On October 17, 2008, liberal Arab thinker Lafif Lakhdar posted an article on the reformist e-journal www.elaph.com, in which he characterized Hamas as another link in the chain of Palestinian rejectionism, i.e., in their tendency to refuse all suggestions of compromise. This tendency, he said, is rooted in religious extremism and brings disaster upon the Palestinians. Lakhdar called on the Palestinians to take stock of their situation and start making realistic decisions based on pragmatic political considerations.
Following are excerpts:
The Palestinian Leadership Is Not Realistic
"In 1937, the British Peel Commission suggested a partition of Palestine with 80% [of the territory] given to the Palestinians and 20% to the Jews. The [then] leader of Palestine, [Grand] Mufti Hajj Amin Al-Husseini, was quick to reject the proposal on religious grounds. [He argued that] Palestine was a Muslim waqf [i.e., religious endowment] for the Muslims of the world, and it was [therefore] forbidden to hand [even] an inch of it over to the Jews. Conversely, David Ben Gurion, leader of the [Palestine] Jews at the time, gave the following calculated response. The decision, [he said], is not what I hoped for, but I refuse to reject it. The Jewish religious law, just like the Muslim law… forbids to relinquish [even] an inch of the land to infidels. But Ben Gurion, having a modern mentality, considered this [law] obsolete.
"The Hamas charter demands to obsessively repeat the refusals of 1937 and 1947, [justifying this] with expressions taken from [the discourse of] the medieval religious scholars: Palestine is a [religious] waqf, not an inch of which may be given away. This is magical thinking... Just say 'no,' and the concession will miraculously disappear, even if, on the ground, it remains a solid fact.
"This rejection [of the partition proposals], which amounts to no less than a political scandal, must be recalled again and again – in order to impress upon the younger generation how dangerous it is [to cling to] the fantasy of 'conspiracies' against 'the plundered land of Palestine,' and how dangerous it is to take comfort in religious masochism ('nothing can happen to us unless Allah wills it') in order to justify the disasters caused by the mixing of Muslim law and political decision-making.
"[The rejection of these proposals must also be evoked] in order to impress upon the younger generation the [even] greater danger [inherent in] delaying the shift from Muslim law to [pragmatic] politics. By consulting Muslim law, which is characterized by inflexible maxims, Amin Al-Husseini caused his people to lose their homeland. David Ben Gurion, on the other hand, [based his decision] on politics – [namely on] the art of the possible, [or on] what is feasible given the existing power balance at a certain time and place – and gained a homeland for his people.
"Instead of demonizing the other, it is preferable to examine oneself and understand the mistakes of the past, so as to avoid repeating them almost obsessively for 70 years, as the Palestinians have done."
Fanatic Rejectionism Petrifies the Mind
"The slogan of fanatic rejectionism – all or nothing – is an unconscious return to the Muslim law that forbids to relinquish even an inch of Palestine, and it is this [slogan] that has been causing [the Palestinians] to lose every inch of Palestine for 70 years: in 1937, 1947, and finally in 2000, when Yasser Arafat – who claimed the mantle of Mufti of Palestine – rejected the proposals of [U.S. President Bill] Clinton, which may have been the best proposals any Palestinian could have been offered...
"It is paramount to relinquish this fanatic rejectionism, for it petrifies the mind and keeps one from thinking logically. This is a disease, which first appears in early childhood, namely in the anal stage [of the child's development]...
"Negotiation means bargaining. Until when will the rejectionist Palestinian leaders remain stuck in the anal stage of their mental development in terms of their political thinking? The current negotiations present the Palestinians with two options: either a partial agreement that will be implemented [immediately] while postponing the solution of painful problems – such as Jerusalem and the refugees – [to a later stage], or an agreement of principles that will be placed on the shelf for ten years, pending the resolution of the tribal conflict between Hamas and Fatah. This conflict has its roots in an immature stage of the Palestinians' religious and political thinking, namely in the conflict between the Al-Husseini and Al-Nashashibi families [during the fist half of the 20th century]… [At present, however,] it seems that the Palestinians have rejected [both] options..."
The Palestinian Leadership Has Not Learned from the Mistakes of the Past
"In politics, one does not reject the offer of one's rival at once, in a fit of anger. One must thoroughly study the alternatives to the proposal rejected. Does the Palestinian side have viable alternatives that it has not revealed?... If the alternative is a bi-national state (as apparently proposed Sari Nusseibeh, who now seems to regret his previous moderateness), or the intifada of the Al-Qassam Brigades and Al-Aqsa Brigades, (an option which has been tried without success) – then it is nothing but the last piece of evidence that the Palestinian leaders... have not learned a thing from their past mistakes. Suffice it if I [manage to] rouse the intelligent among the Palestinians, as [former Tunisian President] Habib Bourguiba tried in vain to do in his  Jericho speech, in which he called upon them to try what they had not yet tried – namely the realistic options.
"[This must be done] in order to avert a disastrous and final division [of Palestine] – with the West Bank given to Jordan and Gaza to Hamas or to Egypt – which will consign the name of Palestine to the annals of history. This disaster is not [inconceivable], but is [in fact] rather likely. A solution to the Palestinian problem is crucial for the stability of the Middle East… just as the oil and the petrodollars are crucial for [the recovery of] world economy, which is in crisis. International diplomacy will not wait around until some of the Palestinian leaders recover from their rejectionism."
The Palestinians Are Their Own Worst Enemies
"The first step in recovering from rejectionism is [applying] self-criticism: admitting that many Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims are their own [worst] enemies, and that they are the ones who bring disasters upon themselves – not the Zionists, Imperialists, Free Masons, Communists, or else globalization or the New World Order – as claimed by the discourse that presents the Arabs as victims and drives them back to the stage of childish whining. The inability of the Palestinian leaders so far to agree on a national dialogue plan [for conciliation between Hamas and Fatah] is the main reason why they have failed to implement their national goals. The history of the 20th century teaches us that no national liberation movement achieved victory while its people were fighting one another. The Zionist movement, [for example,] consisted of various political factions, but its armed [forces] were united, and there was one [source of] political [authority], and this... is one of the most important secrets of its success."
The Insane Hesitance of the Hamas Leaders
"The Egyptian initiative for [Palestinian] conciliation, which is supervised by one of Egypt's most prominent minds, [Intelligence Chief] Omar Suleiman, may represent one of the last opportunities to find a solution for Fatah's inability to make peace and Hamas' inability to make war. For the intelligent among the Hamas members, this is undoubtedly a golden opportunity to get past the psychological barrier that has kept them from finally shifting from religion to politics, from adherence to the laws of the shari'a in handling political affairs to [a policy of] respecting international resolutions, such as the U.N. resolution on the establishment of Israel and [the principle of] negotiating with Israel towards the establishment of a Palestinian state.
"Hamas [Political] Bureau Head Khaled Mash'al did recognize Israel as 'an existing reality,' but in international law, half-recognition is non-recognition. Hamas must recognize Israel legally – [a step] that requires an official statement recognizing all the official International resolutions that the PLO and PA have recognized. In Palestinian history, these words will be written in letters of gold in Palestinian history, for they will be the fuel that will move the engine of the becalmed Palestinian-Israeli peace process.
"In the days of Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, Hamas agreed to revoke some of the main articles of its constitution, such as [the one calling to] liberate Palestine to the last grain of soil and to [maintain it] as a [religious] waqf for the Muslims of the world – in return for the establishment of a Palestinian state in the 1967 borders. It [also] implicitly relinquished the [principle of continuing] the jihad until the Day of Judgment. But since their victory in the  elections, the Hamas leaders – or at least some of them – seem to have come down with the famous Hamlet complex: a disease of hesitancy that stifles any political activity... They have not rejected the implied admission of [Hamas] founder [Ahmad Yassin] that [the goal] of liberating [all of] Mandatory Palestine is unrealistic, or the admission of current [Hamas] leader Khaled Mash'al that Israel is an existing reality, [but neither have they explicitly accepted these claims]…
"...Whoever wants a Palestinian state in the 1967 borders must apply simple logic and accept the [only] method of achieving [this goal], i.e., recognition [of Israel] and negotiations [with it], as the PA has been doing with the support of most [Palestinian] factions. A Palestinian state is not like Jesus who came onto the world through Immaculate Conception. How long will the intelligent Hamas members – and I believe that there are intelligent people among them – remain hostages of those fools, the Al-Qassam Brigades, for whom violence has become a second nature?... Whoever permits himself to kill once will allow himself to do so forever...
"If I were one of those intelligent Hamas members, I would have accepted – regardless of the political circumstances and the tricks of [various] clerics – the Palestinian conciliation that General Omar Suleiman is trying to promote...
"A tahdiah [with Israel] is not an end in itself but a bridge towards negotiations. Accepting and maintaining the tahdiah [means that] Hamas must even eradicate [elements] within the Islamic Jihad organization that are trying to violate it... [The fact that] Hamas has agreed to a tahdiah and is guarding Israel's borders… may [in fact] be an encouraging sign that Hamas is beginning to relinquish its dreams of jihadist awakening and to come to terms with reality. Its role [now] is to block the path of the "retired [Israeli] generals," who, as [Israeli Prime Minister] Ehud Olmert said, still insist that the option of war with the Palestinians and Syrians is preferable to the option of peace."
The Hamas Leadership Is Afraid of Its Own Followers
"[Saudi] Prince Bandar bin Sultan said that the Hamas leaders promised, on the day after their election, to persuade their followers within three months that recognition of Israel [was necessary]. Why not surprise Omar Suleiman next month by fulfilling this promise? [The Hamas leaders] are undoubtedly afraid of their followers – [specifically,] of a faction within the Al-Qassam Brigades – and therefore they should be advised by Roosevelt's [saying] about political courage, namely, "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself." A political movement must first of all serve the interests of the people. Is it in their best interest to remain without a state, hungry and besieged... just because their leaders have lost their political courage? Hamas is at an important crossroads that requires it to shake itself and reshape itself, in order to meet the challenges faced by its people...
"Many politicians in the Middle East continue to suffer from a closed-minded blindness. [Some Israeli politicians] see only the 'advantages' of the ongoing occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, [some Palestinian politicians] maintain the pathological aspirations to liberate [all of] Mandatory Palestine, and [the Iranians] have a deranged desire for an atomic bomb. These [politicians] do not see the real challenges. But the fact on the ground is that all of them will eventually have to be [realistic] and accept the need for Arab-Israeli-Turkish-Iranian cooperation that will steer them forwards instead of wasting time, money and blood on the murderous dialectic of war and resistance..."