The election of Hamas representatives to the Palestinian legislature has provoked the United States and Europe to consider cutting aid to the Palestinian people if Hamas refuses to renounce violence and recognize Israel.
And while I agree that Hamas is a terrorist organization, the fact remains that the Palestinian government is not a terrorist organization and in fact is no different than any other government that emerges from a Democratic election.
Technically, Hamas is a Palestinian political party. The comparison can be made to Israel’s Likud Party, which most Palestinians and many in the Arab World consider a “terrorist organization,” too, because of its stated rejection of peace based on compromise and the recognition of a Palestinian State.
After Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was murdered in 1995 by an Israeli who many suspected of being a Likud supporter, a major political upheaval resulted in the defeat of Rabin’s Labor Party by the Likud.
Even though Israel, under Rabin, had signed a peace accord to pursue peace, Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu, who became prime minister, declared his intentions to undermine the peace accords and do everything in his power to block the spirit of the Rabin accord with Yasser Arafat.
Under Netanyahu, the government of Israel helped undermine the peace accords and provoked Palestinians into violence, expanding settlements and assassinating Palestinian leaders.
No one ever demanded, when Netanyahu was elected, that he or his Likud party renounce their rejection of peace or use of violence. No one demanded that Netanyahu or his Likud party renounce his expansionist policies that in the end did as much to derail the peace process as Hamas suicide bombings.
Sharon lit incendiary match of provocation
When Netanyahu was replaced by Labor’s Ehud Barak, the Likud Party and Netanyahu continued its opposition to peace based on land concessions and the principle of the two-state solution. They rejected the peace proposals that Barak offered Arafat just as Arafat had rejected the proposals, too.
Sharon lit the incendiary match of provocation during his heavily armed visit to the Haram al ash Sharif, or the Temple Mount, sparking more violence that led to Barak’s election defeat.
No one demanded that Sharon, a longtime Likud Party leader denounced by Palestinians as a “terrorist,” renounce his or the Likud Party’s opposition to peace and their refusal recognize the Palestinian right to statehood.
So why must the newly elected Palestinian government be required to “renounce violence” because of Hamas when the Palestinian government continues to support the peace process?
Hamas is a terrorist organization and although its leaders control the democratically elected Palestinian legislature, neither the Palestine Authority, nor its government is a terrorist organization.
In fact, after Sharon was elected, he changed his politics, ever so slightly, withdrawing from the Gaza Strip (while still maintaining a stranglehold on the imprisoned Gazans) and declaring his intention to withdraw from West Bank settlements.
Had the world refused to recognize Sharon for refusing to renounce his opposition to Palestinian statehood, land-for-peace compromise and his longtime refusal to recognize Palestinian rights, maybe Sharon would never have changed course.
All the while as Netanyahu and Sharon controlled the Israeli government, their political party, the Likud, which many Palestinians compare to Hamas, never abandoned its rejection of peace, its rejection of Palestinian rights and its rejection of compromise based on swapping land for peace.
So why should the policies of Hamas now be used to prevent the PNA from pursuing possible negotiations and compromise with Israel?
So far, the leaders of the Hamas have rejected recognition of Israel, always insisting that the future is dependent upon what Israel does.
The fact is that Hamas has one thing right: even when Israel claims to support peace, it continues to expand its settlements, confiscating more and more Palestinian lands.
The Wall, cleverly described as a “fence” because some of the structure consists of 26 foot high fencing surrounded by deep moats and “no man’s land,” is built on Palestinian land confiscated by the Israelis.
Clearly, if we intend to move forward with peace, we must apply one standard of justice and one principle of fairness to both sides, Palestinians and Israelis,
Since we gave the Likud a pass in the past, we should apply the same principle to give the new democratically elected Palestinian government.
Will there be violence? Absolutely. But it will be caused by both sides, not just Hamas.
Just this week, Israeli soldiers killed a Palestinian girl, a story that went unreported by the Western news media. If Hamas had killed an Israeli child, the story would have been published on the front pages of every American and Western newspaper.
We live in an unbalanced world. But that does not mean that those of us who genuinely support peace and a two-state solution should act in an unbalanced manner.
Ray Hanania is an award winning Palestinian American journalist, author and standup comedian. He can be reached at www.hanania.com .