Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and lately Korean Peninsula, have dominated the world news coverage for many years now. The western media that are mostly controlled by the pro-Israel lobby, have successfully used these problems to hide another major issue lingering for over 70 years now — the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories and the atrocities committed by the Zionists.
For most of the late 20th century, almost all Muslim majority countries and the Socialist Bloc led by the Soviet Union stood with the Palestinians. But after the collapse of the USSR and with shifting stances of the Muslim countries, the Palestinians lost their support.
Perhaps the mysterious events of 9/ 11 hammered the last nail in the coffin, and since then the Palestinian issue hardly ever received the media coverage it rightly deserved.
Even now, the recent military alliance announced by almost 40 Muslim countries makes no mention of Israel, and none of its members has a clear-cut policy to do anything worthwhile against Israel. With this background, the new policy of Hamas announced on May 2 has attracted some attention. Through this policy, Hamas has declared for the first time that they are not against the common Jewish people, and their fight is essentially against the Zionists who are the real aggressors and occupiers of the Palestinian lands.
But first, some background. The full name of the Hamas is loosely translated into English as an Islamist Resistance Movement. It is a Sunni Muslim group that follows a fundamentalist policy and — just like many similar outfits in Pakistan — keeps a strong social-service network to attract its supporters. In addition, or primarily so, it has a well-oiled militant wing called Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades named after a Syrian preacher from the early 20th century. He actively fought against the British, French, and the Zionists till his murder in 1935.
Al-Qassam Brigades was formed in the early 1990s with an aim to sabotage the Oslo negotiations between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO). These lengthy talks were held from 1990 to 1995 in the Norwegian capital Oslo and resulted in Oslo I and Oslo II Agreement. These agreements were signed in Washington DC, USA, and Taba, Egypt. With these agreements, for the first time, Israel recognised the PLO as the representative body of the Palestinians. These agreements led to the formation of the Palestinian Authority (PA) which comprised areas in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, giving Palestinians limited authority to govern.
The PLO leader, Yasser Arafat, and the Israeli PM, Yitzhak Rabin, played an instrumental role to conclude these agreements, stipulating that the Israeli forces would withdraw from areas in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank of the River Jordan. Yasser Arafat became the first president of the Palestinian Authority in 1994. The Gaza Strip is located on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea and has a narrow width of hardly 10 to 12 kilometres and is about 50km long. Within this, live around two million Palestinians.
The West Bank is a bigger area with around three million Palestinians. So the total number of Palestinians in the two territories is around five million. But the major problem is that the two territories of the PA are not linked and in between them there is a vast area occupied by Israel. The situation is almost the same as we had between the East and the West Pakistan which were separated by a huge Indian territory. Yasser Arafat led his organisation for 35 years and remained the president of the PA for 10 years, before he died in 2004.
Mahmoud Abbas replaced him but the Hamas leader Ismael Haniyeh, the prime minister of the PA, developed differences with Abbas mainly on the issue of the two-state formula. Abbas removed Haniyeh and appointed Salam Fayyad as the new PM. Hamas declared open rebellion against Abbas and in 2007 declared almost independence of the Gaza Strip from the PA. Since then the two territories have had two distinct governing authorities. The West Bank is with Mahmoud Abbas, and Hamas has governed the Gaza Strip for the past ten years or so.
Now the new policy from the Hamas has declared that they are ready to accept the pre-1967 border for an interim Palestinian state. But they are still reluctant to recognise Israel as a state. The Hamas had issued its earlier charter in 1988 consisting of extremely hostile notions against the Jews; but now the new document is relatively moderate, perhaps to enhance its support base in the world. Now Hamas has openly claimed that they hate only those Jews who kill Palestinians and occupy their lands. The recognition of 1967 border is a major development, for before this new policy the Hamas wanted to expel all Jews and liberate all land presently in Israel.
In the end one can hope that the world turns its attention once again to the plight of the Palestinians living miserably in areas practically cordoned off by the Israeli forces.