NEWS & EDITOR’S COMMENT: Hamas’ recognition of Israel

Carter: Hamas will accept Israel

Former US President Jimmy Carter has said that Hamas is prepared to accept the right of Israel to “live as a neighbour next door in peace”.

After meeting Hamas leaders last week in Syria, he said it was a problem the US and Israel would not meet the group.

His comments came as the Israeli army launched a formal investigation into the death of a Reuters cameraman killed in the Gaza Strip last week. [complete article]

Editor’s Comment — In an op-ed in the Washington Post last week, Mahmoud al-Zahar, a co-founder of Hamas, wrote: “A ‘peace process’ with Palestinians cannot take even its first tiny step until Israel first withdraws to the borders of 1967; dismantles all settlements; removes all soldiers from Gaza and the West Bank; repudiates its illegal annexation of Jerusalem; releases all prisoners; and ends its blockade of our international borders, our coastline and our airspace permanently.”

The Post’s editorial board, in an effort to disassociate itself from the piece that it had freely chosen to publish, wrote: “On the opposite page today we publish an article by the ‘foreign minister’ of Hamas, Mahmoud al-Zahar, that drips with hatred for Israel, and with praise for former president Jimmy Carter. We believe Mr. Zahar’s words are worth publishing because they provide some clarity about the group he helps to lead, a group that Mr. Carter contends is worthy of being included in the Middle East peace process.”

Is the Post afraid it might suffer the same level of condemnation that Rev Jeremiah Wright’s church has had to suffer for reprinting an op-ed that the Los Angeles Times published of its own free will? I doubt it. On the contrary, this seems like a perverse celebration of freedom of speech among those who are afraid to listen.

What the Post’s editors chose to ignore — and this begs the question: did they actually read Zahar’s piece? — was that Hamas was making a de facto declaration of Israel’s right to exist. What Zahar laid out as preconditions for negotiations would to most observers look like the end point rather than the beginning of a peace process, yet the mere fact that he posits an Israel existing inside its 1967 borders as a viable negotiating partner, challenges the widely-held belief that Hamas has one and only one objective: the destruction of Israel.

Carter meeting sparks new debate over engaging Hamas

MARGARET WARNER: Mark Perry, should Jimmy Carter have met with Khaled Mashal and, if so, to what end?

MARK PERRY, Conflicts Forum: Absolutely he should have met with him, and here’s why. There are three very good reasons.

First, Hamas won an election in January 2006 in the Palestinian Authority, and it wasn’t even close, and it was the most transparent, open and fair elections in Arab world history.

Second, they retain prestige among the Palestinian people. All polls show that they retain their strength.

And, third, most recently, their leaders have been showing real moderation. They want an opening to the United States. This is their opportunity, and Jimmy Carter is capitalizing on that. We should be talking to Hamas. [complete article]

Our reign of terror, by the Israeli army

The older ex-soldier is Yehuda Shaul, who does indeed “know how it is in Hebron”, having served in the city in a combat unit at the peak of the intifada, and is a founder of Shovrim Shtika, or Breaking the Silence, which will publish tomorrow the disturbing testimonies of 39 Israelis – including this young man – who served in the army in Hebron between 2005 and 2007. They cover a range of experiences, from anger and powerlessness in the face of often violent abuse of Arabs by hardline Jewish settlers, through petty harassment by soldiers, to soldiers beating up Palestinian residents without provocation, looting homes and shops, and opening fire on unarmed demonstrators.

The maltreatment of civilians under occupation is common to many armies in the world – including Britain’s, from Northern Ireland to Iraq.

But, paradoxically, few if any countries apart from Israel have an NGO like Breaking the Silence, which seeks – through the experiences of the soldiers themselves – as its website puts it “to force Israeli society to address the reality which it created” in the occupied territories. [complete article]

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