The Israeli Palestinian Conflict: Not a Civil Rights Issue.
I want to get a few thoughts down here. American liberals tend to view the Israeli/Palestinian conflict as a Civil Rights issue. It's a narrative we are comfortable with, that we understand well, and that we know how to pick sides in. The basic assumption is that the Palestinians are fighting for a right to self determination that is a threat to Israeli hegemony, and if Israel would only give them this freedom, there would be peace. If this were true, the Oslo accords would have resolved the conflict. But there are larger goals in play here.
It is important to understanding the current condition of the conflict to read Hamas' charter
. It is a thick read, written in lovely regal language. But its thesis is clear. I will distill a few things here that I think are pertinent.
1. What does Hamas mean by liberation and resisatance? We liberals love these words. We hear them and our sympathies are immediately awakened to poor, hungry masses yearning to be free. But it is not people that Hamas is looking to liberate. It is land. (Article 6 and Article 15). The land is "every inch of Palestine." And that would be Palestine as it looked at the time of the British Mandate. Liberation of the land entails bringing the land under Islamic rule, as Hamas understands it (ibid).
2. Where does Hamas fit among Islamic movements? Hamas is a unit of the Muslim Brotherhood, specializing in the Liberatioan of Palestine (article 2). What this means is that the goals of Hamas are in service to the goals of the Muslim Brotherhood.
3. What about the two state solution? Article 13 of the charter should be read in its entirety to understand why this will not work so long as Hamas holds poltical power, but here is a brief quote."There is no solution to the Palestinian problem except by jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are a waste of time and a farce."
So, what we should be noticing here is that what Hamas wants for the land it calls Palestine (which is to say the 1947 borders) is the same Islamic rule that, over the past few years was selected and rejected in Egypt, the Egyptians ultimately preferring the political oppression of a military government to the religious oppression of rule by the Muslim Brotherhood.
The next question is what do the Palestinians want? I can't answer that. The Palestinians, if offered an election, will find themselves in the unenviable position of choosing between Hamas and Fatah. I am convinced that the election of Hamas a decade or so ago was less about alignment with Hamas' goals than it was about throwing the Fatah bums out. I think that during a period of calm, throwing the Hamas bums out would be a real possibility, but that during a time of live fire, there is a tendency to cleave to the more belligerent party which would work in Hamas' favor.
Eliminating Hamas is essential to being able to give the Palestinians the freedom to explore their desires. Achieving this would mean reoccupying Gaza without settling it, and subjecting it to the political oppression now found in Egypt, while working assiduously to improve prosperity. When there is a strong, moderate Gazan majority, it should fight, and win, a war for indepedence that would culminate in its having its current borders with, depending on Egypt's goodwill some additional land in the Sinai. The West Bank could be part and parcel with this or not depending how West Bank and Gaza Arabs feel about each other.
Current liberal attempts to influence the peace process or to coerce Israel into yielding too much too soon do not ultimately support core liberal values like equality or self-determination, because they enable Hamas, for which these values are best relegated to the dustbin.