Yasser Arafat may have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, but his PLO officials and he really deserve the prize for the art of deception. For decades now, the PLO has spearheaded one of history's biggest scams, and now it seems that Hamas, the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood movement, is about to join the bandwagon.
According to unconfirmed reports in the Arab media, Hamas is about to publish a "political document" in which it "accepts" the "two-state solution." The purported document is already being hailed by some Western and Israeli analysts and Hamas apologists as a sign of the radical Islamic movement's march toward moderation and pragmatism.
It is worthwhile to note that, contrary to what is being published in many media outlets, Hamas is NOT changing its Charter, which explicitly calls for the elimination of Israel. The new Hamas document is intended for outside consumption and is directed to the ears and eyes of Americans and Europeans only. The original Hamas Charter in Arabic will remain in effect even after the new document is made public and seemingly official. In fact, it does not have to do that. The New Charter, while mouthing all sorts of human rights bromides over which Westerners and the media can be counted upon to swoon, such as:
"Hamas believes that the message of Islam came with morals of justice, truth, dignity and freedom, and is against injustice in all its shapes, and criminalizes the criminals whatever their sex, color, religion or nationality," and so on. (New Hamas Charter, Article 9).
It is, nevertheless, the same Old Hamas Charter as before. It does not even bother to renounce jihad as an acceptable means of "resistance." This is Hamas talking in code; pursuing "resistance" against Israel means: We plan to continue launching terror attacks against Israel.
"Hamas confirms that no peace in Palestine should be agreed on, based on injustice to the Palestinians or their land. Any arrangements based on that will not lead to peace, and the resistance and Jihad will remain as a legal right, a project and an honor for all our nations' people." (New Hamas Charter, Article 21)
The PLO bluff began with the signing of the Oslo Accords with Israel in 1993, and reached its peak three years later, when PLO leaders managed to convince President Bill Clinton and the international community, including many Israelis, that they had changed the PLO Charter, which calls for the destruction of Israel. The truth, however, is a far cry from that.
Back in 1996, the PLO's parliament-in-exile, the Palestine National Council (PNC), held a session in Gaza City where its members decided to "entrust a legal committee with re-formulating the Palestinian Charter."
No one knows if the committee made any of the proposed changes. It is also unclear whether two-thirds of the PNC members (the required majority) actually voted in favor of changing the PLO Charter.
To this day, some Palestinians maintain that the charter was never officially amended or revoked -- and it certainly was not ratified -- and that the whole performance was a lie to mislead the international community and Israel into believing that the Palestinians had abandoned their dream of destroying Israel through "armed struggle."
The PLO Charter question, like the PLO's pledge to work towards a two-state solution, is murky. What is clear is that many in the international community swallowed the scam and began to believe that Arafat and his cohorts were finally leading their people toward real peace, beginning with recognition of Israel's right to exist.
A glance at PLO actions over the past two decades will show that this tiger has certainly not changed its stripes. Since the signing of the Oslo Accords, the PLO and its leaders, first Arafat and now Mahmoud Abbas, have consistently and stubbornly rejected all Israeli peace offers, some of which were exorbitantly generous.
The PLO and many other Palestinians have one thing in mind: to establish a Palestinian state alongside Israel in order to use it in the future as a launching pad from which to destroy Israel.
This desire to replace Israel with a Palestinian state is why no Palestinian leader will ever sign a document ending the conflict with Israel -- no matter what he is offered. No Palestinian leader is even authorized to pledge an end to Palestinian demands, even if he is given all the territories held by Israel since the 1967 Six Day War. Anyone could justifiably come along later -- after land had irreversibly changed hands -- and ask by what right Mahmoud Abbas, a leader in the twelfth year of a five-year term, had any legal authority to agree to anything. That question would -- and should – invalidate any agreement overnight.
Abbas has shown for the past decade that his true goal is to undermine, delegitimize and isolate Israel; not to make peace with it. Abbas is prepared to accept a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip (as well as East Jerusalem) only because he sees this solution as part of the "phased plan" to eliminate Israel. The PLO Charter, which was ostensibly changed, is still living in the minds and hearts of Abbas and many Palestinians.
We have been here before, but the minuet partner has changed.
After two decades, Hamas has finally woken up to the power of lies. Its leaders are mouthing just what the international community wishes to hear -- in exchange for legitimacy, recognition and money. Like the PLO, Hamas has learned that in this instance, words are more important than actions. Utter the words: "We accept a Palestinian state on the 1967 boundaries" and you will find the world at your doorstep.
After two decades, Hamas has finally woken up to the power of lies. Like the PLO, Hamas has learned that in this instance, words are more important than actions. Pictured: Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (right) shakes hands with Hamas's leader in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, during negotiations in 2007 for a short-lived unity government. (Image source: Palestinian Press Office)
The new document leaves no room for doubt that Hamas continues to seek the destruction of Israel despite its alleged acceptance of a Palestinian state on the pre-1967 lines. Hamas "will not give up any part of the land of Palestine regardless of the reasons, circumstances and pressure," the document reads, according to the Arab media reports. "Hamas rejects any alternative to the liberation of Palestine in its entirety, from the river to the sea."
The document goes on to clarify that even if Hamas accepts a Palestinian state on the pre-1967 lines, "this would not mean recognition of the Zionist entity or giving up any of the Palestinian rights." The new document repeats Hamas's commitment to the "armed struggle" against Israel:
"Resisting the occupation, with all methods and means, is a right that is guaranteed by international laws. At the heart of this is the armed resistance, which is considered the strategic choice to defend our people and restore their rights."
In yet more signs of Hamas's purported "moderation," the document re-emphasizes the movement's "absolute rejection" of the Oslo Accords, signed in 1993 between Israel and the PLO. In addition, the document affirms Hamas's commitment to work towards flooding Israel with millions of Palestinian "refugees" through the so-called right of return. In theory, Palestinians should be directed toward a State of Palestine: that is what it is purportedly being created for. "Palestine is an Arab and Islamic land; it is a blessed and sacred land that occupies a special place in the heart of all Arabs and Muslims," the new document stresses.
But, no, the Palestinians apparently want to have their marbles and Israel's marbles.
The talk about Hamas accepting the two-state solution is nothing but a bluff. Hamas itself is saying that it will accept a Palestinian state on the 1967-lines but without recognizing Israel's right to exist. In other words, Hamas is telling Israel, "Hand me a state on your doorstep so that I can better position myself to destroy you." With moderates like that, who needs extremists?
New document or not, Hamas will continue to launch rockets and perpetrate other terror attacks to kill Jews. The "pragmatism" of the "new Hamas" lies in its amplified ability to fool the West.
Not everyone, however, is fooled. Hamas is using old PLO tricks to achieve current ends: double talk, conflicting messages, some in English, some in Arabic. They fill their people's minds with anti-Israel venom while sending love notes to the international community. Hey, it worked for the PLO, so why not for Hamas?
Valentine's Day has come and gone, but Hamas and the PLO now have crucial common ground: sweet-talk the Western donors while laying stealthy plans to destroy Israel.
Bassam Tawil is a Muslim Arab scholar based in the Middle East.