A few weeks before the assault on Gaza, the Strategic Studies Institute of the US Army published a levelheaded document on “Hamas and Israel”, which argued that “Israel”s stance towards the democratically-elected Palestinian government headed by Hamas in 2006, and towards Palestinian national coherence – legal, territorial, political and economic – has been a major obstacle to substantive peacemaking.” Whatever their reservations about the organisation, the authors of the paper detected signs that Hamas was considering a shift of position even before the blockade:
It is frequently stated that Israel or the United States cannot “meet” with Hamas (although meeting is not illegal; materially aiding terrorism is, if proven) because the latter will not “recognise Israel”. In contrast, the PLO has “recognised” Israel”s right to exist and agreed in principle to bargain for significantly less land than the entire West Bank and Gaza Strip, and it is not clear that Israel has ever agreed to accept a Palestinian state. The recognition of Israel did not bring an end to violence, as wings of various factions of the PLO did fight Israelis, especially at the height of the Second (al- Aqsa) Intifada. Recognition of Israel by Hamas, in the way that it is described in the Western media, cannot serve as a formula for peace. Hamas moderates have, however, signaled that it implicitly recognises Israel, and that even a tahdiya (calming, minor truce) or a hudna, a longer-term truce, obviously implies recognition. Khalid Mish”al states: “We are realists,” and there is “an entity called Israel,” but “realism does not mean that you have to recognise the legitimacy of the occupation.”
The war on Gaza has killed the two-state solution by making it clear to Palestinians that the only acceptable Palestine would have fewer rights than the Bantustans created by apartheid South Africa. The alternative, clearly, is a single state for Jews and Palestinians with equal rights for all. Certainly it seems utopian at the moment with the two Palestinian parties in Israel – Balad and the United Arab List – both barred from contesting the February elections. Avigdor Lieberman, the chairman of Yisrael Beiteinu, has breathed a sigh of satisfaction: “Now that it has been decided that the Balad terrorist organisation will not be able to run, the first battle is over.” But even victory has its drawbacks. After the Six-Day War in 1967, Isaac Deutscher warned his one-time friend Ben Gurion: “The Germans have summed up their own experience in the bitter phrase “Mann kann sich totseigen!” – you can triumph yourself to death. This is what the Israelis have been doing. They have bitten off much more than they can swallow.”
Five hundred courageous Israelis have sent a letter to Western embassies calling for sanctions and other measures to be applied against their country, echoing the 2005 call by numerous Palestinian organisations for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) on the South African model. This will not happen overnight but it is the only non-violent way to help the struggle for freedom and equality in Israel-Palestine.
Tariq Ali”s latest book is The Duel: Pakistan on the Flight Path of American Power.