Is Progress possible amidst the cycle of revenge? The Gaza Holocaust: The Wrong Address to Peace
by Dr. Ahmed Yousef
Position paper by Dr. Ahmed Yousef, Principal Foreign Affairs Adviser to Prime Minister Isma’il Haniya, March 10, 2006
When the news of the shooting at the Religious Seminary in Jerusalem broke, an immediate celebration broke out on the streets of Gaza. To the outside world this may seem macabre or perverse, but to those who lived through the hell of several days of Israeli military aggression which resulted in over 120 dead and several hundreds injured and traumatized, the spontaneous reaction on the street seemed natural. Our people were giving expression to their deep rooted feelings of hurt and anger they experienced at the fact that most of the world remained silent during our ordeal at the hands of the Israelis. By any standards their recent response to curtail the rockets which are fired from Gaza more as a mark of protest than with intent to kill was grossly disproportionate and indiscriminate.
Anyone who is concerned enough to take time to visit Gaza to see the aftermath of the Israeli onslaught on highly populated neighborhoods will be left in little doubt that what we were subjected to was ‘a scorched earth’ policy aimed at intimidating our people into total submission. It is hardly surprising then that people who are subjected to such tactics rejoice when they see a compatriot seek revenge even though his actions may also contravene internationally accepted norms which are aimed at protecting civilians. It is easy to stand in judgment when you are not the victim of atrocities that majority of the outside world leadership seems to endorse by their silence.
For the past two years Hamas has made it clear that we are open to any realistic proposals that will achieve a mutually observed ceasefire. We recognize the need for a period of calm that would allow people to regain a sense of normality in their daily lives. Without economic growth that allows people to earn their living and to contribute to the prosperity of their families it is difficult to see how an enduring peace can be established. While the Israelis appear to want to talk about peace their actions on the ground especially here in Gaza prove otherwise. With or without rocket fire we have witnessed endless Israeli aggression. The facts show that whenever there has been a lull in rocket firing Israeli forces have carried out provocative actions clearly aimed at disrupting the calm.
It seems clear to us that despite the rhetoric of their political leaders there are elements within the Israeli security and military that have no intention of giving peace a chance. It would seem they are convinced that the only solution to this conflict is a military one. This way of thinking defies the lessons of history which clearly demonstrate that grievance driven conflicts which this is can only be resolved when both sides are prepared to address the grievances. The British learnt this in Northern Ireland, so too did the white South Africans.
There can be no short cuts to resolving this conflict. Military actions can only prolong it and patch up processes like Annapolis can not be expected to deliver a durable peace. The sooner Israel and the international community appreciate this the sooner we can put an end to the endless cycle of revenge and killing that has marred this region for far too long. What’s needed is the political vision and courage to take the essential steps necessary to address the grievances that lie at the heart of the struggle. There can be no peace so long as these remain ignored. An immediate mutual accepted ceasefire and the lifting of the economic and political embargo of Gaza would be a good start in creating the essential atmosphere if progress is to be made and the killing stopped.