THE POLITICAL PAGE

February 2006

Israel and the Palestinians

On behalf of ourselves:

Due to a high work-load, including an 8 day trip to Israel, I almost wanted to cancel the next issue of the ‘Political Page‘. But now I became aware of its highly motivated readership, and that from a spiritual point of view it is not justifiable to stop the great prayer power behind it - not even for a single month.

Therefore we will postpone the ‘Europe' theme until March. For February, I now want to propose a theme for prayer which is extremely important at the moment. Today, Israel and the Palestinians need much prayer and supplication.

Hamas

Elections took place in the Palestine region as well as in the East of Jerusalem on 25th January 2006. According to many foreign election observers this was the most ‘democratic' election campaign which has ever taken place in an Arabic country. Therefore, the inferior Al Fatah party admitted its defeat without contesting the results. The Hamas Party gained 74 out of 132 seats in the parliament and thus gained an absolute majority; out of the 66 possible direct mandates, Hamas gained 51. Whether we like it or not, we have to accept that this was a democratic election, the whole world accepts it as such; but Hamas, is a terrorist organisation which has many suicide bombers, and its target is the annulment of Israel as a State.

In this context, F.A.Z., on 30.01.2006 said: ‘In the 1988 Charter, Hamas presents itself as an exclusively Palestinian, Islamic Resistance Movement. Their aim is to display the banner of Allah on every centimetre of Palestine territory'. Israel will only survive 'until it is extinguished by Islam, as has happened with other countries before'. In this document, Hamas considers Palestine to be Muslim property. ‘Palestine is an Islamic country; therefore, the liberation of Palestine is the highest duty of every Muslim, wherever they live.' Jihad is the only solution for the problem in Palestine. Peace initiatives and conferences are a total waste of time and are meaningless. In addition, the document says: 'Judgement Day will not come until the Muslims fight and kill all the Jews'.

The name Hamas is actually short for: 'Harakat al-Muquawama al-Islamijja' which means ‘the Isalmic Resistance Movement' - their name is their programme.

Hamas – the social aspect

Before pointing out the difficulties of this election campaign we need to mention some things about Hamas.

Hamas was established as an opposition to Arafat's Fatah; therefore, Israel supported Hamas for many years in order to weaken Arafat. Arafat's Fatah which has been in power for 35 years was degenerated into a rope party with a mass of politically influential people who ‘covered each other‘, and used the situation in order to become rich. A large part of the billions of dollars from abroad, and especially from the EU, was withdrawn from Swiss Bank accounts by Fatah supporters, and only a part of this money was actually given to the people of Palestine. The autonomous provinces of the country could have flourished if money hadn't been misappropriated or even worse, had naively been distributed in cash in small suitcases. The ideological anti-Israeli tendency of the EU blocked the controlling mechanism in charge of this for many years. Many things have now been revealed after Arafat's death; things, which cannot be ignored anymore. In future they plan a better controlling mechanism.

Since Arafat's death, the people lack a supervising father who nobody can really oppose; even after his death there has been no real change in corruption. Things have been based on the corrupt Fatah Party, where everybody was busy getting rich, out of this, the Hamas movement arose. On the one hand Hamas declares war on Israel their deadly enemy, and on the other hand they care about the social needs of their people and offer help to their own.

This aspect of Hamas is unknown in the west, but it is the main reason for this election disaster. Hamas is seen as something like the legendary Robin Hood: a warrior and helper of the poor. Besides, the Palestinians think that Hamas is not as corrupt as Fatah was; many academics and skilled people are part of Hamas.

In our prayers for Israel regarding the election on 25th January 2006, we prayed for all corrupt politicians to be repelled and for all those who want the best for the people to be elected. From this point of view, the Hamas majority is an answer to our prayers.

Hamas – the militant aspect

Hamas is a group which exerts terror on Israel and denies Israel's right to existence.

Just as the Lebanese Hesbollah, Hamas maintains close relations with Teheran. In December, Khaled Meschal, the head of Hamas visited the Iranian president Mahmud Ahmadinedschad, a thing which showed his anti-Israeli position, and also showed Hamas in a new light. Meschal reassured Teheran that Hamas would intensify their attacks on Israel if Israel makes plans to attack Iran‘s nuclear programme. Hamas also trains young people to become sucide bombers. During the election campaign, Hamas advertised Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and passed this success off as being due to their war against the occupying forces. Since 2003, Hamas has been on the EU's list of terrorist organisations; therefore it no longer receives any financial support, nor will it, as long as there is no radical change in their mindset.

Hamas – the religious aspect

Due to the unsuccessful 'Pan-Arabic nationalism' of the 50's and 60's, regarding the liberation of Palestine through 'Arabic Unity', Yasser Arafat established the Fatah movement after the 6-day war in order to promote 'Arabic Unity' through the liberation of Palestine. In the beginning, Fatah was created for armed conflict and war; only in the 2nd stage after Fatah had become a political party it changed, and now has a dialogue with Israel. This proves that Fatah was unable to help the people from a social point of view because it was too corrupt; this is why Hamas was established at the end of the 80's. Islam was to be the solution and an alternative to the secular Fatah movement in order to liberate the people.

Hamas considers itself to be a new edition of the lame Fatah movement, which still continues in ruthless war against Israel, the occupying force.

Already for some time now, opinions of the Palestinian people regarding suicide bombers has changed; furthermore, the election boycott by Hamas regarding the election of the president on 9 th January 2005 has been highly criticised. This was the point where Hamas turned from a religiously motivated terrorist group, into a political party, which finally resulted in a competition between Hamas and Fatah. Now Hamas has to decide between its War Charter of 1988, and it‘s political manifesto of 2006. (An interesting historical analysis of this period of time has been taken from an article by the German political scientist Helga Baumgarten, Ramallah published this in F.A.Z. on 30 January 2006, page 7).

If the radical-religious Hamas take over the government – and nothing seems to be able to hinder them - then they will be tempted to declare Palestine ‘a theocracy' just as Iran is, where the Koran is the law of the country. This means that the so called ‘Scharia‘ will rule, and woe betide ‘unbelievers‘, Christians, and our brothers and sisters! In this case, women will also lose their rights and freedom, and there are 14 women currently in the new Parliament.

Hamas – the political aspect

Regarding elections; Hamas, which originally was a movement of Muslim brotherhood from other Arabic states, decided to change and form itself into a political party. This same process that Hamas went through, was noticeably similar to the establishment of the Greens in Germany, which previously had been a simple protest movement in society before it changed to become a party.

However, a party needs a Constitution, clear goals, structures and a charismatic leadership. This really shows the differences between ‘Fundis‘ (Fundametalists) and ‘Realos‘ (Realists); and if we listen to the voices of several Hamas representatives, we will see that there are tensions even amongst themselves.

Hamas have the same considerate and friendly leadership structure as the Greens have; all decisions are taken collectively, though nevertheless, the leadership of Hamas have different opinions. The important thing now is, who out of the well-known personalities will spearhead this initiative i.e. who will be the prime minister. Israel hopes that president Abbas (‘Abu Mazen‘) of the Fatah group will keep his office, and that he will remain their contact person.

In my opinion, this conflict which could possibly break up a young party will take place in the next few weeks or months within Hamas. This is because within a very short period of time; Hamas has to become a power which is able to represent the interests of the state – the reason why the electorate voted for them, to their own surprise.

The aporia, the conflict of objectives through which Hamas stepped in, and the winning of the election through its uncompromising attitude against Israel, and it‘s readiness for terrorist attacks alongside it‘s social commitments, shows that from the outside Hamas has cold-bloodedly been rejected.

•  During their visit to Israel, the Spokesman of the German Federal Government and the German Federal Chancelloress herself, unambiguously said on behalf of our country that Israel's right to existence will remain an unshakable pillar of Germany's foreign policy.

•  Also the ‘Middle East Quartet‘, consisting of the USA, Russia, the UN and the European Union, made a very clear statement: if the Palestine Hamas leadership will not renounce terrorist attacks very clearly and fully, and acknowledge Israel's right to existence, then no other financial support will be granted to them.

However, this means that the government of Palestine will come to an end – a government that is completely relying on the steady income of money from abroad especially from the EU. The EU supports Palestine with an amount of 500 million Euros per annum; a large amount of money is linked with special projects. However, last year 70 million Euros were planned for the budget of autonomous provinces which were paid out by the World Bank. But when all of a sudden, the usual payment wasn't given out due to unobserved conditions in November, this shortfall was noticed immediately, which raised questions about the salaries of employees. We cannot assume that Iran will permanently compensate for this amount of between 500 million and 1 billion Euros, which has been granted to Ramallah.

If Hamas decides to be pro ‘Fundis‘ i.e. if it doesn't want to let go of their objectives, the money from abroad will be cut. Thus the new government will have nothing to distribute and will lose the peoples' confidence in time; nobody in the region and not even Israel is interested in Palestine's decline.

If Hamas renounces violence and acknowledges Israel's right to existence, there will be a danger of either having a split within the party, or of only a tactical adaptation to the circumstances, but secretly keeping their objectives until facing better times; but according to Islamic ethics this is not allowed.

Anyhow, winning the election for Hamas means that they have to make a decision which will have a considerable impact on the existence of the party, and of the movement. The party has to prove that it is able to govern, i. e. that it will keep to the agreements e.g. the Oslo-Agreement which has been concealed by the Palestinians. In this context, international pressure is of great importance. Ehud Olmert, the current prime minister who is deputizing for Ariel Sharon, said very clearly that Israel will not enter negotiations with men who have Israel's blood on their hands.

Israel

Since its establishment, the state of Israel has permanently been in danger of being destroyed; the present situation is a new threat. Israel which previously seemed to be an unbeatable centre of power in the region, which was strong enough to resist the pressure of Arabic countries - yes, even the whole world - seems to have become weak all of a sudden.

This situation is mainly due to Sharon's withdrawal from policy without leaving a successor of his kind. There is an uncertainty in the country, and a helplessness regarding the Palestinian's.

On 28th March, the election of the Knesset will take place. Countless parties will apply for office, but 'Kadima', the party that was established and led by Sharon, has remained unchallenged at the top. Unexpectedly, the top politicians from the Labour Party like Peres for example, as well as prominent politicians from the Likud faction changed sides to Sharon's party. In opinion polls, Kadima with Sharon as leader reached a total of 40%; the people trusted him – both as an individual as well as his policy. Now he is no longer there, and who is in charge now? The other parties like Likud and the Labour Party, have been weakened by this migration to the Kadima Party, and Sharon is no longer there.

At the same time the terrorist organisation, Hamas, will become the party representing the interests of the Palestinians. The people in Israel are shocked, because for them, 'Hamas' is another synonym for terror, broken bodies, and hundreds of wounded and traumatised people. Their question is whether there will be a new wave of terrorist attacks if Hamas takes over.

Will the people turn back to the conservative Likud under Netanjahu ('Bibbi') with his religiously motivated policy, which refuses to make any kind of concessions to the Palestinians? The nation is split. Based on the biblical promise, some stick to the possession of the whole land, others – and this seems to be the majority right now - think that a permanent occupation of Palestinian territories is not possible. They stick to the Kadima, which considers a Jewish majority in the national territory of Israel is of more importance than the geographical size. Therefore, the Kadima is ready to clear the Gaza Strip and also the West Bank in order to maintain a clear Jewish state on the other side of the fence in the future.

Due to Sharon's absence, there has been a vacuum of power in the region. Whenever there is a vacuum, different powers from the outside will quickly penetrate inside, i. e. the Arabic world can see an opportunity in Israel's time of weakness. From a spiritual point of view, a battle is going on over Israel in the unseen realm. Prudent Israelis fear the times after the election, because they believe it will be a very hard time.

Israel's current position in the world's press

In the past, Israel has never had so many supporters as it has now. There are some reasons for this:

  1. Sharon's political U-turn by clearing the Gaza Strip, brought Israel much amazement and acceptance from the rest of the world. They said that only a political man like Sharon has had the authority to make such a step with his people.
  2. Sharon's stroke triggered this response from outside, and of course also concern for the continuation of the peace process in Israel and in the Region.
  3. The hate tirade of the Iranian president Ahmadineschad, with his ignorance about the Holocaust – saying that it is a lie coming from the West; and his demand to extinguish the Jewish state, or to shift it to Europe, has released a wave of protests and clear pro-Israel statements from different sides of the international community.
  4. Through the election victory of Hamas, which represented the same thesis as Ahmadinedschad; the right of Israel‘s existence has not only been confirmed once again, but used as a scale against Israel's enemies, especially by those who were always critical of Israel in the past, in the EU and the UN.

Thus, God can change enemies into supporters within a short period of time.

Thus, God can turn difficult situations around for the good of his people.

Let us pray

•  God is the maker of history, and of the Palestinian election results. Adoration to God who makes no mistakes. Therefore, we trust in what HE will do in this situation.

•  God has shut the mouths of all the great and important critics; yes the enemies of Israel, and has turned them around to become supporters for Israel's right of existence in their land – just as it was with Balaam, who wanted to curse Israel, but spoke out blessings and had to confirm Israel's right of existence;

•  Israel‘s most furious enemy, (at a time when nobody in the whole world knew how to break its deadly hatred), has been pushed into political responsibility through an unexpected election victory, has had to renounce deadly terrorist attacks. This is brilliant, and only the God who is for his people, could have ever thought of this and have implemented it. Still, Hamas refuses to acknowledge Israel; but at least they have started to offer Israel a durable peace agreement. However, we hope that the international community will – hopefully! - not be satisfied with just this. Let us pray for this, and also for a clear statement from Hamas regarding the right of Israel‘s existence.

Both processes need the consistent prayers of the people of God – in Israel, in Germany and throughout the world.

•  Intercession for the Palestinians

•  the formation of a government (smart, and moderate politicians)

•  the revision of Hamas targets (‘terror‘ and ‘Israel‘)

•  the improvement of living conditions for the Palestinian people

•  An end of hatred, and the education of hate

•  No 'theocracy' with the 'Scharia'.

•  Intercession for Israel

•  protection for both the state and the citizens of Israel. Shalom Israel.

•  the elections on 28th March.

•  a majority which is able to rule

•  wisdom in dealing with the new Palestinian Government

•  that Sharon may experience Jesus while lying in coma

•  The consequences of Angela Merkel's visit on 29th - 30th January 2006.

•  Germany to be on Israel's side – even in the EU.

•  Israel to be on Germany's side – to leave its ‘poor sinner attitude‘ and step into a ‘hand-in-hand‘ friendship.

•  Its responsibility as a mediator between Palestine and Israel after the absence of Bush, Blair and Chirac; Germany has really been pushed into this.

Ortwin Schweitzer

Sources: Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung 28.01.2006; 30.01.2006; Stuttgarter Zeitung 30.01.2006; 31.01.2006. Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung 18.12.05. Rundbrief Kehilat HaCarmel vom 31.1.06.