Monday, August 11, 2014
Hamas Needs the Palestinians' Deaths in Order to Claim Victory
For more than 26 years, I have dedicated my life to defending human rights. I have seen wars, terror, and abuse. Yet this past month – from the kidnapping and murder of three Jewish boys, throw the kidnapping and murder of Mohammed abu Khdeir, and to the war in Gaza – has been the most politically and emotionally difficult month of my life.
I live in East Jerusalem and I have witnessed the devastation of life in my city. Once again, Route 1 has become the dividing line between East and West. Jews and Arabs are afraid of each other's shadows. Palestinian resident of Jerusalem have attacked the civilian infrastructure in Beit Hanina and Shoafat, causing massive damage to traffic lights, the light rail, and power supplies. I cannot accept this as civil protest – rather, it is pure revenge and retribution. And the co-existence for which I have struggled for my entire life – has been hanged and executed in the public square.
I am in pain.
There can be no doubt that the death and destruction in Gaza is a tsunami. Both peoples are hurting, but each side denies the other's pain, and so the hurt is worse.
And yet, as a Palestinian, I must acknowledge: I am responsible for some of what has happened. As a Palestinian, I cannot deny my responsibility for the death of my own people.
The majority of Palestinians has opposed firing rockets into Israel. The Palestinians have understood that these rockets will achieve nothing. Palestinians have called on Hamas to stop firing on Israel and to try to negotiate with the Israeli occupation. But Hamas has never considered Palestinian needs – only its own political interests. And so they have continued to fire rockets at Israel, knowing full-well what the result would be: Hamas paved the road for the death of our people. We knew that Hamas was digging the tunnels that would lead to our destruction.
We all know that three people live on every square meter in Gaza, and Hamas knew that any attack by Israel would lead to massive death. But Hamas leaders are more interested in their victories than in the lives of their victims. Indeed, Hamas needs these deaths in order to claim victory. Death of its own people empowers Hamas, enabling it to accrue more money and more arms.
Hamas has never been interested in liberating the Palestinian people from the occupation. And Israel could never destroy the infrastructure set up by Hamas. Only we, the Palestinian people, could dismantle it.
What could we have done? The residents of the Gaza Strip had the responsibility to rebel against Hamas rule. Yes, Hamas' control is deadly and people have been afraid to express their dissatisfaction with its rule and mismanagement. And yet, we abdicated our own responsibility to ourselves.
We knew this. And we let it happen.
Will these deaths – nearly 1,800 to date, nearly 0.1% of the population of the Gaza Strip – teach us a lesson that we will never forget? The lesson is that we must rid ourselves of Hamas and completely demilitarize Gaza. Then we will open up the border crossings. I say this as a loyal Palestinian and because I care for my own people.
I have no faith in the European and American initiatives. There is only one initiative that I can believe in and trust: a tri-lateral initiative that includes Egypt, the Palestinians and Israel. Otherwise, there will be no calm or quiet in Gaza or in Israel.
We must not allow the Gaza Strip to become the victim of Arab plots and intrigues. Egypt has always been the legitimate mediator, and had it been up to Egypt, many lives would have been saved. Qatar and Turkey have no relationship to the Palestinian people, and we have nothing in common. Qatar and Turkey have attempted to sabotage any and every attempt at a cease fire. In my opinion, at least two thirds of the Palestinian deaths are victims of Qatari and Turkish plots. We see what Qatar's and Turkey's meddling in Syria has led to; I do not want to see Qatar and Turkey establish a second Syria in Gaza.
Egypt knows that these plots are aimed against its own regime, too. We can only hope that Egypt's president, Abdelfattah Assisi, will not be lost in the thick confusion surrounding the region, and that he will take his own people and us, the Palestinians, out of the Islamic and religious mud.
It is well-past high time for both the Israelis and the Palestinians to find an alternative to war. And yes, this is genuinely possible, with Egypt's help.
Bassem Eid is a human rights activist and a political commentator.