Over the last week and a half since Hamas’ electoral victory in Palestinian legislative elections, American pundits have taken the opportunity to blast the Palestinian people’s choice, without attempting to understand the real reasons behind that choice. Some right-wing writers have gone so far as to say that the election of Hamas reveals the Palestinian people’s true nature as genocidal, anti-Jewish fanatics — a sentiment that is not based in any type of reality.They are the words of someone who has obviously never set foot in the Palestinian occupied territories, nor seen the conditions in which the Palestinians are living. Having been disenfranchised from their land in what is now Israel in 1947, with ongoing disenfranchisement due to Israeli settlement and expansion, the 3.5 million Palestinian refugees now constitute the largest refugee population on earth, according to United Nations figures.
Charles Krauthammer, an editorialist with the Washington Post newspaper, said in a Feb. 3rd article that the truth in this situation is that, "After 60 years, the Palestinian people continue to reject the right of a Jewish state to exist side by side with them". But this assertion is entirely untrue. In fact, every poll of the Palestinian populace, by Israeli, Palestinian and international pollsters, shows that the vast majority would accept the 1967 borders – the so-called "Green Line", 23% of their original land, as an acceptable border with Israel. But since that border was established in 1967, 400,000 Israelis have been transferred across that border into illegal settlements on Palestinian land. Most of this expansion took place in the years between 1993 and 2000, when a ‘peace agreement’ was supposedly in place. Now Israel is constructing a massive wall, bigger even than the Berlin Wall — supposedly for security, but in fact to secure a de facto border that encompasses more than half of what’s left of the Palestinian territory – leaving Palestinians with only 13% of their original land, divided into islands with borders completely controlled by Israel. What people on earth would not be upset about being dispossessed of so much of their land?
Krauthammer attributes the source of the conflict to the Palestinians "choice" of "rejectionism". In fact, the Palestinians have had no choice whatsoever in this conflict. Palestinians did not choose to be dispossessed of their land in 1948, did not choose to be occupied militarily, did not choose to live in what has literally become the world’s largest prison, criscrossed with checkpoints, unable to travel from town to town, and forbidden to leave.
Some of the American pundits have gone so far as to compare Hamas with the Nazis, a comparison that enflames emotions, but is entirely inaccurate. A more realistic comparison would be with the Irish Republican Army in the early 1990s, who were rightly called ‘terrorists’ at the time for their tactic of targeting British civilians, but who, through negotiations during the 90s, were able to eventually form part of a coalition government beginning in 2000 in Northern Ireland.
If there is to be peace in the Middle East, there needs to be recognition by both sides of the other’s wrongs. Articles like Krauthammer’s serve only to enrage both sides of the conflict. His article, like many op-eds in the U.S. over the past week have failed to mention that since a ‘truce’ was made between Hamas and Israel last February, Hamas has killed one Israeli (according to the Israeli government’s own numbers), while the Israeli military has killed 180 Palestinians, two-thirds of them civilians (according to an Israeli human rights group’s estimate — the Israeli government does not keep count of Palestinian deaths under occupation). Not recognizing the role of Israel in the conflict is to leave out the most important component of an explanations as to _why_ Palestinians may have voted for Hamas.
For it is not, as the U.S. editorialists suggest, because Palestinians are some kind of Jew-hating Nazi-like monsters. It is more likely because they are living under the world’s longest and most brutal military occupation. Why is it that American commentators are less compromising than even the Israelis themselves? Israelis generally recognize the Hamas victory as a response to corruption and compromise by the party previously in power. Hopefully negotiations for peace in the Middle East will involve some of the more level-headed Israelis themselves, instead of hot-headed hate-mongers like Jeff Jacoby, a Boston Globe commentator who called Hamas ‘Jew-hating Nazis’. Peace _is_ possible in the Middle East, despite what these pundits may think. I mean, if the Brits can recognize Martin McGuinness, the ‘bomb-throwing’ former head of the armed division of the Irish Republican Army, as education secretary in a joint Northern Irish government….anything in the world is possible.