negotiations. […]

A free Gaza undergoing rehabilitation will be much less explosive. A Hamas busy rebuilding will behave differently, especially if it is also offered a political horizon. It will have much more to lose, something that is hard to say about Gaza today. So after we finish crossing our fingers for Shalit’s release, we have to open the same hand and reach out to Hamas in peace.


Written by henrik

November 27, 2009 at 2:57 pm

On the idea that Hamas can be annihilated

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A great commentary by Israeli novelist A. B. Yehoshua at Project Syndicate:

They [the Palestinians] are our neighbors, and they will be our neighbors in the future. So, when we decide to fight a war against them, we have to consider very carefully the character of that war, its duration, and the effect of its violence. We Israelis have no power to extirpate the Hamas government from Gaza, much as we did not have the power to eliminate the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) as the voice of the Palestinian people’s national aspirations, or Hezbollah from Lebanon in the war of 2006.

Ariel Sharon and Menachem Begin went all the way to Beirut in the early 1980’s, paying a terrible and bloody price, to try to eliminate the PLO – a result that could never be obtained. And what happened? In the end, Sharon and then Binyamin Netanyahu both ended up sitting down at the negotiating table with Yassir Arafat and his representatives to try to reach an agreement. Now Arafat’s former deputy, Abu Mazen, is a frequent and welcome guest in our country.

We Israelis must begin to realize this simple fact: the Arabs are not metaphysical creatures, but human beings, and human beings have it within themselves to change. After all, we Israelis change our positions, mitigate our opinions, and open ourselves up to new ideas. So we would do well to get out of our heads as quickly as possible the illusion that we can somehow annihilate Hamas or eradicate them from the Gaza strip.

Instead, we have to work, with caution and good sense, to reach a reasonable and detailed agreement for a lasting ceasefire that has within it the perspective that Hamas can change. Such a change is possible and can be acted upon. Such fundamental changes of heart and mind have happened many times in the course of history.

Read the full text here.

Written by henrik

January 22, 2009 at 1:14 pm

How’s your news, Al Jazeera?

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Al Jazeera English

Jörg Lau (in German) made an interesting recommendation to Europeans interested in what’s going on in the Middle East. He’s been watching Al Jazeera during the ongoing Israeli invasion in Gaza and brings up interesting points why the channel might be a positive addition to the media landscape. Al Jazeera has been the only news channel with a correspondent in Gaza from the start of the attacks, and it presents the conflict in a totally different light as compared to what we are used to.

These are the principal observations that he makes:

  •  The framing is set differently: It is “War on Gaza” as opposed to “War against the Hamas”
  • The civilian casualties of the invasion are at the centre of the coverage. 
  • At the same time, the reporting is not populist or unfair: The Israeli government is being interviewed and confronted with questions about war crimes in Gaza.
  • Al Jazeera is not a propaganda medium for Arab governments. Spokespersons from Hamas, the Israeli government and Arab leaders all get their share of airtime.

Lau concludes that a counterveiling power has been established when it comes to framing the Israeli-Palestinina conflict. Al Jazeera in his opinion is a credible and relevant news source that could rock the boat of “Western” media hegemony.

I definitely agree to this. But I would go further even. I think that Al Jazeera also has opened up a space for dialogue that has not been there before. By giving airtime to Hamas and the Israeli government, it creates new communication channels between groups who refused to talk directly and thereby it also undermines the propaganda machines that work best when there is no dialogue at all. It presents an Israeli perspective to an Arab audience, and at the same time it can legitimately ask critical questions to the Israeli government that the “Western” media seem to refuse to ask. Another aspect: for me as a non-Arab and non-Muslim it is new to listen to Hamas spokespersons directly as it’s not something that I usually get to hear. 

Lau says he finds Al Jazeera coverage of the war in Gaza too one-sided, and he laments that Hamas power in Gaza is a blind spot in the coverage. I agree. But it is not really the point, because this not a matter of presenting the news in a way that an please an Arab, an Israeli and a Western audience. It can’t be done. It is primarily a matter of all sides listening to each other and – while expressing concerns, grievances or even hatred – to at least recognise the other side as human beings and as potential partners in dialogue. That would already be a step into the right direction.

Written by henrik

January 17, 2009 at 1:14 pm