Athed Atef Bakr (10-year-old), Zakareya Ahed Bakr (10-year-old), Mohamad Ramez Bakr (11-year-old) and Esma’il Mohamad Bakr (9-year-old).
Nobody pays attention to the settlement project or thuggish incitement when there are air raid sirens in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
July 14, 2014
In 2006 following Hamas’s success in the Palestinian legislative elections, Ismail Haniyeh, the newly elected Prime Minister wrote a letter to President Bush. In this letter Haniyeh asked for his new government to be recognised, he offered establishing a border on 1967 boundaries and agreed to a long-term truce.
“We are an elected government which came through a democratic process.”
“We are so concerned about stability and security in the area that we don’t mind having a Palestinian state in the 1967 borders and offering a truce for many years.”
“We are not warmongers, we are peace makers and we call on the American government to have direct negotiations with the elected government,” he wrote. Haniyeh also urged the American government to act to end the international boycott “because the continuation of this situation will encourage violence and chaos in the whole region.”
President Bush never responded to the letter and the United States continued its boycott of Hamas and of Gaza.
Since their election in 2006 Hamas made repeated efforts to establish diplomatic contacts with EU and American representatives. All of which were denied. Hamas were elected through a democratic process which the EU welcomed, paid for, monitored and declared to be free and fair. While secret or unofficial meetings continued to take place between Hamas and Western diplomats, the content of these meetings was always same. “Accept the Quartet’s principles or we will continue to treat you as an illegitimate actor and boycott you.”
In a leaked 2007 correspondence with Washington, Israeli Director of Intelligence, Amos Yadlin stated that “Israel would be happy if Hamas took over Gaza, as then the IDF could treat Gaza as a hostile country.” And this is exactly what has happened. Hamas took over Gaza through democratic elections and Israel treats it as a hostile zone, which we can observe occurring at this very moment. Israel stated that Hamas were terrorists and Western leaders did not challenge this line. On the contrary, they refused to meet diplomatically with Hamas leaders, they cut off all possible financing to the newly elected government and they supported Israel’s complete sanction and seize of Gazan territory. Israel stated that Hamas were terrorists, so European and American governments responded accordingly.
This line has become so powerful in Western government’s state policies and mainstream media outlets the entire discourse around Gaza has been reduced to Israel’s ‘right to defend itself’ against Hamas; Israel’s defense against terrorism. Hamas has become synonymous with terrorism and Gaza has become synonymous with ‘terrorist harbouring territory’. As such, Israel has endowed itself with the heinous luxury of unmediated, indiscriminate and radically disproportionate action, because it says that it is defending itself from terrorism. And western governments and western mainstream media outlets continue to buy, support and spread this violent misconstruction of Hamas’s identity.
As someone who has met with many Hamas members and leaders I am deeply disappointed and disheartened, by mainstream western discourse’s reductionist and racist understanding of Hamas, its actions and of its position in Palestinian society. During a three month research trip in Gaza, September-December 2012, I had the opportunity to talk with Hamas members and leaders regarding the western response to their success in the 2006 elections. In my conversations they conveyed their own frustration and sadness at being so profoundly misunderstood and misrepresented.
Ahmad Majdi, an area manager for Hamas in Gaza, told me they are very aware that many external powers view them as terrorists, which they explain are based on mistaken reports from Israel. Ahmed Yousef, an advisor to Prime Minister Haniyeh, said they know they have been dehumanised and demonised in the West, and so they encourage western officials to come and meet with them so they can get a better understanding of Hamas and its policies, rather than simply stereotyping it. Yousef said Hamas had an open door policy to Western diplomats; Hamas desired to be recognised and engaged with diplomatically. However, US and EU state representatives refused to recognise the newly elected government and they continue with their financial and diplomatic sanctioning of Hamas.
Hamas leader, Ghazi Hamad told me, “when the EU opposed Hamas and squeezed them in a corner they wanted to make it fail. To show the world that we don’t want the Islamists in power. We don’t want democracy to come through the Islamists.”
The obsessive focus on the Hamas charter
Most often discussions regarding Hamas in the Western media begin with its notorious 1988 Charter. But have media outlets who spew obsessively narrow readings of Hamas’s military position even bothered to do any research into its political work?
Have they bothered reading further analysis of this material by other experts, such as Menachem Klein, who wrote,
“The differences between the party’s platform and the Islamic Charter do not represent an attempt at deception or the empty and unconsidered use of words. They are a product of a change and modification of lines of thought as a part of the process by which Hamas has become a political movement.”
Klein explains that Hamas will not revoke their Charter because it represents an important historical document for the group, which was written at the time of their inception during the first Intifada. The Charter, however, is not representative of Hamas in its current form. There are more contemporary Hamas documents, such as their 2006 election manifesto, which describes Hamas’s broader vision for Palestinian society and which author Khaled Hroub states, “could be said that the document was designed to carry out exactly the kinds of reform that had been demanded by Western governments and financial institutions.” Still, US and EU officials continue to be obtusely obsessed with Hamas’s Charter. Through this reductionist and reified reading of Hamas, Western officials continue to be blind to Hamas’s politics. Hamas founder and current member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, Khalil al-Aya expressed in an interview,
“Hamas gave lots of flexibility in lots of places. We had things that were strategic and things that were fixed. For example, we had that program with all the fractions of Gaza/ Palestine- we agreed for it. And until now the EU did not catch this initiative, and see that Hamas was already very flexible. And we have the agreements with Israel with the other parties and we accept 1967 borders- with the right to return. And this is big. But this did not affect them; it did not move them.”
Hamas is a pragmatic and flexible political actor and focusing on its 1988 Charter completely misses Hamas’s contemporary identity. However, disgracefully the US and European states maintain their uneducated or purposefully misleading understanding of Hamas.
It appears as though when discussing Hamas or reporting on its activities it seems sufficient to regurgitate Israel’s purposely scare mongering and racist discourse.
Perhaps what is more troubling is how the general public is also swallowing this horrendous misrepresentation of Hamas. Tweets, blogs, comments left on news reports are also engaged in this continual equating of Hamas with terrorists and Gazans with terrorist supporters. People who know absolutely nothing about Hamas or about Gaza feel comfortable supporting the bombing of Gaza because Israel has stated that it has the right to defend itself. The public eye remains viciously blind to the destruction of Gaza and of Gazan lives because they appear to believe that they are all just a bunch of terrorists.
Israel has been so tragically successful in pushing, publicizing and controlling this particular line that it has installed a state of delusion among Western leaders and Western publics.
In 2007 Hamas and Fatah agreed to form a national unity government after the signing of the Mecca Agreement. Hamas leaders had been encouraged to form this government in order to receive international recognition and ease the boycott on Gaza and their government. After signing the agreement Prime Minister Haniyeh dissolved the 10th government, which was composed primarily of Hamas representatives and formed a national unity government, which comprised of an equal number of Fatah and Hamas members, as well as a significant number of independent representatives. Despite these changes Western leaders continued their boycott of Hamas and the siege on Gaza. In an interview, Hamas leader Ahmed Yousef shared his frustration at the continued policy of boycott,
“We are disappointed with the policies, because they are not fulfilling what they promised. They said to us, ‘when Hamas has the national unity government then the Europeans will open the door for Hamas. But unfortunately we had the unity government, and they didn’t open the door- they kept the door shut.”
Now seven years later, after a violent policy of collective punishment on the people of Gaza for voting in Hamas, Fatah and Hamas have tried to give it another attempt. Unfortunately, today we are not talking about this unity government. Unfortunately, today Western leaders are not following up on their desire to engage with this unity government. Unfortunately, today Fatah and Hamas are not talking about how this united front will assist in strengthening Palestinian society in their attempt to salvage what may be left of their political sovereignty. Instead, we are talking about the bombing of Gaza which continues to be regarded as Israel’s right to defend itself. Israel’s narrative of terrorism has again destroyed Hamas’s opportunity to govern as a political actor and western leaders have been stupidly or maliciously complicit in this. The people of Gaza continue to be reduced to an Israeli discourse that depicts them as terrorists, which has allowed for endless bombing and incessant attacks that continue at this very moment.
Copyright © 2014 Mondoweiss.
[Photograph: The Palestinian unity government, Ismail Haniyeh (center). (© Said Khatib/AFP)]
By Mariam Abu-Ali
Writer and speaker on civil-rights and human-rights issues
As many Muslims sit down tonight to break their Ramadan fast at the annual White House iftar, a tradition started by President Bill Clinton, I am thinking about my brother Ahmed spending his 11th Ramadan away from my family.
President Obama, just as he has done every year since coming to office, will probably include in his remarks stories of successful Muslims making significant contributions to American society, attempting to show how interwoven Muslims are in the fabric of this country. What he won’t mention, and what most in the room would rather not think about, is the growing number of Muslims who are victims of the U.S government’s ruthless persecution of Muslims that includes spying, torture, and unfair trials.
I believe that my brother is one such victim. In June 2003 Ahmed Abu-Ali, a U.S citizen, was detained by intelligence officers in Saudi Arabia while studying at the University of Madinah. He was only 22. The Saudi government, apparently at the behest of the U.S government, detained him without charges for nearly two years. Ahmed was then brought home and charged with conspiracy to assassinate then-President George W. Bush. The only evidence admitted in court was a videotape of a confession obtained in a Saudi Arabian prison — a confession that my brother maintained was coerced through torture. He was subsequently found guilty and sentenced to 30 years (and later life) in prison. My brother will serve life in perpetual solitary confinement for an alleged crime that the judge himself stated “did not result in a single actual victim.”
Ahmed said in his second sentencing hearing in July 2009:
This case was manufactured by the Saudi torture machine, the Mubahith, and exported to the United States. There is no doubt that I was tortured. This case was prosecuted by a rogue Department of Justice, headed by the same people who crafted laws [allowing torture]. Had this case been a drug case or a murder case, it would have been forgotten. But if you introduce the word “terrorism” in it, America has a second standard.
The “War on Terror” may have started during the Bush administration, but it has continued to expand under the Obama administration. Many more families are like mine, suffering without their fathers, brothers, and sons. American Muslims are being spied on, systemically targeted, and imprisoned. Muslims in Guantanamo and other black sites have suffered torture. Muslims and American Muslims are being targeted and killed by drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen.
The White House iftar is a slap in the face to those in the Muslim community who have been victims of U.S. civil-rights and human-rights abuses. It is an attempt by administration after administration to whitewash the crimes of the U.S. government against Muslims by painting a less-than-accurate picture of their relationship with the American Muslim community. Year after year Muslims attend the iftar, arguing that this is a way to engage policy makers in an attempt to effectuate real change. Yet year after year more and more egregious violations of Muslims’ human and civil rights are uncovered. For our American Muslim leadership to not address our government’s civil-rights and human-rights abuses is a disservice not only to the community they claim to represent but to their country as well.
I believe my family is one of many victims of this injustice that pervades our current counterterrorism policy and criminal-justice system. Victims like us will never get invited to the White House to tell our story. I can only hope that there will be those invitees who refuse to exonerate the cruelty of such policies and make a statement to that effect when declining to attend. In his remarks at last year’s iftar, President Obama said that Ramadan is “a time for family and friends to come together … in a spirit of love and respect….” There are many families like mine who would have liked to be in the room just to ask, “Then why has the United States deprived us of enjoying Ramadan with our loved ones?”
Copyright © 2014 TheHuffingtonPost.com, Inc.
IFTAR AT THE WHITE HOUSE
It was supposed to be an evening where the American President showed respect to a religious community, to the millions of American Muslims who have been fasting during the sacred month of Ramadan.
It was supposed to be a political expression of respect. It ended up being a political instrumentalisation of (voluntarily) trapped Muslim leaders listening to President Obama justify the massacre of hundreds of Palestinians, declaring Israel has the right to defend itself. One wonders what is the relationship between the Iftar celebration and Israel ? What is the US administration’s implicit-explicit intention in putting the Muslim leaders in such an embarrassing situation? To test their loyalty or rather their capacity to compromise or betray? They obviously remained silent.
The Israeli ambassador, Mr. Ron Dermer, also invited (why?), was actually the first to speak. One must remember what he said about Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims : Palestinians have “a cultural tendency towards belligerency” that is “deeply embedded in the culture of the Arab world and its foremost religion”. This is the man who was invited to celebrate Iftar with the Muslims meanwhile his Government is destroying Gaza. From the White House he tweeted, triumphantly : “@WhiteHouse for Iftar dinner. Appreciate strong statement there by President Obama about Israel’s right to defend itself.”
Obviously Muslim leaders didn’t tweet. It was enough of an honor for them to be invited to the White House and to have met the President. An honor, truly, dear Muslim leaders? Ordinary Muslims (and proponents of justice and dignity from other religions) in the US and around the world, as well as Palestinians, might think differently."
— Tariq Ramadan, July 16, 2014
Buster Keaton gets a hair cut
Israeli Ambassador at the White House Iftar, y’all. Why he’s even there in the first place is beyond me. (Would they invite a representative of the Palestinian people to a White House Shabbat and then have Obama tell people that Palestinians have a very clear right to defend themselves?)
I wonder what all those people opposed to a boycott of this Iftar did. They finally got their “chance,” their “seat at the table,” their “opportunity to “speak to policy makers and influence policy,” their “foot in the door,” their “engagement with the government,” their “chance to speak truth.”
Did they? Did they speak truth to power, did they call out Obama, did they call out this dude who literally thinks Islam is inherently violent? Did they stand up for what was right or quietly sip their water as genocide continues? Did they talk “about these issues on behalf of our community” “precisely because the people adversely affected by these policies cannot be present,” as Keith Ellison boasted? Was this enough to get up and walk out? Or was a seat at the table more important than values?
Oh wait, I forget - MPAC endorses the two-state solution and rejects BDS, so it was the perfect crowd (albeit not all MPAC folks) to preach this kind of stuff to.
— Jewish Voice For Peace, July 15, 2014
Yesterday, in the village of Deir Istiya, two young boys, Hasim Abu Zeed (13) and Hathem Yaser Abu Zeed (9) were attacked by Israeli settlers.