Republican Senators Lindsey Graham and John Cornyn say that one of Chuck Hagel’s crimes is his urging Israel to negotiate with Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist political party which controls Gaza and which the U.S. terms a terrorist organization. Jerome Slater has been the leading American scholar on the issue of the rights of Gazans under occupation, and the rights of Israel to self-defense. He has an article, “Israel’s self-defense argument against Hamas holds no water” up at the Christian Science Monitor, in which he says Israel has a legal obligation to talk to Hamas. Here is its conclusion:
Gaza is not a separate country or people from the West Bank, and the 1993 Israeli-Palestinian Oslo agreement specifically states that Gaza and the West Bank are “a single territorial unit.” Consequently, the Gazan people retain their right of resistance to occupation and repression.
To believe otherwise is like believing that, if the British had withdrawn from New Jersey in the 1770s but continued to occupy the other 12 colonies, New Jersey residents would no longer have had the right to take up arms to support American independence.
To be sure, the right of resistance does not include the right to employ terrorism. At the same time, it is certainly relevant that the Palestinians have no hope of gaining their freedom by defeating the Israeli armed forces. Nor is nonviolent protest and resistance likely to succeed, for Israel has either repeatedly ignored it or suppressed it, often meeting demonstraters (including Israelis) with beatings, rubber bullets, and sometimes real bullets.
The final flaw in the Israeli self-defense argument is that Western morality proscribes the use of force unless all nonviolent means of conflict settlement have been exhausted.
Israel, however, has repeatedly refused to negotiate long-term truces with Hamas, and it has even broken past agreements. While Hamas still refuses to recognize Israel’s right to exist, since 2009 there has been substantial evidence that it is ready to go beyond ceasefires and join with the more moderate Palestinian Authority in the West Bank in supporting a two-state political settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Although Hamas’s position has been ambiguous and sometimes contradictory, this does not justify Israel’s refusal even to negotiate with Hamas to explore the peace possibilities.
As long as the Israeli occupation, repression, and intransigence continue, Israel has no legitimate or persuasive claim that it is defending its homeland against unprovoked Palestinian attacks. To stop those attacks and make last year’s ceasefire permanent, it needs to fully lift its blockade and bring Hamas into the negotiation process.