Is it time to talk to Hamas?

Palestinians attend a Hamas rally marking the 32nd anniversary of its founding in the Nusseirat camp, Gaza City, 15 December 2019

Jonathan Kuttab writes in Mondoweiss:

Many of us are concerned about  the failure of the world to address the siege of Gaza, which has gone on for 15 years and kept two million Palestinians trapped  in an unlivable open-air prison. The real elephant in the room, however, and the justification used for failing to lift that siege is the fact that the Gaza Strip is currently ruled by Hamas—considered an illegitimate terrorist organization, hell-bent on the destruction of Israel and, as such, not a potential candidate for negotiations or peace.

The existence of Hamas is also the lame excuse given for the paralysis of peace talks. Since the Palestinians are divided and Mahmoud Abbas cannot (and is not allowed to) talk either with or for Hamas, it is said that there exists “no one to talk to” on the Palestinian side. Hamas has become a convenient excuse for indefinite occupation.

It may well be time to broach the taboo subject of talking to Hamas and seek instead a way of bringing them into the peace conversation. Certainly, there can be no peace without Hamas and its followers participating in some way or another.

Now, I must begin by saying that I am neither an apologist nor do I in any way speak for Hamas. In fact, I  reject their political philosophy, and I believe they have failed the people of Gaza in many ways. Yet, the isolation, demonization, and exclusion of Hamas from the political process has not been helpful.

The situation for Hamas is in many respects analogous to the situation of the PLO before the famous handshake that took place on the White House lawn. The PLO, too, was considered a terrorist organization; its charter was unacceptable, and some of its tactics were abhorrent. Yet, it represented at the time the Palestinian people, and one makes peace with one’s enemies, not with one’s friends.

In addition, the PLO carried out many civilian functions and played an important part in the lives of the people. Its demonisation was a convenient way of demonising all Palestinian people and preventing any progress towards reconciliation.

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