One does not have to agree with former President Jimmy Carter on everything in order to appreciate the wisdom and courage of his stand on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. His most recent efforts to reach out to the Palestinian Islamist resistance movement Hamas are a case in point.
Contrary to the viewpoint of both the Bush administration and in the Israeli government, former President Carter has consistently recognized that in order for there to be lasting peace coupled with justice in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, all of the major parties must be at the table. If any significant party is excluded — for example U.S. and Israeli efforts to exclude Hamas — that will inevitably mean that efforts at a solution will be undermined over time. Flowing from such an analysis, Carter took steps to reach out to Hamas in order to advance a dialogue. A dialogue does not mean that one necessarily agrees with the point of view of either side. Rather, it represents a recognition that there IS another side, and that this side must be heard in order for a problem to be resolved. For these reasons it is very important that we, in Black America, make our support for former President Carter known and heard.
From Carter's dialogue with Hamas came the Hamas declaration of a commitment to a 10-year truce with Israel, should Israel return to the pre-June 1967 boundaries. In other words, Hamas is asking that Israel comply with the United Nations resolutions that have been passed since the Occupation began. The reply from the Israeli government and the Bush administration has been to cast scorn on this announcement and claim that it is more of the same. Rather than building upon Carter's initiative, both the Israeli government and the Bush administration wish to see it shrivel into nothingness.
What lies behind the Israeli government/Bush administration response is an effort to crush Hamas and to ensure that there is a compliant Palestinian government in power to administer the few spaces of land that the Palestinians will be allowed to "control" should the Israeli government get its way.
They are hoping that the administration of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will be such a compliant puppet. There are many Palestinian organizations that disagree with President Abbas, in addition to disagreeing with the Israelis and the Bush administration on how to proceed. Hamas is one of the more significant of such organizations.
It is also the one that WON democratic elections held in 2006. It was this victory that the Bush administration, according to Vanity Fair magazine, attempted to overturn through a planned pro-Abbas coup. The coup did not happen, but Hamas ended up launching its own assault, and took over the Gaza territory.
The suggestion that Hamas should be ignored because it engages in alleged terrorist activity is as ridiculous as it is a-historical. If one reviews the history of the founding of Israel, for instance, one immediately discovers that Zionist military operations against the British AND Arabs included guerrilla warfare AND terrorist activity. Probably the most well-known of the Zionist terrorist operations was the bombing of the King David Hotel. In addition, there were ethnic cleansing operations against Arabs, with one of the most notorious being the massacre at Deir Yassin. How, then, can someone argue that those who are using military means, even if one deplores such means, should be ignored? If that is the argument, then the United States should have joined with the British in 1947 in militarily crushing the Zionist military units. That did not happen, and my guess is that no one in the Bush administration would argue that such a course of action would have been correct.
Former President Carter has taken an important step, recognizing that the situation in the Middle East generally, and between the Israelis and Palestinians in particular, is not improving, but is going from bad to worse. One does not need to believe in the predictions of Nostradamus to recognize that a failure to bring about peace and justice between these groups could devolve into a regional, if not global conflict. Carter was and is correct to take such steps, and he needs our support.
Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a senior scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies and is the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum.