U.S. Shuns Hamas Representatives; Another Attack in Jerusalem; Round and Round the Cycle Goes

Attack in Jerusalem
Attack in Jerusalem

Al Jazeera English interviewed me the other day on American intervention so far in Gaza. Here is the story:

The United States is set to pledge $900m for the Palestinians at a donors’ conference in Egypt, but only a third of that will go towards reconstruction in the Gaza Strip and none of the money will go to Hamas, who rule the territory.

Robert Wood, a spokesman for the US state department, said the US would pledge $300m at Monday’s conference on reconstructing Gaza, to meet “urgent” humanitarian needs in the territory after Israel’s military onslaught in December.

Wood said the $300m would be funnelled through the UN and other organisations.

“Hamas is not getting any of this money,” Wood told reporters in the Egyptian coastal resort of Sharm el-Sheik, where Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, arrived on Sunday on the first leg of a week-long trip to the Middle East and Europe.

The remaining $600m will be pledged to the Western-backed Palestinian Authority (PA) led by Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president.

‘Sidestepping the issue’

In depth
Analysis and features from Gaza after the war

Washington wants the conference to bolster the authority of Abbas, whose PA governs the Israeli-occupied West Bank but holds no sway in Gaza after Hamas routed forces loyal to Abbas and seized the territory in June 2007.

Marc Gopin, from the Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University, told Al Jazeera that the donors’ conference was “an attempt to demonstrate humanitarian concern”.

But, he added, there was “no real addressing of the political fallout in the long run, as to whether there’s going to be reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas and whether in fact this aid can really ever get in”.

“They can’t even get in humanitarian aid at this point because the [Israeli] blockade is so severe.

“I think it really sidesteps the whole issue of what the negotiations really were about in terms of breaking the blockade, which is more properly what [US Middle East envoy] George Mitchell should be working on,” he said.

Continue reading here.

It is not only Israel and the United States that do not want to recognize Hamas. Hamas, as an extension of the Ihwan, the Muslim Brotherhood, is considered a threat to regimes across the region and no one is excited about bringing them to the table. Furthermore, there are some subtle indications that the positive engagement with Syria by U.S. officials is paving the way for indirect Hamas communication. Furthermore, many are loathe to undermine Fatah, despite its failures, because it seems like the last hope for a secular Palestinian state, something that most Palestinians want badly. I think that everyone should be engaged, but it behooves us to understand this fateful choice to empower Hamas.

I am convinced that it is urgent to engage Hamas, not as a capitulation, not as an aquiescence to their violence, but as an aquiescence to the justifiably angry and frustrated democratic voice of the Palestinian people, as a beginning of a process of negotiation to end violence, not an acceptance of violence, and as an end to the sickening collective punishment of Gaza, a million and a half human beings. That Hamas must accede all its bargaining chips on recognizing Israel before negotiations begin is simply a pretext to continue to allow collective punishment. It is like the United States saying to the Soviet Union in the 1970’s that we will not talk to you, we will bomb you, unless you agree to a nuclear freeze right now. Then we talk. The Vietnam War never would have ended this way, nor the Korean War, nor thousands of other wars. You negotiate with the enemy who intends you harm. It is simple.  If you truly value Palestinians and Jews as human beings, as citizens in the crossfire of wars, then you force negotiations. Otherwise politicians will continue their deadly march to competition in bloodshed.

© Marc Gopin