Bereaved Israelis Meet with Hamas to Discuss Peace
Bereaved Israelis Meet with Hamas to Discuss Peace
By Genevieve Cora Fraser
Hamas was born as an avenging angel following the 1994 attack in Hebron by the Jewish extremist, Baruch Goldstein, who shot 29 Muslims to death and injured 125 as they prayed in the Cave of the Patriarchs, the burial site of Biblical figures Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebecca, Jacob, and Leah—which is considered holy to both Muslims and Jews. Originally created in 1987, Palestinians came to respect Hamas for its extensive network of social welfare programs throughout the West Bank and Gaza. Its Terrorist creditionals were earned by its military wing which, until last year’s truce, had carried out suicide and other homicidal attacks against Israeli civilians in response to Israeli attacks against Palestinian civilians.
That’s how Yitzhak Frankenthal became personally acquainted with the organization. Following the Cave of the Patriarchs massacre, Frankenthal’s 19-year-old son Arik was randomly chosen to be abducted and murdered by Hamas’ military wing. But instead of seeking revenge, he founded the Arik Institute for Reconciliation Tolerance & Peace which includes a Parent's Circle of bereaved Israeli parents, Palestinian and Jews, who lost their children during army service or in an act of terrorism. In light of Hamas’s victory in the Palestinian election, members of the Arik Institute recently met with unnamed Hamas leaders to discuss their differences as well as the way to reconciliation and peace.
Following the meeting Frankenthal released a statement where he noted “no intrinsic difference between Hamas leaders and any other person. I discovered that they not only have no horns, and no fiery manic hatred burning in their eyes, but that they posses a deep sense of pain and dismay in the face of the current suffering of their people.”
In describing differences between Hamas and the Fatah, Frankenthal stated, “Fatah held meetings with the Israelis during the early nineties, which led to their recognition of the state of Israel and the alteration of the Palestinian charter. The Hammas (sic) does not intend to do this. According to the leaders of the Hammas, Israel only toyed around with the Fatah during the above-mentioned meetings, and never had any intention of diminishing the suffering of the Palestinian people.”
“By negotiating with Israel for 12 years, the Fatah produced no tangible results at all,” Hamas leaders are reported to have said. “The occupation is not over, a Palestinian state has not been erected and the great suffering of the Palestinian people continues. The poverty and unemployment rates have reached all-time highs and are still rising, and worst of all: the Palestinians are now perceived both by Israel and the rest of the world as a large 'terror cell', while Israel, committing vile acts of daily terror, is perceived by the world as the victim.”
In his discussion with Hamas leaders, Frankenthal learned that their willingness to run for election serves as recognition of the legal status of the Palestinian governmental structure, along with all its formal documents regarding the PLO as a result of the Oslo agreements, to which the Palestinian government is obligated.
“They asked me why I was asking them to recognize Israel, when we can clearly see that the act of running for elections is tantamount to such recognition. They further said that yes, they are different from the Fatah organization - they do not intend to walk into any of Israel's political 'booby-traps', such as Palestinian recognition of Israel on the one hand, with Israel continuing its occupation, on the other,” Frankenthal wrote.
“Just take a look at how you (Israel) abused Arafat. How you made him 'irrelevant'. Look at how Barak spoke circles around Arafat, with the Palestinian people ultimately paying the bill. We recognized you - and you just went right along abusing us,” Frankenthal was told.
Writing on behalf of the Arik Institute, Frankenthal described Hamas’ claims as sound arguments. “From what they say, ever since the Oslo agreements (1993), the Palestinians have become poorer, their level of suffering has risen incrementally and they have despaired. They, the Hammas, rose to power to renew the people’s hopes. They admonish Bin-Ladin's actions, which they claim do not represent the Islam. They understand that the world in general and particularly Israel and the USA perceive them as terrorists, which they feel is wrong. In their opinion, it is actually Israel that should be perceived as terrorist, in as much as it is the occupier, and that they have every right to fight back. As far as they are concerned, as long as the occupation continues, they will not be willing to either speak to or recognize Israel.”
Political negotiations between Israel and a Hamas led Palestine Authority will be “harsh and uneasy, unlike the negotiations with the Fatah. Albeit, they do believe that they will be the ones who actually bring about peace,” he claimed.
“It is the Israeli leadership that should, in their eyes, understand that the time for empty words has now passed. The bottom line, to them, is the Israeli occupation. If it is brought to an end, there is justification for dialogue. As long as it continues, they have no intention whatsoever in recognizing Israel.”
Dialogue between members of the Arik Institute and Hamas leaders turned to religion. They claimed that they have “no intention of converting us to Islam. They respect the individual's right to choose his belief.
The way of the Islam is a way that honors humanity, and does not involve hurting humans. Their goal is to achieve political independence and live side-by-side with Israel. Two states for two nations.”
Frankenthal asked what the next steps between Hamas and Israel should be. The answer was trust-building. “Much to their frustration, the first move that Israel has made so far since the Hammas were elected was to steal the Palestinian people's money. This, they said, was an excellent example of how Israel treats them.”
“We have no issues with living on Pita-bread and olives. We have patience, knowing that the ultimate price to pay will be yours, because you behave as you do. Your people simply do not comprehend that it is you who cause your suffering – and ours.”
Though it was hard for Frankenthal to sit and meet with the organization that was responsible for the murder of his son, more meeting have been planned between the Arik Institute and Hamas leaders.
“At the end of meeting, I was told by the senior representative that took part in the meeting, that he would be delighted to visit me as well, in my house in Jerusalem.”