What’s gone, is gone – Gaza awaits the unknown
Hamas and Jihad can give the united Palestinian delegation a carte blanche to take from Tel Aviv all that achieves the demands of the two movements
"What's gone, is gone. What's important is what will be" said a voice coming from Gaza and which carries so many questions that have no answers.
"We left the house today in the morning (last Tuesday) during the first hours of truce. People were running in different directions. Some went to check on their houses which they fled to find out they're destroyed so they returned to their refugee centers at a school or a mosque. Some went looking for victims under the rubble. Some wrote out lists with the names of missing people and submitted them to Red Cross representatives. No one knows if the truce will hold or collapse any second. But whether it holds and is extended to open the door for negotiations or whether it collapses and the volley of cannons resumes, the question is: Then what? Do you have an answer that reassures us?"
How can I answer the questions of people overwhelmed by confusion and besieged by the pain of death that flourishes in the rubble? A pain that adds to the other pain of the siege imposed on people from all sides which they were told the war will help lift? No. I don't have a ready answer but a Hamas spokesperson, who makes an appearance from an Arab capital via a screen with skyscrapers shinier than Manhattan's glamour as Gaza's night falls into deeper darkness, has an answer. But let's leave the politicians alone whether they're from Hamas or any other organization. Isn't this their duty which they get paid for and which they may be killed for even if they reside near skyscrapers? Yes, but what about analysts, theorists and journalists who have ready answers when it comes to cases like Gaza and other Arab world crises and disasters? They pull out their answers from the drawers of memory and reproduce them to suit the moment and the event regardless of whose tragedy it is. These are not alike and they do not belong to one movement. Those who encourage the fighting to continue in Gaza or other areas as they sit behind America's walls and Europe's rivers are met by those who don't only underestimate the people's emotions and suffering but also underestimate people's intellect. These people justify Israel's extremist and military violence in a manner that categorizes some as more extremist than Israeli right-wing hardliners.
Why? What prevents a moderate stance? What prevents adopting a subjective approach instead of reproducing a political or media rhetoric which in today's developments does not exist even when it was produced the first time? The obstruction is probably a result of thoughtlessness accompanied with lack of understanding or a result of being connected to personal or institutional aims. But the outcome is one: deception and the exceeding of proper boundaries. I remember how I dealt with this thoughtlessness while sitting with a Palestinian politician at the beginning of the first intifada.
What next for Gaza?
As late Palestinian official Khaled al-Hassan was talking during a seminar in London at the end of 1987, he said it was important to have visions for after the intifada. He used the word "fatigue" in the context that the Palestinian people are humans at the end of the day and will be tired at some point. I interrupted him saying: "But Abu Said, why be quick to suppose they will get tired? The intifada is still in its first weeks." Hassan, a founding member of the Fatah movement, who's also a prominent political thinker in the Palestinian national movement, smiled and resumed his talk. He began to explain why the leadership which does not set more than one vision for each phase of its people's struggle does not deserve to lead. I was convinced by his explanation. When I apologized at the end of the seminar for the thoughtlessness of my interruption, Hassan said: The politician who gets cross with a journalist is not a politician.
Hamas and Jihad can give the united Palestinian delegation a carte blanche to take from Tel Aviv all that achieves the demands of the two movementsBakir Oweida
So back to the main question: Where's Gaza going? Logic supposes that this question is on the table of the Hamas leadership. However what's more important is the availability of this answer on ground. Will Hamas be convinced of sharing governance with Fatah and other factions? Or will the logic of autocracy - even if limited to the Gaza Strip - continue to reign? The question is based on the presence of more than one movement within Hamas. Some say the military wing will not accept any concessions towards decreasing control over the Strip. Others would say: But Hamas’ leadership is committed to a reconciliation agreement with the authority in Ramallah. This is true but one can also say that the agreement has become part of a phase that ended with the recent developments which began with abducting and killing three settlers. These developments have not ended yet, and as they unfold, almost 2,000 Palestinians have been killed. Is it an exaggeration to say that Hamas is more capable than others to achieve results out of this recent war - results that go beyond the eloquence of statements? No, I don't think there's any exaggeration in that. It all depends on the extent of willingness to sacrifice Hamas' gains in favor of its supporters' and all the Palestinians' interest. It's very simple.
The Cairo negotiations will provide the Hamas leadership with the opportunity to clearly prove that it places public interest before any factional interest. Yes, Hamas and Jihad can give the united Palestinian delegation a carte blanche to take from Tel Aviv all that achieves the demands of the two movements, the rest of the organizations and all Palestinians, beginning with demands to lift the siege on all border crossings, to approving a Palestinian roadmap without any obstacles and re-launching serious negotiations with Israel's serious politicians to secure serious international sponsorship and a solution that may restore Palestinian and Israeli hopes that the land fits them all. This is truly an opportunity which cannot be compensated if lost. Would this be impossible for those who are responsible for the future of a people who have proven they can survive despite all impossibilities?
This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on August 10, 2014.
Bakir Oweida is a journalist who has worked as Managing Editor, and written for several Arab publications based in London. His last executive post was Assistant Editor-in-Chief of Asharq al-Awsat newspaper, responsible for the Opinions section, until December 2003. He can be reached on [email protected] and [email protected]
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