March 20, 2024 Special Dispatch No. 11216

Palestinian Columnist: Hamas Must Be More Flexible In Negotiations With Israel And Cede Exclusive Control Of Gaza

March 20, 2024
Palestinians | Special Dispatch No. 11216

In his February 21, 2024 column in the Palestinian Authority (PA) daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, journalist Bassem Barhoum wrote that there is no point in continuing the war in Gaza and that Hamas must stop focusing only on its own interests. Instead, it must be more flexible in the negotiations for a ceasefire by presenting "more reasonable conditions" for freeing the Israeli hostages, he said. Barhoum also called on Hamas to cede its exclusive control over the Gaza Strip, to resolve the matter of its weapons, and to agree to the temporary exile from Gaza of several of its commanders. If Hamas continues to adhere to its "unrealistic" approach, he added, it will not be free of responsibility for a second Nakba that is likely to befall the Palestinian people.

In another column published March 3, 2024, apparently in response to criticism of his earlier piece, Barhoum complained about a lack of self-scrutiny in Palestinian society, and asserted that it is this failure – the avoidance of a self-critical examination of history – that allowed Hamas to cause the disaster that is ongoing in Gaza today. He claimed that a similar failure was responsible for the Palestinian Nakba in 1948.

It should be noted that Barhoum also criticized Hamas in a January 2024 article, in which he wrote that the October 7 attack was a somewhat reckless and suicidal operation that exacted a heavy price from the residents of Gaza. Accusing Hamas of undermining the PLO and serving foreign agendas, he urged it to reexamine its policy and begin recognizing its mistakes if it wants to be part of the Palestinian future.[1]

Bassem Barhoum (Image:

The following are translated excerpts from Barhoum's two recent columns:

Continuing Hamas' Present Policy Is Likely To Lead To A Second Palestinian Nakba

"Hamas perhaps needs to understand that there is no point in continuing the war in Gaza, at least at the moment, and that every additional day compounds the tragedy and brings Israel closer to realizing its goal of expelling [the Gazans], now that it has destroyed the Strip and rendered it unhabitable, according to reports from the international and humanitarian agencies.

"The first issue is that of the Israeli prisoners [i.e. the hostages] Hamas is holding. Hamas must now be more flexible and realistic and present more reasonable conditions for their release. That way it will neutralize one of Isael's main excuses for continuing the war, at least in the view of the world and of Washington.

"Secondly, Hamas must give up the idea of its exclusive control of the [Gaza] Strip and stop its manipulations in this context – because the war will not end as long as this issue remains unresolved, especially considering that the PA and the PLO are providing Hamas with a reasonable way to do this, namely by joining the PLO and becoming members of a Palestinian government that unites Gaza and the West Bank… Hamas' insistence on maintaining its exclusive control of Gaza is a recipe for perpetuating the [intra-Palestinian] schism, [a situation] that benefits only Israel, and in particular Netanyahu and his extremist right-wing government, whose only aim is the elimination of the Palestinian cause.

"Thirdly, Hamas must declare that it recognizes international law and international legitimacy, that the Gaza Strip no longer constitutes a security threat to Israel and that it agrees to resolve [the matter] of its weapons and to place them under the supervision of an Arab entity.

"Fourthly, Hamas must declare that it agrees to the transfer of some of its military commanders to an Arab country of its choosing, for a limited period of time, after which they will return to Palestine.

"Hamas must stop thinking only about itself, and understand that it bears a national responsibility to end the war immediately and to prevent an Israeli invasion of Rafah. It must understand that, if it behaves responsibly now, this will be to its credit in the future, but if it continues its unrealistic gambles, it will bear the responsibility for what is likely to happen. If Israel dares to expel the Palestinian civilians from Gaza, [Hamas] will not be free of responsibility for a second Nakba that will befall the Palestinian people…

"The Palestinian people want Hamas to conduct itself with national responsibility, far from the calculations, risks and agendas which, it has been proven, do not promote any aim of the Palestinian people. In fact, it is these [calculations, risks and agendas] that caused the schism which led us to the tragedy we are experiencing today. Hamas has considerable national leeway to reintegrate in the joint national struggle [that aims] to sweep the Israeli occupation from our land in the West Bank, in the Gaza Strip and in East Jerusalem. This is an objective that demands unity, not an insistence on ruling Gaza and the perpetuation of the schism."[2]

Absence Of Self-Scrutiny In Palestinian Society Has Led Us From Defeat To Defeat And From Nakba To Nakba

In his March 3, 2024 column, Barhoum wrote, "The culture of tyranny that dominated [our society] for decades and even centuries, and the absence of a [self-]critical approach – alongside the addiction of many of us to a culture of schism and division, and the acceptance of the fact that our decisions are dictated by the agendas of those who fund us – created a situation whereby our Palestinian people no longer includes any special elites that can play an active and critical national role and can rescue [us] from the cycle of terrible mistakes that we endlessly repeat: defeat after defeat and Nakba after Nakba. No one [among us] examines history with a critical eye in order to learn from it.

"In this column I discuss the people who, whenever anyone takes a moment to reflect and ask the questions that need to be asked, they to say to him, 'This isn't the [right] time,' or in other words, 'Shut up and keep quiet.' It is forbidden to ask and to reflect because we are still 'at war.' The problem is that there have been such people in every period. They existed [even] when the great Arab revolt of 1936-1939 failed and we started to clash with each other, while our society and economic resources were in ruins, whereas the Jewish Yishuv – the  people of the Zionist enterprise – was at the peak of its growth and had completed [the establishment of] its institutions and its economy and had even [formed] the kernel of its army. [It's no wonder] that we were surprised when the Peel Commission divided the land into two states.

"Many [more] such [incidents] took place from the end of World War II in the spring of 1945 until the end of the Nakba in 1948-49. Then too it was customary to silence every voice that wondered and asked why we had reached the situation in which we found ourselves, and why we had accepted or  rejected the partition resolution of 1947.

"This phenomenon has dogged us at every phase and station. The same mistakes were repeated again and again, yet it was forbidden to ask questions and to reflect, to the extent that correct and critical thinking became taboo. The enemy probably likes to see us in this situation, because this way it feels no fear and is always certain that it can defeat our intellect even before it defeats us in physical and material terms – for the absence of intellect is the key to defeat.

"The current war should be classified as a new Nakba by every criterion. It may bring about the total elimination of the Palestinian cause – while we [sit and] wonder: Why have we returned to a state of Nakba? How did this happen and what are the direct and distant reasons for it? Was the October 7 attack necessary at this time? Did the people who carried it out anticipate its catastrophic consequences, or were they confident that their mistakes would be buried, like all our past mistakes, that we would continue to make general declarations and blame the international 'conspiracy' and just carry on without undertaking any assessment of what we or others  among us were doing?? Amid this terrible situation we are experiencing, the same nihilistic reasoning rears up [yet again], and the same generalizing logic that has been passed down throughout the centuries of tyranny to tell you, 'This is not the [right] time.'

"Actually, [this approach] might have been acceptable [right now], if in the past we had taken stock after each of our defeats, most of which were caused by our own mistakes that made it easier for the enemy to attain victory and to carry out its plans. Why are we prevented from reflecting, while the one who caused the catastrophe and gave the enemy an excuse to take its barbarity to the limit continues to peddle [the claim] that its conduct is beyond reproach and that it has a monopoly on the truth?

"If the Nakba that is occurring now in Gaza – which is likely to eliminate the entire Palestinian cause – doesn't motivate us to reflect and to ask ourselves the necessary questions so as to arrive at the right answers and learn from our mistakes, then what will?

"We were silent in the face of what Hamas did in 2007 [i.e. its takeover of the Gaza Strip] and some of us [even] justified it. Prior to that, we were silent in the face of all the mistakes [Hamas] made in the Second Intifada. And before that [we were silent] during the Nakba of 1948 – and most of us still don't know that we, the Palestinian people, are largely responsible for the factors that caused it to occur in such a catastrophic manner.

"I say that yes, questions may be raised and a [self-]critical approach may be taken at any time. It's a mistake to postpone it, for once the terrible incident has passed, we usually leave the criticism behind as well. Thus we repeat mistakes and are defeated without even realizing it, while believing that defeat is victory, when that isn't the case. Why do we eliminate our intelligence with our own hands?"[3]


[2] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, (PA), February 21, 2024.

[3] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, (PA), March 3, 2024.

Share this Report: