Jimmy Carter’s plan to meet the Hamas leadership in Damascus is “sensible,” says the Hamas foreign minister, and “brings honesty and pragmatism” to the Middle East.
In a Washington Post op-ed today, Mahmoud al-Zahar offers some choice insights into the thinking of the Hamas leaders Carter is so eager to engage in dialogue:
Our movement fights on because we cannot allow the foundational crime at the core of the Jewish state – the violent expulsion from our lands and villages that made us refugees – to slip out of world consciousness, forgotten or negotiated away. Judaism – which gave so much to human culture in the contributions of its ancient lawgivers and modern proponents of tikkun olam – has corrupted itself in the detour into Zionism, nationalism and apartheid.
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. This would provide the starting point for just negotiations and would lay the groundwork for the return of millions of refugees. Given what we have lost, it is the only basis by which we can start to be whole again.
The Post’s editorial board isn’t buying it. On the facing page, the Post slams Carter and slams Hamas – but justifies publishing its op-ed in the name of “clarifying” who we’re dealing with.
Mr. Zahar lauds Mr. Carter for the “welcome tonic” of saying that no peace process can succeed “unless we are sitting at the negotiating table and without any preconditions.” Yet Mr. Zahar has his own preconditions: Before any peace process can “take even its first tiny step,” he says, Israel must withdraw to the 1967 borders and evacuate Jerusalem while preparing for the “return of millions of refugees.” In fact, as Mr. Zahar makes clear, Hamas is not at all interested in a negotiated peace with the Jewish state, whose existence it refuses to accept: “Our fight to redress the material crimes of 1948 is scarcely begun,” he concludes.
In that fight, no act of terrorism is out of bounds for the Hamas leader, who endorses the group’s recent ambush of Israeli civilians working at a fuel depot that supplies Gaza. The “total war” of which he speaks was initiated and has been sustained by Hamas itself through its deliberate targeting of civilians, such as the residents of the Israeli town of Sderot, who suffer daily rocket attacks.
These facts would hardly need restating were it not for actors such as Mr. Carter, who portray Hamas as rational and reasonable. Hamas is “perfectly willing” for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas “to represent them in all direct negotiations with the Israelis, and they also maintain that they will accept any agreement that he brokers with the Israelis” provided a referendum is held on it, the former president told the newspaper Haaretz. Compare that claim with Mr. Zahar’s own words on the opposite page. In fact, Mr. Zahar has called Mr. Abbas “a traitor” for negotiating with Israel – a label that is, in the Palestinian context, an incitement to murder.