What Hamas Is Seeking
DAMASCUS, Syria -- A new era in the struggle for Palestinian liberation is upon us. Through historic fair and free elections, the Palestinian people have spoken.
Accordingly, America's long-standing tradition of supporting the oppressed's rights to self-determination should not waver. The United States, the European Union and the rest of the world should welcome the unfolding of the democratic process, and the commitment to aid should not falter. Last week's victory of the Change and Reform Party in the Palestinian legislative elections signals a new hope for an occupied people.
The results of these elections reflect a need for change from the corruption and intransigence of the past government. Since its creation 10 years ago, the Palestinian Legislative Council has been unsuccessful in addressing the needs of the people. As the occupation solidified its grip under the auspices of "peace agreements," quality of life deteriorated for Palestinians in the occupied territories. Poverty levels soared, unemployment rates reached uncharted heights and the lack of basic security approached unbearable depths. A grass-roots alternative grew out of the urgency of this situation. Through its legacy of social work and involvement in the needs of the Palestinian people, the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) flourished as a positive social force striving for the welfare of all Palestinians. Alleviating the debilitative conditions of occupation, and not an Islamic state, is at the heart of our mandate (with reform and change as its lifeblood).
Despite the pressures of occupation and corrupt self-rule, Palestinian civil society has demonstrated its resilience in the face of repressive conditions. Social institutions can now be given new life under a reformed government that embraces the empowerment of the people, facilitates freedoms and protects civil rights.
Our society has always celebrated pluralism in keeping with the unique history and traditions of the Holy Land. In recognizing Judeo-Christian traditions, Muslims nobly vie for and have the greatest incentive and stake in preserving the Holy Land for all three Abrahamic faiths. In addition, fair governance demands that the Palestinian nation be represented in a pluralistic environment. A new breed of Islamic leadership is ready to put into practice faith-based principles in a setting of tolerance and unity.
In that vein, Hamas has pledged transparency in government. Honest leadership will result from the accountability of its public servants. Hamas has elected 15 female legislators poised to play a significant role in public life. The movement has forged genuine and lasting relationships with Christian candidates.
As we embark on a new phase in the struggle to liberate Palestine, we recognize the recent elections as a vote against the failures of the current process. A new "road map" is needed to lead us away from the path of checkpoints and walls and onto the path of freedom and justice. The past decade's "peace process" has led to a dramatic rise in the expansion of illegal settlements and land confiscation. The realities of occupation include humiliating checkpoints, home demolitions, open-ended administrative detentions, extrajudicial killings and thousands of dead civilians.
The Islamic Resistance Movement was elected to protect the Palestinians from the abuses of occupation, based on its history of sacrifice for the cause of liberty. It would be a mistake to view the collective will of the Palestinian people in electing Hamas in fair and free elections under occupation as a threat. For meaningful dialogue to occur there should be no prejudgments or preconditions. And we do desire dialogue. The terms of the dialogue should be premised on justice, mutual respect and integrity of the parties.
As the Israelis value their own security, Palestinians are entitled to their fundamental rights to live in dignity and security. We ask them to reflect on the peace that our peoples once enjoyed and the protection that Muslims gave the Jewish community worldwide. We will exert good-faith efforts to remove the bitterness that Israel's occupation has succeeded in creating, alienating a generation of Palestinians. We call on them not to condemn posterity to endless bloodshed and a conflict in which dominance is illusory. There must come a day when we will live together, side by side once again.
The failed policies of the U.S. administration are the result of the inherent contradiction in its position as Israel's strongest ally and an "honest broker" in the conflict. World nations have condemned the brutal Israeli occupation. For the sake of peace, the United States must abandon its position of isolation and join the rest of the world in calling for an end to the occupation, assuring the Palestinians their right to self-determination.
We appeal to the American people's sense of fairness to judge this conflict in light of the great thoughts, principles and ideals you hold dear in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the democracy you have built. It is not unreasonable to expect America to practice abroad what it preaches at home. We can but sincerely hope that you use your honest judgment and the blessings of ascendancy God has given you to demand an end to the occupation. Meaningful democracy cannot flourish as long as an external force maintains the balance of power. It is the right of all people to pursue their own destiny.
The writer is deputy political bureau chief of the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas). He has a U.S. doctorate in engineering and was indicted in the United States in 2004 as a co-conspirator on racketeering and money-laundering charges in connection with activities on behalf of Hamas dating to the early 1990s, before the organization was placed on the list of terrorist groups. He was deported to Jordan in 1997.