On February 15, Israeli ‘refusenik’ soldiers Arik Diamant and David Zonscheine published a short, tightly argued piece in the Guardian’s ‘Comment is Free’ section under the title ‘Talk to Hamas’.
Here’s the core of their argument:
- An open dialogue with Hamas is clearly in Israel’s interest.
First, because Hamas was democratically elected in Gaza and has won the trust and respect of a significant part of the Palestinian people, anyone hoping to resolve this conflict will eventually need to bargain with the group.
Second, Hamas has proven capable of delivering peace and quiet to the citizens of southern Israel. As demonstrated before, Hamas has a strong hold on all organisations acting in Gaza and can enforce a truce.
Third, a prisoner exchange deal is our only chance to bring back the abducted IDF soldier, Gilad Shalit.
Diamant and Zonscheine are founders of the flagship, eight-year-old organization Courage to Refuse, which has organized a persistent campaign to refuse to serve in the Occupied Territories.
A few quick notes regarding news of Diamant and Zonscheine’s latest campaign:
- 1. Actually, it’s not a brand-new campaign. Back last November, the two men and their supporters were already issuing a public call, I think in Hebrew, for people to support their call for their government to talk with Hamas. That account notes that, at the Rabin Memorial Rally held in Tel Aviv on November 7, the pro-talks activists “managed to collect hundreds of signatures.”
2. They are not the only Israelis calling openly for their government to talk to Hamas. Back in March 2008, a Haaretz-Dialog poll found that 64 percent of Israelis favored their government talking directly to Hamas. (As reported here.) Former Mossad chief Efraim Halevy has been arguing since at least 2006 that Israel should talk to Hamas. In general, despite the occasionally heated and hateful rhetoric coming from some hard-right leaders in Israel, the public there has a far more realistic view of what’s needed for peace than do most Americans.
3. I just recall that in the long years before the Oslo Accord of 1993, the idea of “talking with the PLO” was a complete taboo within just about all of the U.S. political elite. But then– in the very instant it was revealed that the Rabin government in Israel had not just been negotiating secretly with the PLO for many months but also that it had concluded an entire interim peace agreement with it– the whole U.S. political elite turned on a dime… Members of congress, TV news anchors, big-name pundits, you name it: They were lining up and drooling to have their photos taken with Yasser Arafat.
This time around, regarding Hamas, it may end up being the same dynamic that will shake opinion in the U.S. But I certainly hope not… Not least, because the political elite in Israel (if not, perhaps, the entire populace) has shifted considerably to the right since Rabin’s day. Anyway, the U.S. can and should include Hamas in its peace diplomacy if it judges that is a wise thing to do. Why should have to wait for a seal of approval from the government in that tiny country in the Eastern Mediterranean?
4. Just a final note about Diamant and Zonscheine’s broader refusenik movement. In the waning days of apartheid South Africa, the End Conscription Campaign, which in the circumstances was an almost wholly “White” organization, played a huge role in organizing those “White” South Africans who wanted to start questioning and then oppposing the whole apartheid system. I think “Courage to Refuse” and the other anti-militarist movements within Jewish Israeli society have a similarly prophetic role to play. because after all, the occupation and all its iniquities are sustained only through the barrels of the IDF’s extremely sophisticated arsenal of highly advanced and mega-lethal guns. Wielding those guns in battle inevitably exacts a moral and psychological price from those forced to do it.
Hats off to Diamant, Zonscheine, and their comrades!