The dramatic rise of Hamas from a movement dedicated to resistance against Israeli occupation as well as the liberation of Palestine to a ruling party in Palestinian-controlled areas has sent shockwaves in the west. The hotlines between Washington, London and Tel Aviv must be buzzing with discussions about strategy and tactics to deal with this “potential danger” presented by a movement that is branded by the west and Israel as a terrorist organisation. The US and Europe have set conditions for aid to pressurise a Hamas administration. Aid is conditional to Hamas recognising Israel’s right to existence and renouncing of armed resistance. Essentially, there is nothing wrong with the precondition on the existence of Israel. Palestinians have to accept the existence of Israel, and indeed many Palestinians have resigned themselves to this reality. However, denouncing violence is a tricky proposition in some ways. Give us one government or country in the world that has been asked to denounce violence and the basis thereof. Most governments, including the US, Britain and Israel are involved in violent actions – the US and Brits in Iraq and Afghanistan and Israel in Palestinian lands. Some of these governments have detained people without trial and incidents of torture of detainees have been reported in their prisons. Without doubt, torture is a form of violence. Israel uses so-called targeted killings. The moment it is attacked, it kills anybody associated with a particular organisation even if that person may not have been party to the attack. Israel uses collective punishment, razing off Palestinians’ homes without due regard for their rights. This scorched earth policy is a form of violence and has been tolerated by its backers in Washington and London. Those asking others to denounce violence must set the right examples. It is time to ask Israel to put something on the table for Hamas. To dismiss Hamas outright as a terrorist organisation that cannot be negotiated with is not only unintelligent but also stupid. Hamas represents the majority Palestinians now and to refuse to talk to Palestinians is simply being dumb. Israelis and Americans have to swallow their pride and find ways of dealing with Hamas even if they are not friends. After all, foreign policies are about realities and not dogma. It is insufficient for the west to ask Hamas to tame itself and throw their guns into the sea, while offering nothing in return. The west wants so much from Hamas – for nothing. That is not feasible. It must be a win-win situation. The quartet instead of arm-twisting Hamas must put pressure on Israel to relinquish its hold on Palestinian land. Give Hamas a stick and a carrot. They have to be told to accept the existence of Israel. Israel has to give something. We are no experts on the Middle East but we dare suggest that Palestinians may have voted Hamas into power for the very reason that the west wants reversed. And should that be the case, then the west is treading on thin ground. Staunch proponents of democracy like Europe and the US should never be seen to be interfering with the outcome of a democratic process. Palestinians have voted for Hamas. They are the only people that can seek to change or change their rulers.
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