On Friday, Hamas Political Bureau Chairman Khaled Meshal arrived in Gaza. It was his first time in Palestine in decades.
At age 11, his family fled after Israel's Six Day War. In 1975, he returned briefly.
On arrival, he was joyously welcomed. Tight security accompanied him. He entered through Egypt's Rafah crossing. Symbolically, he kissed the soil and prayed. His stay is short. He'll remain 48 hours.
After leaving Damascus, he's spent most of his time in Qatar. On arrival he said:
"Gaza, with its martyrs, cannot be described in words." He spoke with tears in his eyes. "There are no words to describe Gaza, to describe the heroes, the martyrs, the blood, the mothers who lost sons."
"I consider this moment my third birth, and I pray to God that my fourth birth will be the moment when all of Palestine is liberated."
His second birth was when he survived Israel's 1997 assassination attempt. He was in Jordan at the time. Mossad agents sprayed poison in his ear. Amman got Israel to provide the antidote in time. It saved his life.
He came to commemorate Hamas' 25th anniversary. On Saturday, hundreds of thousands massed in Gaza City's Kateba Square. They came to celebrate. Meshal, Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, and other Hamas officials joined them.
A Fatah delegation came. Hundreds of Arab and other country representatives also attended. Saturday was a day to celebrate. Liberating struggles resume Sunday. Reconciliation with Fatah is prioritized. Israel will go all-out to prevent it.
Meshal addressed Gazans, saying:
"Resistance is the means not the end. For 64 years we have tried all other options but to no avail. There is no victory without resistance."
"Palestine is ours from the river to the sea and from the south to the north. There will be no concession on an inch of the land."
"We will never recognize the legitimacy of the Israeli occupation and therefore there is no legitimacy for Israel, no matter how long it will take."
"We've tried negotiations and politics for more than 20 years. Let's review the political program."
"We do not fight Jews because they are Jews, but we fight Zionists because they are occupiers and abusers."
"Reconciliation means the unity of the political program. One president and one parliament and one representative, which is the PLO."
On January 25, 2006, Palestinians overwhelmingly elected Hamas PLC representatives as their legitimate government. Institutionalized Fatah corruption defeated them.
Hamas promised change. Israel intervened. Isolating the new government began straightaway. Israel orchestrated the Fatah/Hamas conflict. In June 2007, siege was imposed. Israel subverts reconciliation efforts.
In March 2004, Israel assassinated Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. He wanted peace, not conflict.
He said Hamas' liberating struggle would end "if the Zionists ended their occupation of Palestinian territories and stopped killing Palestinian women, children and innocent children."
Current Hamas leaders express willingness to recognize Israel in return for self-determination in peace inside pre-1967 borders. It represents 22% of historic Palestine.
Numerous times it agreed to unilateral ceasefires in spite of repeated Israeli violations. It responds defensively only after repeated IDF provocations. They never end. They ebb and flow in greater or lesser numbers and intensity.
Hamas is more than Palestine's legitimate government. It provides vital social services. They include medical clinics, education, free meals for children, help for orphans, financial and technical assistance for homeless families, aid to refugees, special youth and sports clubs, and more as their resources allow.
The Qassam Brigades are maintained for self-defense. Police help enforce security. Israel and Western societies grossly mischaracterize Hamas.
On October 8, 1997, the State Department designated Hamas and Hezbollah Foreign Terrorist Organizations. Doing so followed Israeli pressure.
Both groups legitimately represent their governments. Hezbollah does in Lebanon.
Neither organization endorses or practices terrorism. America and Israel are its leading exponents. No other countries match their lawlessness. Hamas and Hezbollah respect rule of law principles. Washington and Tel Aviv spurn them.
On April 18, 2008, Hamas co-founder Mahmoud al-Zahar headlined "No Peace without Hamas," saying:
"The US-Israeli alliance has sought to negate the results of the January 2006 elections, when the Palestinian people handed our party a mandate to rule."
"Hundreds of independent monitors, (Jimmy) Carter among them, declared this the fairest election ever held in the Arab Middle East."
Washington and Israel conspired to initiate "coup d'etat (ferment) that created the new sectarian paradigm with Fatah and the continuing warfare against and enforced isolation of Gazans."
At the time, Zahar said he buried his son, Hussam, three months ago. Israel murdered him. In 2003, he buried his first-born, Khaled. An Israeli F-16 targeted him, wounded his daughter and wife, and leveled the house where he lived.
Many neighbors and friends were killed. In 2007, Israel murdered his son-in-law. "(A)fter decades of imprisonment, killing, statelessness and impoverishment," he asked:
"What peace can there be if there is no dignity first? And where does dignity come from if not from justice?"
Hamas continues its liberating struggle, he said, because "we cannot allow the foundational crime at the core of the Jewish state - the violent expulsion from our lands and villages that made us refugees - to slip out of world consciousness, forgotten or negotiated away."
Judaism gave so much to so many for so long, he added. Zionism practiced violence, racism, and apartheid. Palestinians can't make peace without a willing partner. Israel spurns it.
It maintains occupation harshness. It steals Palestinian land. It persecutes its people. It rules by the barrel of the gun. Redressing decades of crimes takes time.
"(A)dversity taught us patience," said Zahar. "In the end, it is always a question of our children and those who come after us."
Hamas in Arabic means courage and bravery. It's also an abbreviation of the Arabic words meaning Islamic Resistance Movement.
In 1987, it was founded during the first Intifada. Israel initially supported it to counter Arafat's PLO.
Throughout its history, it's been a legitimate resistance group. It wants liberation, self-determination, peace and justice. Its aims are no difference from other oppressed people.
Israel, Washington, and European nations call its legitimate self-defense "terrorism." It's a heterogenous democratic Islamic Resistance Movement.
It's allied with other resistance fighters to end Israel's lawless occupation and repression. Under international law, it's their legitimate right.
It prefers negotiation and international consensus. It spurns violence, confrontation and war. Its charter says it'll fight for its rights if they can't be gotten peacefully.
It blames Israel for decades of conflict. Its founding charter says it "draws its guidelines from Islam; derives from it its thinking, interpretations and views about existence, life and humanity; refers back to it for its conduct....adopts Islam as its way of life....Its ultimate goal is Islam, the Prophet its model, the Qur'an its Constitution."
"In the absence of Islam, conflict arises, oppression reigns, corruption is rampant and struggles and wars prevail....(The Movement) will do its utmost to....support....the weak, (and defend) all the oppressed."
(It) regards Nationalism (Wataniyya) as part....of the religious faith."
Peace initiatives and international conferences are rejected if their intention is renunciation of Palestinian land.
It rejects Zionist intentions to destroy Palestinian society, its values and "wipe out Islam."
It calls itself "a humane movement, which cares for human rights and is committed to the tolerance inherent in Islam as regards attitudes towards other religions."
"It is only hostile to those who are hostile towards it. (Under Islam) it is possible for the members of the three religions: Islam, Christianity and Judaism to coexist in safety and security" as long as other religions "desist from struggling against Islam over sovereignty in this region."
It believes "World Zionism and Imperial forces have been attempting....to push the Arab countries" to end conflict with Zionism "to isolate the Palestinian people."
It says its members don't seek "fame....nor material gains, or social status....It will never set out against any Muslims....or non-Muslims who make peace with it."
Compared to Washington and Israel, Hamas represents moderation, peace, equity and justice. It wants Palestinians to be treated like all other people. It wants no distinction to be made between Arabs and Jews.
It wants conflict and occupation ended. It wants fundamental international laws respected. It calls Universal Declaration of Human Rights inviolable.
It believes everyone should be treated equitably, regardless of race, religion, gender, political opinion, national or social origin, or other factors differentiating one group from another.
It always called for peace. It's willing to negotiate with Israel on the basis of "hudnah" or temporary truce.
As Palestine's elected government, it declared a unilateral ceasefire. It expressed willingness to recognize Israel in return for equivalent Israeli recognition.
It governs in good faith. Peace overtures are rejected. Israel and Washington continue violence. Conditions today no different than earlier.
Palestinians are on their own. Their liberation struggle continues. One day hopefully they'll achieve what so far proved elusive. No one anywhere deserves it more.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His new book is titled "How Wall Street Fleeces America: Privatized Banking, Government Collusion and Class War"
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