The Hamas political leader, Khaled Mish’al (or is it Meshaal?), arrived in Gaza on Friday. He received a hero’s welcome. This was his first visit ever to the Gaza Strip and it was obviously an emotional one, for him and for many Palestinians.
Frankly, I had never heard of the man before I arrived in Gaza and watched him help negotiate the truce between Israel and Hamas last month. Some people are saying he could be the next Palestinian President (or is it Prime Minister?).
Reading the English news accounts of the speech he delivered yesterday, I can well understand why many of my friends and family in the USA are shaking their heads. “This man is a terrorist and his words confirm it”, they must be thinking. I’ve copied some of his words below.
The CNN reported Hamas leader unbending, but seeks Palestinian unity.
“Palestine is ours from the river to the sea, from the north to the south,” Meshaal said. “It is our right, our homeland. We will not give up any inch or any part of it.” . . .
The goal of Hamas is an Islamic fundamentalist Palestinian state. Its manifesto advocates the destruction of the state of Israel and calls for the raising of “the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine.”
Israel, the United States and other Western countries label Hamas a terrorist organization. The United States also has listed Meshaal as a terrorist since 2003.
Palestine is an Arab and Islamic land, Meshaal said, and “it is for us, not for others.”
“The jihad and military resistance is the road and is the real and correct way to liberate Palestine,” he said.
At least 200,000 supporters waved flags as they listened to the 56-year-old’s passionate speech at the rally to mark the 25th anniversary of the founding of Hamas.
The New York Times noted that Leader Celebrates Founding of Hamas with Defiant Speech.
Mish’al’s words give me pause too. Is there any room for a peaceful resolution to . . . . . . . . this occupation? I was going to write “Israeli-Palestinian conflict” but that is not an adequate description. This is not a mere conflict between two states or between two peoples. This is a 65-year occupation, begun violently in 1947 with the expulsion of thousands of Palestinians from their homes, killing many of them, and destroying many of their villages.
This occupation has been maintained for decades through violence, terrible violence perpetrated by Israel against the Palestinians. The last example of this violence just ended two weeks ago with 170+ Palestinians dead (the number keeps rising as those in the hospital succumb to their wounds). I believe 6 Israelis died.
The occupation continues today with another ceasefire and truce, until the violence begins again.
I know, I know. Israel claims, and President Obama joins the chorus, that Israel has a “right to defend herself.” That might make sense if there wasn’t an occupation. Under international law, Israel is the occupier with duties and responsibilities to the people she is occupying. She isn’t defending herself, she is asserting her control and occupation of people and land that she has forced into a state of limbo —- stateless, without rights, without hope for the future.
Khalid Mish’al was speaking to those people, giving them hope, trying to bring unity to the various Palestinian factions. Just as President Obama speaks about hope, some Americans support him, while other Americans support the other guy. The same is true in Gaza.
If I’ve learned anything about the internal politics in Gaza, it’s that no party enjoys unanimous support among the Palestinians. There are multiple parties expressing different ideas about how to build a future for Palestinians.
In my humble opinion, Americans need to set aside the labels. “Terrorists” are in the eye-of-the-beholder. We must reject violence whenever it raises its ugly head, whether it’s from an Israeli F-16 or a Hamas rocket.