In the course of the Shavuot Holiday, marked in Israel on Tuesday and Wednesday, activists of Gush Shalom distributed at various spots stickers reading “Talk to Hamas – Peace is made with enemies!”, of which a large quantity had been printed. “We have gone out for this action with some trepidation, preparing for sharp confrontations, given the nationalist atmosphere spread by some media and the increasing incitement for the shedding of Palestinian blood. To our surprise this was not the case, and we found a lot of people willing to listen” says Adam Keller, Gush Shalom Spokesperson.
The Gush Shalom Movement accuses the government of repeating the same basic failure which the Winograd Commission had pointed out with regard to the Second Lebanon War. Once again, the ministers allow themselves to be dragged behind the generals. The government restricts itself to no greater role than choosing out of a “menu” of military means which was presented to them by the army – means which had all been tried dozens of times, failed dozens of times and which had led, in the past as well as on this weeks, to no other result than escalation and increased bloodshed. The only result of “liquidations”, which are nothing but extra-judicial executions, is to bring upon Sderot a retribution in the form of more missiles and to increase the popularity of the organization to which those who were “liquidated” belonged. And even were the State of Israel to embark on a complete reconquest of the Gaza Strip, at the price of a terrible bloodbath of Palestinians and Israelis alike, it would not be possible to break the Hamas, an organization which arose and flourished while Israel was still in complete control of the entire Strip.
There is one means which the government has not tried, and does not not dare even to consider: to lift the futile and destructive boycott - and start talking with the Palestinian Unity Government, which represents the great majority of our Palestinian neighbors. Talk also, and especially, to the ministers who in that Government represent the Hamas movement, which is a strong and significant force among the Palestinian People.
“It is possible and necesssary to talk to Hamas. A short time after the Palestinian elections last year, Gush Shalom has conducted a series of meetings with senior leaders in Hamas, at the home of Sheikh Abu Ter in East Jerusalem, and what we heard from them was completely different from what the citizens of Israel hear about Hamas in the media. We have at the time called upon the government of Israel to talk to Hamas. The government’s reaction was to arrest and incarcerate our interlocutors” says Uri Avnery.
It is not yet too late to end the deterioration. First on the agenda should be talks about a complete and comprehensive ceasefire between the Palestinian organizations and the Israeli armed forces, not only in the Gaza Strip and its environs, but also in the West Bank and everywhere else. A ceasefire should be followed by an exchange of prisoners, through which Israeli soldier Noam Shalit would at last return to his home and family, in return for the release of Palestinian prisoners, including those with "blood on their hands." Their release could help prevent future bloodshed. This should be followed immediately by negotiations on the complete end of the Israeli occupation, which will be 40 years old in two weeks. Only the end of the occupation could bring an end to the conflict and to the bloodshed.
Contact: Gush Shalom spokesperson Adam Keller firstname.lastname@example.org