If you’re a much-decorated IDF general advocating the radical step that Israel recognize Hamas and negotiate with it you’ll merit a front page article in Haaretz. That’s what Gen. Giora Eiland, a former national security advisor, did during the height of last week’s fighting. Sure, some of your fellow generals and pals in intelligence, not to mention right-wing politicians, may think you’ve lost your marbles or your nerve. But the repercussions end there.
But if you’re a Hamas leader in the West Bank, advocating virtually the same approach will bring a late night visit from the secret police and get you locked in a Shin Bet cell. That’s unfortunately what happened to Dr. Mahmoud Ramachi, a Hamas leader in the West Bank, who advocated at the height of the Operation Pillar of Sand (I call it that, the IDF called it Pillar of Cloud), that Israel talk to Hamas and that Fatah and Hamas form a unity government. He added that such a government could, under Abbas’ leadership resume talks with Israel.
He made the seditious statement (Hebrew) that Israel’s moral standing had been harmed by its attack on Gaza and that Hamas’ legitimacy had been strengthened by it, along with the daily visits of regional leaders to Gaza during the height of the fighting.
He added that what should be occupying the minds of Israelis isn’t negotiating with the PA or whether there will be a Palestinian state, but whether there be an Israel. It’s current leadership under Lieberman and Netanyahu was leading it to certain destruction. Israelis would profit far more from considering which leaders would guarantee Israel has a future. The leaders of the country only think about the future as far ahead as an election, when they should be thinking about a different, more long-term future: the survival of the nation. That’s why they can assassinate an Ahmed Jabari, who was in the midst of negotiations with Gershom Baskin and the Egyptian government over a long-term ceasefire that would’ve guaranteed the lifting of the siege.
Another highly dangerous idea Ramahi advanced was to clarify the distinctions between Hamas and Al Qaeda, which Israeli military, intelligence and political officials love to yoke together. “We [in Hamas] deliberate on every matter and are willing to reach agreements with anyone including Israel. Netanyahu, on the other hand, sealed off any possibility of compromise with the PA and shut off any avenues of dialogue with Gaza.” Though Ramahi doesn’t make this explicit comparison, one could argue that Netanyahu, in his rejectionism and preference for violence over negotiation, has more in common with Al Qaeda than Hamas does.
A few other outrageous comments illustrating Ramahi’s extremism: he insists upon ending the siege and freedom of movement for all Gazans, including the building of a new port there. Why is this dangerous? Because a Gaza that is prosperous is a Gaza that is not under Israel’s boot.
He closes his interview by saying that if Israel wishes to survive it must open a dialogue with political Islam in the region including with Hamas. Israel needs a leadership that is willing to conduct negotiations with others, not one that sees every dispute as a reason to let loose the Dogs of War. Israel can arrest hundreds, even thousands of us. It can kill Jabari, and Yassine and what does it have to show for it? Peace? Security? You be the judge.
If you’re naïve like me you think those are expressions of political beliefs and should warrant some form of protection, if not consideration. Not in the National Security State formerly known as Israel. There, it’ll get you locked up for threatening the consensus that there can be no dialogue with terrorists, and that rapprochement between Fatah and Hamas threatens Israeli supremacy. A strong Palestine might force Israel to negotiate with as an equal partner, God forbid.
The dark humor in all this is that the secret police told Israel’s military reporters that it had rounded up 55 Hamas officials in the West Bank when they were all safely in the bosom of their families. The report that they were in Shabak cells was news to them. Eventually, they were arrested. Apparently, the intelligence services hadn’t yet devised the reason why they threatened the well-being of the state enough to deserve arrest.
Ramahi and over 20 of his colleagues were previously imprisoned for long periods (he served three years) by Israel for having the temerity to participate in and win seats in the 2006 democratic elections for the PA. Apparently, in Israel democracy is a good thing as long as only Jews exercise it. When Palestinians do it poses a threat to the nation. Israel later arrested him yet again (for 20 months). This time it offered no reason at all. Yet another administrative detention. He begged the judges to tell him what was in the “secret” dossier the Shin Bet had prepared to justify his arrest. He was met by silence. In all, he has spent eight eventful years in Israeli dungeons. Is this any way to run a democracy? You bet it isn’t.
Oh and what does this terribly dangerous terrorist do for a living? He’s an anesthesiologist. Probably seeking methods of converting drugs and chemicals used in medicine into suicide vests.
Oh and just to prove his extremist intentions, let’s quote some of his interview with Amira Hass:
“Israel and the United States are preventing the PA from reaching reconciliation with Hamas. It’s in Israel’s interest not to prevent this reconciliation. But the Israelis don’t listen to us. They come to talk to us once we are in prison, they send us people from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Last time I refused, I said that I don’t negotiate when I’m under detention. When I get out we’ll talk, you and I.”
…At the next stage, Ramahi said: “We will rehabilitate Gaza and the West Bank and the society that is divided due to the political rift. We know that these changes are possible because change is taking place in the world. We think that some day Israel will accept the two-state solution, otherwise it won’t continue to exist. If there’s a national unity government we’ll support Abu Mazen in his policy of obtaining the rights of that state. Strengthened, Abbas will negotiate with Israel about implementing the UN resolutions. That’s preferable to what exists now. Hamas hasn’t said that it wants a two-state solution, but it didn’t object. When [Hamas’ founder] Sheikh Yassin said in 1999 that a Palestinian state would be established within the 1967 borders, he in effect said that there’s a second state within the 1948 borders.
Israel, this is a dangerous man. You must put him away so he doesn’t spread his poison among the rest of his fellow Palestinians. God only knows what might happen. Murder. Riots. Mayhem. Bombings. Israel’s destruction.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.