Monday, 19 January 2009
Speaking to Stop The War rallies in Oldham and Manchester over the weekend I raised above my head a white scarf. It was given to me in Gaza on 1 May 2007 by Ismail Haniya, the 'moderate' Hamas representative who was then Prime Minister of the Palestinian Unity Government.
Hamas wants to sweep aside the State of Israel, but Haniya, in speaking to members of the European Parliament's Palestine Delegation, distinguished the position of the movement from the position of the government he led. The government, he stated, accepted the 1967 borders of Israel, would respect previous agreements made with Israel by the PLO, and would work to strengthen the ceasefire that then existed if only Israel would cease all military actions against Palestinians.
Haniya said that he had made clear to the Quartet (USA, EU, Russia and UN Sec-Gen) that he was open to discussions "without reservation or precondition," but had had no response.
These were not words of terrorism but of diplomacy. I relayed them back to Brussels and to then Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett, but they fell on deaf ears. The EU blindly followed the USA - which of course did nothing other than the bidding of Israel - in not recognising the Unity Government. It fell amidst strife between Hamas and Fatah in Gaza just weeks later.
Palestinians, it is said, never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity, but the EU is no better.
It is a simple truth that you cannot make peace without talking to your enemies. Even Israel should understand this, and Hamas are not even enemies of Britain or the EU. It is time we talked openly and directly to their representatives.
Let there be no hyprocritical condemnation of dealing with 'terrorists.' Israel's very creation owed a great deal to terrorism; Menachem Begin (6th Prime Minister), for example, was formerly Britain's "terrorist No. 1." The reflection that one person's terrorist is another person's freedom fighter applies equally to Hamas and to Israel's founders.
Israel should no longer be allowed to dictate EU policy. After 22 days of slaughter, during which Israel has demonstrated that it treats Palestinian lives with contempt, the war criminals in its Cabinet cannot again pretend that they possess moral authority.