Talk to Hamas!

Uri Avnery

Uri Avnery

The figurehead of the Israeli peace movement Uri Avnery thinks it is easier for him - as a former terrorist - to understand the Islamist government of Gaza.

Uri Avnery, 90, has been calling for an independent Palestinian state next to Israel for decades. He was born in Germany and fought before the Israeli War of Independence for a state for the Jews against the British authorities. His peace group Gush Shalom was one of the very few who opposed the war in Gaza.

profil: The broad majority of Israel supported the war in Gaza although so many civilians, among them many children, have been killed. Why are so few demonstrating?

Avnery: Even the Zionist Peace camp identifies with this war. The reasoning is simple: Hamas shoots at us and we need to defend ourselves. The problem is: Every action is already a reaction to a previous action. Who started this conflict? Theodor Herzl. We can go back to the beginning of the conflict, to the start of the Zionist movement in 1882 if we want to know who started. But that does not bring us closer to a solution. We have to make peace with our enemies. The enemy today is called Hamas. So we need to sit down with them and negotiate over a permanent solution to the conflict.

profil: Hamas aber does not recognize Israel’s right to exist. In Israel people often mention now that Hamas used the donor money to buy cement for tunnels and not for schools. How can you negotiate with such a leadership?

Avnery: As a Palestinian I would see this differently. For them it is mainly important to break the siege of Gaza which Israel put in place. This is no life. People in Gaza support Hamas because it represents the resistance against Israel. Maybe I can understand them better than others because I have been a terrorist myself, when I fought for the State of Israel before 1948.

profil: Are terrorists the better peace makers?

Avnery: Usually yes. You don’t make peace with your friends but with your enemies. My peace group Gush Shalom printed „Talk to Hamas!“ stickers already eight years ago. Of course the government did not follow our advice. What is the situation today? In Cairo Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, who just established a military dictatorship in the most disgusting way, is the mediator between Israel and Hamas. Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president is speaking on behalf of the Palestinians - but no-one takes serious anymore since he put down the arms and only got Israeli settlements in return. Israel and Hamas, who are at war, are only speaking indirectly to each other. This is totally grotesque. Israel should speak directly to Hamas. This is how it is in times of war. the generals negotiate directly about a ceasefire.

profil: Only a small minority in Israel thinks like you. How can you get the sides back to a negotiating table for a permanent peaceful settlement, if one side sees the other only as a terrorist organization?

Avnery: It will be difficult. But it is always hard in wars to make peace. If you look at it rationally it is quite obvious that you cannot keep an entire population under a siege. If you want to give peace a chance you must end the blockade. Not only must we open the border to Israel and Egypt. The Palestinians must be allowed to build a sea port and an air port. The International Community could be very helpful with that.


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© 2018 Tessa Szyszkowitz