It is the inability to understand that gives rise to major obstacles towards resolving conflict. Understanding comes only after we have all the knowledge necessary for a correct conceptualization of a given situation. According to Kant in his first Critique knowledge is concepts arranged together. Only after correct understanding is achieved can one make a decision and have talks and discussion for the way forward. Thus having correct knowledge is also important as some might have knowledge but that knowledge is framed in such a way that justifies certain existing power structures i.e. that knowledge is framed to justify a certain perception based wholly against the reality of things.
It is due to consideration of all these crucial points that we at the Palestinian Internationalist have decided to focus on the Palestinian movement Hamas. Hamas is one of those movements which unfortunately we have very little information on due to it being labeled as a terrorist group. One of the many terrorist groups currently on the list of the US State Department endorsed by the President. The victory of Hamas back in January 2006 showed that this so called ‘terrorist’ movement had quite a following and was very popular (it won a landslide) in Palestine and the occupied territories. Probably the media in the West should take a second look at Hamas as a movement and see what roles it plays in society.
Who is Hamas anyway? What do they want? Are they any different from mass revolutionary movements in history? What were the factors that had given rise to this movement in Palestine? Why is it more popular in Palestine than Fatah, the PLO and the others? Do they believe in the destruction of Israel as it had been portrayed in the Western media? What is their stand in regards to suicide bombings? If you are looking for answers to these questions then this is the issue for you.
The first article which is also the lead article is written by Mark Perry. In a conceptual article Perry compares Hamas as a revolutionary movement with other revolutionary movements in the past. Perry studies the revolutionary faith involved in all these movements including Hamas and also their revolutionary message. His conclusions are firstly, that they are similar and thus Hamas should also be known as a revolutionary movement having a social agenda, and secondly, that Western political theorists do not accept this comparison due to their fear of Islam. Nevertheless understanding Hamas as a revolutionary movement which is political is crucial for a proper assessment of the situation in Palestine for the aim of conflict resolution.
The second article by Jennifer Loewenstein investigates the Prisoner’s Agreement in which all the major groups in Palestine including Hamas have agreed to a Palestinian state along the borders of 1967. Instead of moving forward, Abbas (at that point in time) had used this issue to force Hamas to adopt it into policy and if not, Abbas would take the whole thing to a referendum. The actions of Abbas are clearly contradictory to a democracy; rather they are filled with faction-based politics. Unfortunately, the USA and Israel are supporting Abbas and are seen to be actively encouraging a civil war. She also points out in her article that leaders in Hamas had basically agreed with the Two-State solution in various places, thereby making the referendum redundant. Readers will find her article useful due to her research in documenting these instances. She ends her article by stressing that Hamas should not fall into the trap of conceding to Israel without getting anything in return. The failure of Arafat and the PLO should not be reciprocated by Hamas and the current opposition towards Abbas is justified.
The third article is a historical piece on the movement from its early beginnings as Palestinian Ikhwan, and later from 1987 when the leaders of the Ikhwan became the ones to establish Hamas. The article then gives an exposition on Hamas’ role in society. It ends with commenting, albeit briefly, on the recent agreement between Hamas and Fatah through Saudi Arabia.
There are two reviews for this issue. The first is a DVD review on “Absent Justice” a documentary focusing on the Israeli offensive on five cities including Jenin back in 2002. Of interest are the scenes of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem being under siege by the Israeli armed forces. Expert accounts, eyewitness reports and the ability of the makers of the DVD to contextualize it all with the coming of Sharon to the seat of power make this DVD a powerful presentation of the oppression facing Palestine and its people.
The second review is on a new book written on Hamas, “Hamas the Unwritten Chapters” by Dr Azzam Tamimi. Issues connected to suicide bombings in occupied territories are highlighted as well as the historical dimensions on the relationship between Fatah and Hamas, especially between Hamas and PLO, are also touched upon in this review.
Mohamad Nasrin Nasir