The birth of the Cairo reconciliation agreement between Fatah and Hamas was slow and painful. But Palestinians welcomed its arrival. The tragic division which occurred in our national movement constituted a chapter we hope will never happen again. It never occurred to us that a time would come when we would turn against fellow Palestinians.
Today, the reconciliation exposes the Israeli occupation as the real spoiler of peace. The Israelis have reneged on every agreement signed with the Palestinian Authority. Now we have forged this historic agreement and buried the hatchet, they are threatening our people with dire consequences.
While we were ensconced in Cairo trying to finalise the agreement, Israel embarked on a diplomatic offensive to persuade European governments to withdraw economic assistance to the Palestinian Authority.
As western governments have, individually and collectively, welcomed the democratic changes taking place in the Middle East, they should support a similar transformation in Palestine. Any attempt to short change my people would have no legitimacy. The events marking the 63rd anniversary of the Nakba have shown that no amount of victimisation, wars and blockade will deter us from the path of freedom. The world must remember the core issue of our cause is the right of every refugee to return to their home – a right enshrined in international law. As others were allowed to exercise this right, we demand the same for our people.
After all the changes unfolding in our region, Europeans can ill-afford to delay a change of policy. Neither should Europe jeopardise its vital interests in the new Middle East by blindly aligning itself with US policies patently at odds with Palestinian aspirations.
In his address on US policy in the Middle East, President Obama called for democracy for the entire region except Palestine. Instead of welcoming our reconciliation agreement with Fatah, he pronounced America’s deep reservations and anxiety; in total disregard for the aspirations of the Palestinian people. Someone should remind him that Hamas gained the majority in the last fair democratic elections in Palestine. There can be no legitimate Palestinian representation without Hamas.
Obama dismissively referred to the core issues of Jerusalem and the refugees as “emotional” issues that can be delayed indefinitely. And in the same breath in which he insisted that “Israel must be able to defend itself”, he asserts that the Palestinians must have a “non-militarised state” – one can only surmise to be at the mercy of our tormentors.
Obama’s call for a phased withdrawal of the Israeli military from our occupied land is a mantra we have heard since the signing of the Oslo Accord in 1993. He insists Hamas should recognise Israel as a precondition, but does not dare demand Israel recognise Palestinian statehood on the lands occupied in 1967 or the right of return as preconditions. Just minutes after Obama’s speech, Binyamin Netanyahu rejected publicly any withdrawal to 1967 borders and even repeated that in Obama’s presence a day later. Yet he derides the Palestinian efforts to bring their case before the UN general assembly in September. It is ironic that the same body which created Israel by a general assembly resolution in 1947 should, according to Obama, no longer have the mandate to do the same for a Palestinian state.
If President Obama’s speech on Middle East policy was bad, his address to the AIPAC conference three days later was appalling. He declared his peace plan meant to “negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967”. Those were beguiled to believe that the “divide and rule” policy of the Bush era was over were reminded by Obama that this policy is iron clad. He demonstrated this with a claim that the agreement between Fatah and Hamas poses “an enormous obstacle to peace”, as if it is the norm to have the Palestinians divided.
Not for the first time, an American president has demonstrated his utter contempt for international law. Not only did Obama pour scorn on the Goldstone report, giving the impression that Israel is above the law. The same administration that resorts to international law to prosecute Arab and African leaders makes every excuse to protect Israeli war crime suspects.
There is no equivalence between Obama and George W Bush. He knows what he is saying. His observation about the situation in the Arab world is absolutely correct. That a “new generation of Arabs is reshaping the region” and “a just and lasting peace can no longer be forged with one or two Arab leaders”. The problem with Obama however is that for every word of truth uttered there are two fallacies and contradictions. Yes it is true America won its freedom “against overwhelming odds”. What he did not say is that the US resorted to armed struggle to gain its independence from what they saw as British domination. However, he continues to deny my people the right to resist Israeli occupation.
The winds of historic peaceful change sweeping the Middle East will, sooner or later, reach the shores of the west. Its governments can no longer marginalise, disparage or ignore the democratic popular Islamic movements in the region; and that includes Hamas.