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Date posted: November 30, 2006
By Eyad El Sarraj

I have a feeling which becomes stronger as the days pass that now is the time for starting a new path for peace. Although such feelings sometimes are strange and bizarre, the facts on the ground drag the thinking to a whole new direction.

The election of Hamas for the government of Palestine is nothing but a new motive in that direction. Since its election and up until the massacre of Beit Hanoun - and what is in between of the strangulating and strict siege - the whole world roared for the renewed pains of the Palestinian people. Even in Israel itself, women and men are denouncing such massacres and famines. Moreover, Europe expressed its resentment through marches and demonstrations, the last of which was the European Union denouncement of Israel; the Arab League voice was raised a little higher.

From another perspective, there is evidence that the long-term dialogue, which started as if it is a dialogue between two deaf parties Fatah and Hamas, returned the sense of conscious awareness for the talking parties. They are on the edge of a new declaration, which I think became almost ready, waiting for a deal regarding the Israeli soldier, exchange of prisoners, stoppage of rockets, and guarantees to transfer money.

All such positive initiatives were crowned by a significant European initiative, which Toni Blair, personally, drafted a week before it was declared, calling for participation of Iran and Syria in regional political negotiations regarding Palestine, Iraq, and Lebanon. The Spanish Prime Minister announced the new European initiative which is holding a special conference for peace in the Middle East. At all levels, steps are accelerating, and at all doors hands are knocking, and Palestinians have to realize that they have to move fast and work harder before it is too late in order to take advantage of the accelerating events.

Hamas, in particular, went through a bitter experience, since its winning of the elections. No one was spared from conspiring against Hamas, even if the victims were the Palestinian people as a whole. Hamas did not do well in its leadership and management of the past events. It was not ready, despite its genuineness and intentions. Today, Hamas has a golden and historical opportunity and I hope that it does not waste it and waste another 24 years of the Palestinian people's lives.

Briefly, Hamas has a heavy responsibility, which is not just winning elections, forming governments, appointing ministers, distributing allowances for ministers and others, marching parades, distributing goods and scholarships, hiring individuals, and releasing enthusiastic slogans. This is not the responsibility of the government; This is not what we expect from the government.

The responsibility of Hamas is finding solutions for the cause of Palestinian people and its chronic battle with Israel. It is a political battle that can not be solved by power or rockets; it is an ideological battle that Hamas should go through amongst itself and its Cadres regarding the horizon of the solution that guarantees that Muslims, Christians, Jews, and all religions live in an equal environment in the holy land, based on adoption of rightness, law, and peace. It is not Hamas role to keep challenging by slogans of resistance, confrontation, refusal, and hard-mindedness. Such solutions are the easy ones. The main and difficult mission is the ability to reach solutions and ideal formulation for co-existence, without having dominance or control for a certain religion over another.

The noble-minded and final solution for any liberation movement or revolution is the liberation of human beings, and ensuring rightness and implanting justice without discrimination or favoritism. That is peace which Islam calls for. That is why Islam is calling us to preserve blood and life and enjoyment of peace as the big meaning for Islam is peace itself. As a result, Hamas has a basic duty of showing the bright face of Islam after it was exposed to many aching defeats, particularly after the world- with some conspiring Islamic assistance, was successful in linking the name of Islam with Terrorism.

This is the significant role of Hamas, that is; to give Islam the image that is able to convert the international public opinion to support Islam, the Islam of rightness, the Islam of human rights, the Islam of peace. Over the past decades, we got used to play broken CDs to listen to it in every occasion, when houses and blood was scattered in every occasion we revert to sadness and grief, where many of us became professional in slapping our own faces and releasing the tuning slogans, and reverting to old-fashioned means of solace.

What is needed today in this new era is something that is related to thinking and ideology to break through the world. What is needed today is new minds and intellectuals, to save us and our cause from the immature and slogans. Such slogans and means brought us nothing but more defeats. We have tried the slogans and failed over and over again.

This is the real challenge for Hamas movement. If it succeeded, we succeed with it. If it failed, it will be a new setback for us that might extend for long decades, terminating Hamas, as others did, and terminating a new generation of our Palestinian cause.

The political scene in Palestine and Israel offers no solace. In Palestine, the usual old populist rhetoric was wheeled out with people calling for earthquake-like revenge, while mediocre politicians got busy trying to score public relations points over other mediocrities. They reminded me of student speakers at London's Hyde Park Corner. The exception was President Mahmoud Abbas who seemed in genuine pain and was genuinely angry. He was always committed to peace and denouncing killings and violence.

The Israeli scene is even worse. The signs are ominous when people like Avigdor Lieberman are welcomed into the Cabinet while the once promising Defense Minister, Amir Peretz, appears to have been thoroughly chewed and absorbed by the military establishment.

This should not be the time for mediocrity, politicking or revenge from individuals and other parties. They have wasted too much time and too many lives. They were occupied with wars and killings in the name of dignity, freedom, and security. They were not concerned about peace, which is solely means dignity, freedom, and security. It is now more urgent than ever for all those who still truly believe in peace - Palestinians, Israelis and friends and allies all over the world - to unite their efforts in order to give reconciliation and peace a last chance. This is vital as there are international moves and signs signaling that it is about time. This is evidenced nowadays that warmongers like Donald Rumsfeld are out, the rest should be pursued wherever they are and particularly in Palestine and Israel. Even Blair himself who was calling for war became in his way to be vanished politically, despite the fact that he is trying to be peace calling. I don't need to contemplate their paranoid question: Do they want to make peace? The answer, on behalf of all people, is an unequivocal "yes." But, we have to expose the foes of peace and freedom. We know how powerful the Pentagon and the Israeli war machine are. This war machine, with its hegemony over Israeli politics, is bigger than Israel itself and must be stopped. It is a tool of death and destruction. The Israeli political community, public and leadership alike, must know that it is a captive of this powerful establishment. Israelis should know that their security will only be found through strategic peace with Palestinians, and not through the power to kill, subservience to the powerful military machine or dependence on the American administration.

Responsible Palestinian leaders, from Hamas particularly, must make every effort to restore the Israeli public's confidence in Palestinians, lost after six years of horror and lies. They should make the effort to convince their own constituencies of the merits of peace and help shape a new culture. This should be done systematically and on all fronts. Imagine if Hamas comes out today, after all this pain, and declares a complete ban on all forms of violence and extend its hand for peace, rather than launching rockets and announcing publicly its responsibility for them.

Israel must be told, by Hamas and others, that it is a country in the Middle East, and so is Palestine. These two countries must live together or die together. Between them, they have all the ingredients for prosperity and together they can help the region and the world.

The world must be offered the chance to see the good Palestinian, the good Arab and the good Muslim. We must be offered the chance to see the good Jew and the well-intentioned Christians and West. It is all in our grasp, but, we need to take that important leap by acting now with courage and wisdom.

A unified vision and strategy on the Palestinian side must lead us toward peace. Hamas is an essential part of the political map and should declare its readiness to rise to the responsibility of not only making internal reforms but, more importantly, participation in making peace with Israel.

Hamas' rise to power was well-deserved and democratic. It is tragic that it was not ready for this dramatic chance, and it is tragic Hamas was never given a fair chance to govern. After months of pressure, Hamas is yielding to the calls of the international community. Hamas should be encouraged and be engaged on all levels and all conspiracies must stop. A truly democratic culture based on the rule of law is one of the keys to peace.

Fatah and Hamas need to stand behind Abbas' leadership who can help the nation and the region because of his unique stature, position and the worldwide respect for his leadership that is based on his strategic vision of peacemaking. His only weak point is not having the proper tools at his disposal. Hamas and Fatah should provide him with such supportive tools, similar to what is being done by intellectuals and academics. And now is the time.

Eyad El Sarraj director general of Gaza Community Mental Health Programme and a human rights activist.

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Source: AMIN, 27 November. 2006
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