An Open Letter to Hamas to Pursue Nonviolent Struggle

Category: World Affairs Topics: Conflicts And War, Gaza, Hamas, Occupation, Palestine Channel: Opinion Views: 4593

Hamas views itself as an Islamic resistance group against the Israeli occupation. It rejects to recognize the State of Israel, and makes its annihilation as one of its main goals. They see any means of hurting Israel as a "legitimate" way of this struggle, including suicide bombings and random rocket attacks into Israeli territories. 

To be sure, armed struggle has been the only way for achieving freedom and independence by many nations on earth, including Israel. Thus, the Palestinians do also have every right to resist an occupation and establish their independent country if they wish to do so. 

In my opinion, however, armed struggle is a not an absolute. It is contingent on many factors, the most important one of which is whether the armed struggle stands a realistic chance of succeeding. If the answer to t his question is a realistic "yes," so be it. If however, the answer is a thoughtful "no" than the struggle is nothing more than a protracted suicide. In case of a "no" scenario, I believe that the best strategy of struggle is that of non-violent struggle. 

I would doubt the sanity of those who believe that Hamas stands a realistic chance of succeeding militarily against Israel, a covert nuclear power backed unconditionally by a superpower, the U.S. What chance do Hamas' home-made "rockets" have against the state-of-the-art Israeli war machine, while even the military sophistication of the other regional powers does not come close to that of Israel?

Here I will venture to say that there has been no better time and location for waging a successful non-violent struggle than one that Palestinians can undertake in the occupied territories against Israel today. This is because of an unparalleled two-lane public relations expressway that is present vis--vis the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

First, the said conflict is in the spotlight of the whole world, thanks to the unprecedented level of the sophistication of communication media today. Israel -which is known to go to great lengths to have successful public relations- cannot ignore the world public opinion of its actions.

Second, the Jewish Diaspora has significant presence in many countries, especially in the West. They are far from being monolithic in their views about the Israel-Palestinian conflict. In fact, an increasing number of Jews are coming forward to openly criticize some of the Israeli policies in the region. Emerging advocacy groups -such as the J Street- are presenting viewpoints that are in stark contrast to the ones espoused by the more traditional pro-Israel lobbying groups such as AIPEC. All of this will bring meaningful pressure-directly or indirectly-to bear on the Israeli decision making apparatus. 

Not even that great champion of non-violence, Gandhi, had the same favorable circumstances for his struggle as the Palestinians have. But, alas, Hamas has so far squandered this golden opportunity. Far from using this set of auspicious circumstances to its advantage, Hamas turned the world public opinion against itself by resorting to suicide bombings in civilian areas and sending primitive home-made rockets randomly into Israel. Apart from the loss of the world public sympathy, the Palestinians got the worst and most brutal punishments from Israel: the targeted killings, the tight Gaza blockade, and the brutal Gaza war.

A humble attempt of the peace activists of the Gaza flotilla to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza succeeded what Hamas modus operandi could not have succeeded in a thousand years! Namely, rallying an unprecedented worldwide support for Gazans, and a willy-nilly Israeli easing of the blockade. The question is whether Hamas will learn a lesson from this incidence, or whether it will keep insisting on dysfunctional and backfiring strategies that are making the lives of millions of Palestinians unbearable.

Hamas ostensibly claims to derive its ideology and ways of conduct from Islam. I, a Muslim myself, am aware of some Islamic "scholars," such as the likes of Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who make an exception for the suicide bombing when it comes to the Palestinian issue. In my view, there is no precedence in the life of Prophet Muhammad that can justify suicide bombing and killing of noncombatants. I think the above-mentioned scholars are wildly off the mark to the point of allowing gross breaches of Islamic injunctions and the example of the prophet. Let me explain my point:

I would remind Hamas that Prophet Muhammad and his followers suffered wicked oppression at the hands of the pagan Meccans for almost thirteen years, including a brutal blockade of the Muslim quarters for three years. Although, Islam does give the right for people to defend themselves within certain code of conduct, the early Muslims did not engage in any armed struggle during their presence in Mecca. Why? The early Muslims could also have engaged in armed struggle that is very similar to that of Hamas today, which involves suicide missions and views as legitimate the killing of the civilians of the other side. 

But why did not the prophet undertake them? How difficult is it to send a man with a sword or a dagger hiding under his jubbah to a crowded Meccan fair and have him start killing as many innocent civilians as possible until he is taken over? The reason is simple. The suicide killings and bombings are novel phenomena of the 20th century, as the renowned historian of the Middle East, Bernard Lewis makes clear in his latest book Islam: the Religion and the People. The prophet of Islam could not have resorted to them because suicide killing is not allowed in Islam, as killing of civilians and suicide itself are expressly forbidden. Furthermore, Islam does not want you to wage a struggle if it is not going to relieve you of the causes of your struggle in the first place. In addition, the Islamic means of a struggle must be as much sacrosanct as the aspired end itself. It is precisely for these reasons that the prophet and his followers preferred to migrate (the Hijra) to Medina, demonstrating an alternative solution to a deadlock.

The latter is rooted in the now long-deserted Islamic pragmatism and rationality. The same rationality would find Hamas's stubborn refusal to recognize Israel as a state as primitive and sclerotic.

Is Hamas blind to see how unarmed struggle -as demonstrated by the peace activists of the Gaza flotilla recently- can bring about positive results almost overnight, while their own strategy is decimating the Palestinian people? Or do the Hamas officials have some secret vested interests (to preserve the status-quo) that would prevent them to take that route?

Is it not high time for the Palestinian people to give a serious consideration to the option of waging a full-fledged nonviolent political struggle against Israel?


Dr. Serkan Zorba is assistant professor of physics at Whittier College, CA, USA. He is originally from Turkey.

  Category: World Affairs
  Topics: Conflicts And War, Gaza, Hamas, Occupation, Palestine  Channel: Opinion
Views: 4593

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Older Comments:
The Palestinian people have made progress in the past through non-violent means but I can't say the world was focused so much at that time as they might be now. Making this about human rights instead of terrorism will still be a tough sell in the USA unfortunately with war hardly getting any notice from the general populace...

Why NOT an open letter to Israel and USA? These two are the source of all the problems in the world.

Europeans and American need to learn from their past mistakes. Can't expect Gandhi-like characters to pop-up everytime you committ terror and occupy

There is an excellent book about the role of Muslims in Ghandi's movement in India which people may want to look at. It is called "Nonviolent Soldier of Islam: Badshah Khan, A Man to Match His Mountains" by Eknat Easwaran.

Thanks Dr. Zorba. An excellent letter/article.

Assalamo Alykum, Dr. Zorba, best article I have read regarding the Israeli Palestine conflict. Ghandi defeated the British Empire, Mandela defeated Apartheid, Dr. Martin Luther King brought liberty and equal rights to his people, all through peaceful means. If the Palestinians would stop the aggression against the Israelis, the whole world would stand behind them including the U.S. and the Palestinians would get their state and a better way of life. Do they dare to do so?

Islam means peace. We should all stand by it. Gone are the days when differences were shared by war. Let us explore the dialogue to achieve our goals. Everything belongs to Allah.

We have to try to be in between the two thus taking the Middle course neither too extreme nor too far behind (not interested in our affairs Deen) with the intention to please those whom Allah is not Pleased with. Ours is only to please no one but Allah and the course of our Deen sincerely serving Him so we can become successful both in this World and the Hereafter.
The Prophet and the Sahabah had shown us practically how we could become successful and win the Pleasure of Allah the Almighty at all time while others were only trying to take us away from the Siratin Mustaqim that of Nabiyyin Was Siddiqeen Wash Shuhada Was Saleheen Wa hasuna Ulaika Rafiqa which is the right path.
While we struggle to get our rights at all cost sometimes we should compromise in order to achieve our goals but we must and should remain steadfast on our Deen serving Allah Mukhlisina Lahuddin.
So we pray Allah make us have Muhabbba among ourselves as you cannot enter Jannah unless you believe and you will not be believers unless you have muhabbah.
So the essence is for the Ummah to come together and work for the betterment of the whole Ummah. We should remember the treaty of Hudeibiyyah and Fathi of Makkah.They were only achieved and came into existence with Sabr and steadfastness of Rasulullah and the Companions who became symbol of success both in the World and the Hereafter Radhiyallahu Anhum Waradhu Anhu.
May Allah give all of us taufiq and Hidayah to tread the path of Rasulullah and the Sahabah otherwise we will be querelling all our lives every claiming his or is the best.We only say the best and the true path was that of Rasulullah and the Sahabah who were the best examples for us to follow.Therefore if per chance we have any difference we should immediately turn towards Allah and His Prophet then we would find solution for all our problems of this World and the Hereafter.

Hamas and Islam, whether the struggle is violent or non-violent will probably have to face off with Biblical Christianity if they try to go against Israel. And this is a losing proposition for both because neither Hamas or Islam can stop Biblical Christianity. Nor can they stop those who hold on to Biblical Christianity from traveling to Israel to show support for the Jewish state. Bottomline, Hamas and Islam lose.

The answer to your question Serkan is yes. In fact Hamas should go further to settling their differences with Fatah unconditionally, and the duo should as a matter of urgency accept a certain limit..without giving in to much humiliation a land of Palestine that the quartet, including Israel is willing to give. Thereafter we make a fresh start towards getting back the land of Palestine again. It is a sad reality but the alternative is even worse.

But i was told that Hamas was an israel 'zionist' creation, how true is this? Can somebody help?

Mr.Zorba, I think this is one of the best article I have read that is in accordance with Islamic teachings and through many articles written on this forum and many other forum Muslims are realizing that killing innocent people no matter where they live is wrong and strictly prohibited in Islam.
Anyone who kills in the name of Islam is more of an enemy thn a non Muslim and they do more harm than their cause. After all said I think we should not recognize Israel till they also truly believe that Palestine does exist and Jerusalem is capital for all faiths.

First of all the analogy of palestinian stuggle and the muslims during the prophets time is incorrect. The meccan pagans were against the muslims because of ideology. They were not interested in stealing their land and homes. They did not want the message of Islam itself. They even offered to bribe the prophet with many things, such wealth, women, royal position, etc if he could just stop propagating Islam and the prophet refused.
In contrast the issue with Palestine is a pressing one and it is about stealing the land and the property of a whole people which have been going on for the last 60 plus years. The more the Palestinians stay docile the
more their land is being taken away fast. Israel has no intention at
all in seeing an independent county called Palestine. And it has no
intention of giving back what it has taken. This is very clearly
their policy. All this peace talks is just to fool the international
community and buy time while they fulfill their goal. Natenyahu made
that very clear with the recent release of the video showing him
bragging about how he can control the Americans.
So this authors view is totally irrelevant to the reality of whats
going on. This is a defeatist mentality.

Can you wage Jihad in a non-violent way? Don't tell me Jihad is some sort of "Spiritual Yoga".

What is the intention? To get Palestine in Palestinian hands or find a VIABLE solution so that Jews and Muslims can coexist together in Palestine (and everywhere else too)?. Without a clear idea about intended results, methodology might not matter. So far, Hamas stands for only one thing -- destruction of Israel, not a viable solution, no matter which methodology one uses (violence or non-violence).

Anybody can be violent. Only brave people can be NON-Violent. Unfortunately, that kind of brave people one cannot find in today's world, especially among muslims (Not a opne single example I can find).

Al hamdulillah. I second it completely.

Mahatma Gandhi's non-violence movement was long ago preceded by the non-violence movement of the Prophet (sm).

However, Muslims do not realize this. Perhaps because we do not expect to learn from a "Hindu" Gandhi.

Non-violence is smart. It is also sincere religion coming from the Din of Peace (salaam). Now, we should not do something simply because it is smart. Otherwise, it would be hypocrisy. We should do it because it is sincere. In the barakah of sincerity is hidden smartness.

We have to remember the Rasul (sm)'s Ta'if experience. Otherwise, why study the sirah? Peaceful approach is not capitulation. That's why it is smart. In the long run it will work, in-shaa' Allah. That is really a recognition of a fitra by the Quran. Will the Palestinians recognize it?

Wars today, and before since the nabuwwat, are just not those waged in the battlefields. They are also waged in the minds and homes of people. This is the lesson of Islam. Look at Japan. It started the wrong war. It has done better under peace than it could have done had it achieved the goals of its war. Also, look at Pre-breakup Russia. With all the weapons of the world, it could not prevent its own breakup. Military is at best an icing on the cake. Economy, culture, education, science and technology, ethics, morality, spirituality, etc. are at the heart and soul of a nation. If the cake tastes bad, no matter the icing, people will leave it on the plate after just one bite.

What the author has suggested Hamas to do, it should do right now. In fact, about 10 years ago, I suggested the same to my Kashmiri brothers, but who is listening? Muslims have been a declining civilization (not Islam). We should look at solutions to many of our problems, especially those international, from a defensive rather than an aggressive, attacking posture. It would be smart. And it would not violate the Quran and Sunnah!