The problem in negotiating with Hamas is that it does not base its ideology on the Enlightenment and 19th-century nationalism – as does the IRA – but on the political theology emanating from the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979. Its 1988 charter seeks to replace Israel with an Islamic entity. It clearly has no rational understanding of Jews, Zionism and Israel, and seeks instead to promote expansionism and a primitive judeophobia. If Hamas was successful, both Jews and Christians, such as Hanan Ashrawi, would be barred from holding political office in a Greater Palestine.Hamas has been Likud’s silent partner in helping to overturn the Oslo accords. Violence moves the Israeli electorate cosmically to the right. Hamas suicide bombers undermined Rabin and its bombing campaign in 1996 helped Netanyahu to his victory. Its actions systematically eroded the Israeli peace camp and elected Sharon in 2001. Its inept policies have allowed Sharon’s government to expand settlements and to strengthen the occupation.
In contrast, Nelson Mandela and other ANC leaders in the 1980s stopped attempts by its military wing to attack white suburbs because they viewed it as catastrophically counterproductive.
If Sheik Yassin and the leaders of Hamas were genuinely pragmatists, they would realise that they could not possibly overcome the military determination of the Israelis. Proclaiming an end to the armed struggle and embarking on the political road, based on the rationality of a two-state system, would be threatening for the Israeli right. It would also allow the peace forces in Israel to recover and eventually oust Sharon from office.
Dr Colin Shindler
Soas, University of London