There’s been a lot of news this week about the Israel-Hamas cease-fire. Much of the commentary dwells on the likelihood that it will be short lived. For those of us trying to make sense of the news, I thought it would be helpful offer a few resources on Hamas and the cease-fire. Can we support it?

Four Views of Hamas

Hamas sees itself as a legitimate political force in Palestine. It is part of the Islamist/Muslim Brotherhood current that is active and vibrant throughout the Arab Sunni world. They combine calls for deeper religious observance with social services and political struggles. In recent years they have moderated some of their positions (perhaps making the 1988 Charter irrelevant) and increased in popularity (winning a free and fair election in 2007.) Check out this semi-official news agency with Hamas views.

The official Israeli narrative is that Hamas is a terrorist organization waging a war to destroy Israel. This perspective is quite common in the US media; most informed Americans would fail to recognize that this is a ‘perspective’ and not simply ‘the truth’. An addendum to this perspective would probably include the inflammatory words of the Hamas Charter from 1988: “All of Palestine is holy Islamic territory and cannot be given up.”

Some human rights advocates and Palestinian solidarity activists living in the US would see Hamas and its essential character as quite besides the point. The main narrative is about the dispossession of the Palestinian people and Israeli abuses. If ‘the world’ knew the facts, the Palestinians would be supported in their struggle. A good example of this can be found at www.ifamericansknew.org.

Palestinian secularists and ‘moderates’ would argue that Hamas is not playing a positive role in the Palestinian struggle for independence. Dr. Ziad Assali of the American Task Force on Palestine: Hamas must answer – at least to the Palestinians in Gaza who primarily pay the price for this cycle of violence – as to why it continues to fire rockets into Israel when it is fully aware of the consequences.”

Making Sense of it All

What can we take away from all this? First, that the pro-Israeli government side does a fantastic job of creating talking points repeated by the mainstream media as fact. It’s a consistent narrative that takes into account some of the uncomfortable facts relating to Palestinian suffering at the hands of Israel.

Second, that the weakest voices are those that articulate a balanced or nuanced approach. Look at what J-Street, the new dovish lobbying group had to say in their latest action alert: “If Israel had gone to war this week, the mainstream pro-Israel community here in the U.S. would have rallied to its side. Instead, encouraging news of a cease-fire […] is met by deafening silence.”

But why? Perhaps because the supporters of both sides get enthusiastic mostly when their side is winning or losing, not when they agree to stop shooting ‘for a while.’ Israeli Novelist AB Yehoshua’s voice can get lost in the shuffle. He writes: “the whole idea of “victory,” one side beating the other, does not apply in this case.”

The most active pro-Palestinian voices in the US have been silent so far on the meaning of the truce; A notable exception is Ali Abunimah: “After the unremitting hell that Israel has inflicted on Palestinians in Gaza, one can only feel relief and even joy at the ceasefire agreed between Hamas and the Jewish state that took effect this week.” He is pleased on behalf of the Gazan people, but far from optimistic.

Traditional (and conservative) supporters of Israel are embracing their inner skeptic. AIPAC wants you to know that “Hamas refuses to halt smuggling into Israel.” Abraham Foxman seems to be predicting failure – caused by Hamas of course: “It is clear that should Hamas violate the terms of this proposal and continue its attacks on Israel‘s southern communities, Israel will have no choice but to respond forcefully.”

Supporting the Cease Fire

What is the best way to support the cease fire? How can we, as activists trying the make the world a better place, show our support for nuance, for the absence of victory? It was nice to see AVAAZ promoting the cease-fire – but only in Hebrew. http://www.avaaz.org/he. More needs to be done.

Does the JVoices community have any better ideas on this? Is there a campaign worthy of our attention?

In the meantime, here is something everyone can do, right now, which just might work. Last night, Palestinian children in Gaza and Israeli children in Sderot slept the whole night through without the sound of alarms, sonic booms, rockets, bombs, or gunfire. Open up your heart and speak this last line out loud:

For all the Fatma’s and Mohammed’s in Gaza, and all the Shlomo’s and Rivkale’s in Sderot, may this night be quiet and safe. Amen.