We argue that engagement with Hamas is essential, and possible. To understand how, it is necessary to take into account that many of Hamas’s statements and actions are governed and limited by its understanding of Islamic religious law (sharia), a comprehensive code relevant to all aspects of life for believing Muslims, very much including politics. We maintain that Hamas cannot be understood without understanding the sharia background of many of its policies.
By its reading of sharia (a reading it shares with the Muslim mainstream), Israel’s establishment is illegitimate and unjust, and its recognition by Muslims is forbidden. Thus far, the Muslim states that have recognized Israel, including Egypt, Jordan and Turkey, have made a political decision to do so, one not grounded in Islamic law. Similarly, the Arab Peace Initiative — which offered full recognition of Israel by all 19 remaining Arab states in return for Israel’s withdrawal to the 1967 boundaries and an “agreed-upon” settlement of the Palestinian refugees — is a political, not sharia-justified, compromise.
Hamas maintains that accepting Israel’s legitimacy necessarily renounces the Palestinian narrative, which defines Palestine as Arab and Muslim, in contrast to the Jewish narrative, which defines the Land of Israel as Jewish by God’s promise, by legal right, and by history. Can these two worldviews be reconciled? Absolutely not. Can Hamas and Israel coexist peacefully? We believe they can. Reconciliation is much harder than coexistence. [continued…]
Mr. Taha and others say that the military has replaced field commanders and restructured itself as it learns lessons from the war. The decision to suspend the use of the short-range Qassam rockets that for years have flown into Israel, often dozens a day, has been partly the result of popular pressure. Increasingly, people here are questioning the value of the rockets, not because they hit civilians but because they are seen as relatively ineffective.
“What did the rockets do for us? Nothing,” Mona Abdelaziz, a 36-year-old lawyer, said in a typical street interview here.
How long Hamas will hold its fire and whether it will obtain longer-range missiles — which it says it is seeking — remain unclear. But the shift in policy is evident. In June, a total of two rockets were fired from Gaza, according to the Israeli military, one of the lowest monthly tallies since the firing began in 2002.
In that tactical sense, the war was a victory for Israel and a loss for Hamas. But in the field of public opinion, Hamas took the upper hand. Its leaders have noted the international condemnation of Israel over allegations of disproportionate force, a perception they hope to continue to use to their advantage. Suspending the rocket fire could also serve that goal.
“We are not terrorists but resistance fighters, and we want to explain our reality to the outside world,” Osama Alisawi, the minister of culture, said during a break from the two-day conference. “We want the writers and intellectuals of the world to come and see how people are suffering on a daily basis.” [continued…]