All three American presidential candidates disagree on whether and how to engage with North Korea, Iran, Syria, and Cuba, but they uniformly agree that the United States should neither reach out to Hamas—considered a terrorist organization by the U.S., Israel, and the European Union—nor pressure Israel to do so. Yet in spite of such unanimity, prominent Americans, including former President Jimmy Carter and former National Security Advisers Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft, have continued to press Israel to end its boycott of Hamas, as if the lack of peace in the region is the result of an Israeli allergy to peaceful negotiations. This is the antithesis of the prevailing situation: It is Hamas who refuses to negotiate peace with Israel because its stated goal is the elimination of the Jewish State, a position repeated frequently by its leaders and adherents. Carter’s logic dictates that Israel should be willing to negotiate its own existence with Hamas while Hamas should be allowed to target Israeli civilians unimpeded. Were Hamas willing to end its boycott of Israel, end its call for genocide, recognize Israel’s right to exist in peace with its Arab neighbors, and renounce violence, it would find a ready and able peace partner in Jerusalem. However, to adapt a statement made by now-President Shimon Peres about the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), “A Hamas which renounces terrorism and cancels those clauses in its covenant which call on harming Israel will no longer be Hamas.”
Hamas, an Islamic organization best known for orchestrating suicide bombings in Israeli universities, cafes, and buses and raining indiscriminate rockets on Israeli civilians in an attempt to destroy the Jewish State, has repeatedly refused to enter peace negotiations with Israel. In Article 11 of the Hamas Covenant, Hamas “believes that the land of Palestine is an Islamic Waqf consecrated for future Moslem generations until Judgment Day. It, or any part of it, should not be squandered: it, or any part of it, should not be given up.” In Article 13, Hamas rules out peace talks for it “does not consider these [peace] conferences capable of realizing the demands, restoring the rights or doing justice to the oppressed. These conferences are only ways of setting the infidels in the land of the Moslems as arbitrators.” Later, the covenant states: “there is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors.”
At times, Hamas has been willing to consider a “long term truce” with Israel, but is simultaneously unwilling to recognize Israel’s permanent place in the region. Israeli leaders rightly view Hamas’ tactic as an attempt to stall any meaningful negotiations while they arm themselves with more sophisticated weaponry to attack Israeli civilians.
Hamas’ genocidal rhetoric is not limited to Israel, however. They have also begun advocating attacks on Americans. “America is offering political, financial and logistic cover for the Zionist occupation crimes, and it is responsible for the Beit Hanoun massacre. Therefore, the people and the nation all over the globe are required to teach the American enemy tough lessons,” a 2006 Hamas spokesman said. In a speech on April 11, a Hamas cleric who is a minister of the Palestinian parliament preached that Islam would soon conquer Rome, “the capital of the Catholics, or the Crusader capital, which has declared its hostility to Islam, and which has planted the brothers of apes and pigs in Palestine in order to prevent the reawakening of Islam.” Interlacing its verbal volleys against the West with its decidedly anti-Semitic rhetoric, Hamas has shown its utter reluctance to be part of any peaceful resolution to this longstanding conflict.
As Carter met this past weekend with Hamas political chief Khaled Meshaal in Syria, it would be wise to recall that it is not Israel who refuses to speak with Hamas, but Hamas who refuses to speak with Israel. Engaging with Hamas simply because it is a major Palestinian actor belies Hamas’ own goals. Hamas does not seek power in order to negotiate with Israel, but in order to destroy Israel. In the past, Israel has made peace with Egypt and Jordan and recognized the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian people as soon as each had renounced its intention to eliminate the Jewish State and sit together at the negotiating table. It has never advocated for the elimination of any people or state and, instead, yearns that others, such as Ahmadinejad’s Iran, abandon their genocidal aims. Time and again, Israel has proven its willingness to talk to anyone who advocates a shared vision of peace and non-violence.
Following Israel’s stunning 1967 military victory in six days against six Arab states bent on its destruction, then-Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Dayan waited for the proverbial phone to ring, only to be disappointed that his Arab counterparts still clung to their bellicose calls to “drive the Jews into the sea.” It took several more lost wars and decades of violence for Egypt, Jordan, and the PLO to engage in peace negotiations. Perhaps all Israel can do is wait for Hamas to fully grasp the futility of its immoral and failed objectives. In the meantime, Hamas’ obduracy will be responsible for more Palestinian and Israeli deaths as it continues to boycott Israel’s existence in the region. Carter’s call for an end to the boycott is correct; he is simply addressing the wrong audience.
Gabriel M. Scheinmann ‘08 is a government concentrator in Eliot House. He is associate editor of New Society: The Harvard College Student Middle East Journal.