Osman Mirghani
Asharq Alawsat (Opinion)
February 11, 2010 - 1:00am

Hardly a day goes by without us being disturbed by the exchange of [verbal] heavy artillery in the war of words that is taking place between the Palestinian Authority and the Hamas movement. This is a war that is overshadowing all other issues on the Palestinian scene, to the extent that it eclipses the concern towards the suffering of the helpless Palestinian citizens who are under oppressive occupation and facing harsh internal division and escalating suffering, particularly in the Gaza Strip. Looking at the internal political conflict and [political] maneuvering [in Palestine] the only goal of which is to obtain or maintain power regardless of the cost, one might think that the Palestinians had already liberated their lands and succeeded in obtaining all of their legitimate rights, fulfilling everything that they desire.

The last chapter in this ongoing war is the exchange of accusations regarding what has been attributed to Hamas, namely that the Hamas movement has apologized for causing the death of a number of [Israeli] civilians in rocket attacks. The Fatah movement quickly demanded that Hamas should also apologize to the Palestinian people for the death of hundreds of citizens killed during its rule of the Gaza Strip. Hamas responded to this by backtracking away from its apology for the death of Israeli civilians, and Mohammed Faraj al-Ghoul, the Justice Minister in [Ismail] Haniyeh's outlawed government, said that it is important to distinguish between the position of the government, and the position of Hamas and the resistance.

In reality, Hamas has indeed apologized for killing and injuring Israeli civilians with resistance rockets, even if it tried to avoid using the word "apology" and instead used the term "regret." However if we refer back to the text of the report submitted by the Haniyeh government to the office of the Human Rights High Commissioner in response to queries on implementing the recommendations of the Goldstone report, we find the following sentence "we regret any harm that may have befallen any Israeli civilian." In the report that was signed by Mohammed Faraj al-Ghoul in his capacity as Justice Minister of the outlawed Hamas government and chairman of the committee that was formed to follow-up on the recommendations of the UN report, al-Ghoul emphasized Hamas's firm position "on the necessity of avoiding hitting civilians and civilian institutions in resistance operations."

Hamas has not only apologized, the movement has also concluded [an unofficial] truce with Israel and ceased firing rockets, arresting all those who have attempted to breach this truce. Rather than dodging questions and equivocating about "words or phrasing being taken out of context" it would be better for the Hamas movement or the government to acknowledge the position that it is in and say that it has done this [concluded this truce] in order to protect the citizens in the Gaza Strip who pay a steep price whenever a rocket strikes Israel. Hamas's problem is that it has entered a cycle of [political] outbidding with the Palestinian Authority, and it is attempting to portray the Palestinian Authority as having sold out the Palestinian cause, portraying itself as the sole representative of the Palestinian resistance and the only party concerned with protecting the rights of the Palestinian people. Therefore it is difficult for Hamas to acknowledge that it "regrets any harm that may have befallen any Israeli civilian" or to say that it has ceased firing rockets in order to conclude a truce with Israel. Therefore Hamas appears to desire power, but does not want to assume the responsibilities that come with this; the most important of which is their responsibility towards the lives of the [Palestinian] citizens and their security and nourishment.

Hamas does not hold a monopoly on the [Palestinian] resistance, and it is not able to erase the history of the Fatah movement and all other Palestinian resistance factions that were present for long decades before the Hamas movement emerged on the scene. In contrast, the Palestinian Authority cannot ignore the presence of Hamas or say that the Hamas movement does not have any support amongst the Palestinians. The policy of ignoring or rooting out [Hamas] will not achieve a Palestinian victory or return the Palestinian people their rights. Nobody can deny that one of the most significant reasons for the current [Palestinian] weakness is the inter-Palestinian division which has made it easy for Israel to stop negotiations and impose more preconditions and continue its settlement policy and maintain the status quo. It is absurd to attempt to place the blame for the non-resumption of the negotiations or the lack of a breakthrough in the interests of the Palestinians on the Obama administration, as if what is required from this administration or others is for them to be more concerned with the welfare of the Palestinians than the Palestinians are themselves. No Arab or international position will be able to make a serious attempt to support the legitimate Palestinian demands unless the Palestinians first unify their position. Hamas's position with regards to this is clear, for it is the Hamas movement that is thwarting the reconciliation process with demands that should not override the concerns for the Palestinian people and their suffering, or on account of issues that are contrary to the requirements of the Palestinian people.


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