Rashid: Hamas, Sheikh Jarrah and a Painfully Broken Record

A man walks past the the rubble of the Yazegi residential building that was destroyed by an Israeli airstrike, in Gaza City, Sunday, May 16, 2021. The 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation held an emergency virtual meeting Sunday over the situation in Gaza calling for an end to Israel’s military attacks on the Gaza Strip. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

By Qasim Rashid

May 17, 2021

If we want to see peace between Israel and Palestine, we must reject propaganda and embrace fact and justice.

In Gaza, Israeli bombings killed more than 200 people, including more than 50 children and 20 women, with over 900 injured. In Israel, Hamas rockets killed seven people, including one Jewish child and one Arab child.

As Israeli settlers and police forcibly evict Palestinian Muslims in Sheikh Jarrah, and Israeli forces assault Al Aqsa Mosque—the third holiest site in Islam—the world witnesses a painfully broken record. Worldwide Muslim political leadership remains largely silent on the issue. The Hamas terrorist organization meanwhile uses the aforementioned provocations to undermine the Palestinian cause for peace and justice.

Indeed, on the cusp of an Arab-Israeli political party joining a coalition government that would have ousted PM Netanyahu’s far right party from power, Hamas tossed Netanyahu a proverbial lifeline to stay. 

By every measure Hamas’s attacks are indefensible, and additionally, the reporting mustn’t stop here. It’s worth noting while the UN created Israel in 1948, Hamas wasn’t founded until nearly 40 years later in 1987. Palestinian demands for fairness, equity, and the right to return home far precede Hamas. We can’t let the actions of Hamas drown out those demands. Likewise, the extremist attacks of violent settlers forcibly evicting Palestinians from their homes must not drown out the humanity of Israelis who oppose such violence.

We Must Reject Propaganda

Especially in these precarious times, we must reject propaganda and embrace fact and justice. For example, the claim that peace cannot exist until Palestine recognizes Israel’s right to exist is predicated on a lie. A December 8, 1988 New York Times report reads, “Yasir Arafat said today that the Palestine Liberation Organization accepted the existence of the state of Israel.”

This statement was reaffirmed in the 1993 Oslo Accords. However, six American administrations later and there’s been virtually no progress toward the goal of a two state solution. That’s in significant part because those in power continue to ignore the will of the majority of the people.

  Meanwhile, ignoring its own military occupation of Palestine, Israel asserts it is merely “defending its borders” when it fires upon Palestinian civilians. But Israel has not defined its borders and continues to move them unilaterally to fit its needs.

Since at least 1988, both Republican and Democratic administrations joined together to condemn Israel’s illegal settlement program. As recently as 2012, Israel’s own Supreme Court ordered the Israeli government to dismantle its illegal settlements. Moreover, the UN Security Council concluded in 2016, “Israel’s establishment of settlements in Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, had no legal validity, constituting a flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the vision of two States living side-by-side in peace and security, within internationally recognized borders.” Yet the illegal settlements continue to expand. Once again, the will of the people is ignored, violence erupts, rinse, and repeat.

Hamas Unjustly Commandeers Attention

Illegal settlements and forced evictions unjustly commandeer lands that belong to Palestinians. Hamas’s attacks on Israel unjustly commandeer attention and authority that belongs to Palestinians. These are the two ridiculous choices offered to millions of Palestinian civilians denied their own state. Mutual and justice based diplomacy—the one tactic that can truly create peace between Palestine and Israel—is left to the wayside.

Where are Palestinians to go at this point? Consequently, the majority of Jews, Christians, and Muslims in both Palestine and Israel who truly seek peace, are dismissed and ignored.

  But sadly, this is nothing new. In December of 1988, Yasir Arafat publicly declared that the PLO recognizes the right of Israel to exist. In turn, the New York Times reported, “His statement, which he presented as a milestone, was immediately dismissed in Israel and greeted coldly by the United States.”

  Now, more than thirty years later, Palestine remains occupied by Israeli forces, Israeli settlements continue to expand unabated, and by any objective measure it appears that the Israeli administration does not recognize the right of Palestine to exist. Let’s be clear. Occupation is violence. And innocent children and civilians continue to suffer the gravest consequences of this violence. The United States and the world must stand together and stop this violence by upholding justice and the will of the people.

Qasim Rashid is a human rights lawyer, author, and Truman National Security Project Fellow. Follow him on Twitter @QasimRashid.

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