May 02, 2017 “Information Clearing House” – Document aims to heal divisions within Palestinian movement and ease peace process but Netanhayu says: ‘Hamas is attempting to fool the world’
By Patrick Wintour
Hamas has unveiled a new political programme softening its stance on Israel by accepting the idea of a Palestinian state in territories occupied by Israel in the six-day war of 1967.
The new document states the Islamist movement it is not seeking war with the Jewish people – only with Zionism that drives the occupation of Palestine.
The new document also insists that Hamas is a not a revolutionary force that seeks to intervene in other countries, a commitment that is likely to be welcomed by other states such as Egypt.
The policy platform was announced by the head of the movement’s political bureau, Khaled Meshal, at a press conference in Doha. “Hamas advocates the liberation of all of Palestine but is ready to support the state on 1967 borders without recognising Israel or ceding any rights,” he said.
The move comes just two days before a White House meeting between Donald Trump and Mahmoud Abbas, whose Fatah movement remains at odds with Hamas.
But according to diplomatic sources, the new document has been in preparation for years and has been the subject of intense debate between the various Hamas factions in Gaza, in exile and in prison.
Although it does not explicitly supplant the previous charter of the founding fathers, seen by many as racist, it is being described by those seeking to help Hamas toward a more peaceful path as the contemporary summary of Hamas beliefs and aims.
Israel rejected the document before its full publication, with a spokesman for the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, saying: “Hamas is attempting to fool the world, but it will not succeed.”
Ed Royce, the chair of the House foreign relations committee, said: “Until Hamas recognises Israel’s right to exist, its words are meaningless. I will see to it that Hamas remains designated a terrorist organisation as long as it continues to launch rocket attacks against Israeli civilians, remains an Iranian proxy, and engages in other acts that threaten the US and Israel.”
But some influential diplomatic figures will seek to persuade Trump’s Middle East advisers that the document at least shows there is the potential for a peace settlement based on the recent regional push led by Egypt. It may also open the way for international investors to start rebuilding basic services in Gaza, and end the blockade.
In the biggest concession, the new document states that Hamas “considers the establishment of a fully sovereign and independent Palestinian state, with Jerusalem as its capital along the lines of 4 June 1967, with the return of the refugees and the displaced to their homes from which they were expelled, to be a formula of national consensus”.
By implication, the document accepts that there will be another state entity outside these borders, even if it does not mention Israel.
Previously the movement’s leaders have given verbal commitments to the more limited aim of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, but the aim has never been put formally in writing.
Hamas, which wrested control of the Gaza Strip in 2007 from the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority – controlled by Fatah. Since then, all efforts since to reconcile the two Palestinian factions have faltered.
The new Hamas document essentially brings the two sides closer to the same negotiating objective.
The policy statement asserts: “Hamas affirms that its conflict is with the Zionist project not with the Jews because of their religion. Hamas does not wage a struggle against the Jews because they are Jewish but wages a struggle against the Zionists who occupy Palestine. Yet, it is the Zionists who constantly identify Judaism and the Jews with their own colonial project and illegal entity.”
Critics of Hamas will point out the document rejects the Oslo accords, and asserts that resistance for the liberation of Palestine will remain “a legitimate right, a duty and an honour”, adding “armed resistance is regarded as the strategic choice for protecting the principles and rights of the Palesinian people”.
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The new charter also abandons past references claiming Hamas is part of a pan-national Muslim Brotherhood, to which it was closely linked when formed.
This aspect of the statement could improve the currently difficult relations with the Egyptian government of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who as army chief overthrew his Islamist predecessor, Mohamed Morsi, in 2013 and has since led a bloody crackdown on the Brotherhood.
Hamas had been planning to present the charter at the Intercontinental hotel in the Qatari capital of Doha, but the hotel canceled, prompting Hamas to rush to find an alternative location, eventually holding the event at the Doha Sheraton.
In advance of the publication, Netanyahu’s office said: “Hamas’s document is a smokescreen. We see Hamas continuing to invest all of its resources not just in preparing for war with Israel, but also in educating the children of Gaza to want to destroy Israel.”
“The day Hamas stops digging tunnels and diverts its resources to civilian infrastructure and stop educating children to hate Israelis, that would be real change,” the statement said.
Ismail Haniyeh, the Gaza-based deputy head of Hamas’s political bureau, said at an event in the Gaza Strip on Sunday that “the new document will undermine neither our principles nor our strategy. Jerusalem, the right of return, Palestinian unity and the resistance forces are fundamental principles. The changes relate to regional developments, and suit the era.”
This article was first published by The Guardian –
Hamas Outlines its Vision for Palestine in the 21st Century
By Dr Daud Abdullah
May 02, 2017 “Information Clearing House” – One hundred years of oppression have not diminished or erased the Palestinian hope for freedom. Throughout this year, 2017, they are marking the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, which started their tragedy. The occasion is about the past, as well as the future. And, it is in this context that the Islamic Resistance Movement Hamas has launched its new General Policies and Principles Document.
When Hamas issued its founding Charter in August 1988, the occupied territories were in the grip of the First Intifada (uprising). Both the content and tone of its message was then largely one for its followers and the “stone-throwing generation” who had risen up against the occupation. Thirty years on, things have changed drastically. The occupation has become more inhumane while transforming itself into a system of apartheid rule. A new political framework is, therefore, needed to give not just hope, but direction to the Palestinian people as well.
Politics aside, Hamas is plainly positioning itself to occupy the moral high-ground left vacant by other national forces. The leadership which brokered the ill-fated Oslo Accords two decades ago still remains in power; albeit now discredited and mistrusted by large sections of Palestinian society. Despite their best efforts, they seem incapable of shaking off the image of a self-serving and corrupt elite.
Rightfully, Palestinians yearn for an all embracing and inclusive leadership; one that honours their sacrifices, respects their will and pursues their legitimate rights. With this in mind Hamas has carefully framed its General Policies Document in a language that resonates with Palestinians of all political and religious persuasions. While affirming a willingness to recognise a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, Hamas, nonetheless, remains committed to its declared objective of a free Palestine, from Naqurra in the north to Rashrash in the south, and from the Jordan River in the east to the Mediterranean Sea in the west.
No doubt, some may argue that this new document has been long overdue. The truth, however, is that Hamas has over the years shown a capacity to critique its political positions and explore options that were not mentioned in its founding Charter as long as they did not compromise national interests. Hence, while still in prison Sheikh Ahmad Yassin proposed a long-term cessation of hostilities (hudnah) with Israel for the first time in 1994. In 1997 he told the Associated Press that Hamas would accept a ten-year truce if Israel would withdraw its troops and settlers from all of the West Bank and Gaza.
Similarly, Dr Abdel Aziz Rantissi, another founding leader of the movement, told Reuters on 27 January 2004: “We accept a state in the West Bank, including Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. We propose a 10-year truce in return for [Israeli] withdrawal and the establishment of a state.” Two years later, in May 2006, these very ideas were adopted in the document that came to be known as the National Conciliation Document of the Palestinian prisoners. It was signed by representatives of the four largest Palestinian factions: Marwan Barghouthi of Fatah, Sheikh Abdel Khaliq Al-Natsche of Hamas, Sheikh Bassam Al-Saadi of Islamic Jihad and Abdel Rahim Malouh of the PFLP.
Many of the points embodied in the Prisoners Document such as the acceptance of a state within the 1967 borders, with Jerusalem as its capital, the right of return and the right to resist are all now asserted in Hamas’ new General Policies Document. Having signed up to the Prisoners Document Hamas has, furthermore, demonstrated a willingness to be part of a national project that secures the rights of all Palestinians and not only its supporters.
Since the Lebanese-based Al-Mayadeen TV station published a leaked draft copy of the new document cynics have wasted no time searching for contradictions and compromises. Apart from the issue of a state within the 1967 borders, they point to the fact that whereas the founding Charter identified the movement as an extension of the Muslim Brotherhood this new General Policies Document makes no such mention. Nor does it deny its ideological links with the Brotherhood. As for any supposed organisational connection and the co-ordination of political strategies within a unified leadership, that was never the case. Indeed, what Hamas does in its new General Policies Document is to identify itself as a national liberation movement.
Hamas of 2017 is a significantly different body from what existed in the late 20th century. Today, for better or worse, it finds itself in a position where it has to administer the Gaza Strip and provide jobs and social services for its two million people. Its regional and international standing has also changed. Hence it has to respond to all the challenges that these entail. Foremost among these is to maintain adherence to its strategic political positions such as the right to resist, non-recognition of Israel and adherence to the liberation of Mandatory Palestine. At the same time, it has to avoid being crippled by ideological dogma.
The new General Policies Document is an attempt to do just this. Its completion shows an honesty to acknowledge and correct errors. For example, in 1988 the founding Charter framed the conflict in these words; “Our struggle against the Jews is very great and very serious.” This is manifestly wrong. The conflict has always been one between the Palestinian people and the Zionist colonisers who conquered Palestine and now occupy it.
Hamas’ founding Charter was written in the last quarter of the 20th century. Politics is never static anywhere; and it certainly is not in Palestine. Conditions change rapidly. The wider region is itself in a state of continuous flux where alliances are formed and broken. By taking this audacious step to write this new General Policies and Principles Document Hamas is laying out its vision for Palestine in the 21st century. One that would guide and enable the Palestinian people to liberate their land and enjoy the security and freedom from oppression and discrimination that they richly deserve. It is a vision and framework to create opportunities that would ultimately lead to the control and development of their natural resources, as well as realise their full human potential.
Is there any justification to deny them these fundamental human rights?
This article was first published by MEMO –