The potent power of saying no
Hamas in power because Palestinians have had enough, says Jeff Halper
Mar. 26, 2006. 01:00 AM Toronto Star
As the new Hamas government assumes power, we might ask: What would bring Palestinians, the most secular of Arab populations, to vote Hamas? Mere protest at Fatah ineffectualness and corruption doesn’t go far enough. While warning Hamas that their vote was not a mandate for an Iran-like theocracy, Palestinians took the only option left to a powerless people when all other avenues have been closed: non-co-operation. Gandhi put it best: “How can one be compelled to accept slavery? I simply refuse to do the master’s bidding. He may torture me, break my bones to atoms and even kill me. He will then have my dead body, not my obedience. Ultimately, therefore, it is I who am the victor …, for he has failed in getting me to do what he wanted done ….
The roots of non-co-operation lie not in hatred but in justice.” This is not to equate Hamas with Gandhi, but merely to point out that non-co-operation, a powerful means of non-violent resistance, arises when the oppressed have no other avenues to achieve their freedom. The international community, the U.S., Israel and, yes, Fatah, have closed all avenues to the Palestinians. They carry the “blame” for the rise of Hamas.
Palestinians have simply said: “To hell with all of you!” To hell with the international community for failing to apply international law, and allowing Israel to construct its occupation.
International law defines occupation as a temporary situation to be resolved through negotiations and prohibits unilateral action. Besides military bases, every element of Israel’s occupation is patently illegal: settlements; the plunder of Palestinian water and resources; house demolitions and expropriation of Palestinian lands; military attacks on civilians. Even when Israel’s “separation barrier” was ruled illegal by the International Court of Justice, nothing was done.
To hell with the U.S. for closing off negotiations, and neutralizing the UN with the U.S. veto. At the start of the Oslo “peace process,” at Israel’s urging, the U.S. reclassified the Palestinian areas from “occupied” to “disputed,” thus removing international law from the negotiations. Had this law been respected, the occupation would have ended under the weight of its illegality.
To hell with Israel for closing off even the possibility of a viable Palestinian state by expanding into Palestinian areas. Hamas is criticized for “not recognizing Israel” but Israel has never explicitly recognized the Palestinians’ right to self-determination, and never negotiated with Mahmoud Abbas despite his government’s recognition of Israel. The world and Israel ignored the Palestinians’ “generous offer” to Israel which could have ended the conflict: recognition of Israel within the 1967 borders on 78 per cent of historic Palestine, in return for a Palestinian state in the Occupied Territories on the remaining 22 per cent. Israel is now poised, with American support and international complicity, to reduce the Palestinians to a prison-state of five Israeli-controlled “cantons” — no freedom of movement, no water, no viable economy, no Jerusalem, and no hopeful future.
And to hell with Fatah for enabling corruption and not pursuing effectively Palestinian self-determination. Removed from the people, the Palestinian Authority failed to support victims of Israeli occupation. Still, only 44 per cent of Palestinians voted Hamas. Most Palestinians seem to hope that Fatah will learn its lesson.
Indeed, the vote for Hamas was not a closing of the door, but a rational and powerful statement of non-co-operation in a political process that is only leading to Palestinian imprisonment.
Hamas stands for steadfastness, sumud. But also resistance to occupation. As an Israeli Jew who sees how the occupation has eroded the moral foundations of my society and, indeed, my entire people, and as a resident of Israel-Palestine who knows that my fate is intricately intertwined with that of the Palestinians, I pray that a just peace will come sooner rather than later. As a member of civil society, I realize that the Palestinians have only one staunch ally: us, the people.
Governments will not pursue peace and justice without our prodding. If the Palestinians remain steadfast and resist, it is our duty to actively support their fight for freedom and justice. Otherwise — to hell with us.
Jeff Halper is co-ordinator of The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions and a candidate for the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize.