03/05/2014, 00.00
EGYPT - ISLAM
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Samir Khalil Samir: Hamas ban also good for Palestinians

by Samir Khalil Samir
The Islamist movement accuses the Egyptian government of helping "the Israeli occupation". However, by choosing the path of violence, Hamas has created the current unsustainable situation in Gaza. Egypt shows that the diplomatic path is more fruitful. The court's decision is in line with the Arab Spring, against an ideological and religious dictatorship and for democracy.

Rome (AsiaNews) - The decision by an Egyptian court to outlaw the Islamist movement Hamas is in line with Egypt's traditions and the demands of the Arab Spring. As the facts show, it is also good for the Palestinians, for whom dialogue can be more fruitful than violence. The situation of Palestinians in Gaza is far worse than that of Palestinians in the West Bank, this according to Fr Samir Khalil Samir, a Beirut-based Egyptian Jesuit who spoke to AsiaNews in Rome where he is attending various academic events.

Egypt's caretaker government is in favour of the decision taken by a court in Cairo on security grounds. Hamas has been accused of involvement in various attacks against Egyptian soldiers and civilians that have occurred in the Sinai since the fall of President Mohamed Morsi.

For Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri, Egypt is "against the Palestinian resistance," a view echoed by Bassem Naim, a Hamas foreign policy official who said "Any decision such as this is an attempt to besiege the resistance, and serves the Israeli occupation."

Banning Hamas reflects Egyptians' way of thinking. Lest we forget, the 1979 peace agreement between Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin cost the Egyptian leader his life. For the Muslim Brotherhood, he was traitor, but Egyptians never considered Sadat a traitor.

To say that Hamas is outlawed is a way to say that it is important to take the diplomatic path to solve problems.

Although it is easy to understand why the Palestinians - tired of all the injustices continuously perpetrated against them by Israel - may react in a violent and unfair way, violence, politically speaking, leads nowhere.

Anti-Israel actions in violation of agreements have pushed Israel to establish settlements in the occupied territories, using violence and the need for security as an excuse. This way, the Palestinians have gradually lost their land, piece by piece.

The only time Israel returned Arab territories was when it returned the Sinai to Egypt. It is the only case in which Israel gave up part of what it had occupied.

Thus, the historical record in the Israeli-Palestinian relationship - and common sense - suggest that peace agreements bring more results than revenge and terrorism.

Under Mohamed Morsi's regime, there were more or less secret agreements with Hamas, allowing them to occupy the Sinai.

Immediately after the anti-Morsi revolution on 30 June, the first thing Hamas did was to attack the Egyptian military, Christians, and civilians in the Sinai.

One can therefore understand why Egypt does not see Hamas as a defender of Egypt, nor as a defender of the Palestinian cause. The facts speak for themselves: Hamas is anti-Palestinian and the situation in Gaza is infinitely worse than on the West Bank.

Now it is time to rid ourselves of ideologies. A parable of the Gospel says,"Or what king marching into battle would not first sit down and decide whether with ten thousand troops he can successfully oppose another king advancing upon him with twenty thousands troops? But if not, while he is still far away, he will send a delegation to ask for peace terms" (Luke, 14:31-32). We are in a similar situation.

With the alleged support of the Arab world ("alleged" because the Arabs have never supported the Palestinians. They have given them economic and military aid, but then abandoned them), Palestine has tried to make war on Israel. But the Palestinians cannot afford military confrontation with the Israelis, also because the West, particularly the United States, backs the Israelis.

Since this how things are, dialogue is the only way to achieve what is possible, rebuild Palestine today, maybe do something more tomorrow.

Politics is the art of the possible. This is what Egypt wants, not Hamas' warmongering, along the lines set by the Arab Spring. In Egypt, the Arab Spring sought to build a more modern and democratic nation, after decades of dictatorship.

Some steps have been taken. Although the constitution is more democratic than before and we have been freed from a religious-ideological dictatorship, we have not yet been freed from the military dictatorship.

Still, an ideological-religious dictatorship is far worse for it penetrates the minds of people, and paralyzes all development. And it is against some aspects of democracy like equality among citizens, the sexes, religions, etc.

Of course, in Egypt there is still a dictatorship of the rich, who unduly influence politics and society, a bit like elsewhere in the world.

We are taking steps to rebuild Egypt. Unfortunately, all of the Sinai has come under Hamas control. And this has led to the decision to outlaw them. The same happened with the Muslim Brotherhood.

The decision by the Egyptian government points to an important fact. If 30 years ago, we signed a peace agreement with Israel, we must respect it. Only then can we demand Israel respect its part of the bargain.

International problems should be resolved through diplomacy - national problems should be resolved through greater democracy. But it will take many years before Egypt achieves full democracy.

To do this, we must improve education. Let us not forget that 40 per cent of Egyptians cannot read or write. Even those who can need help to learn how to read critically and compare different points of view.

This requires a standard of living that allows us to imagine something greater than the problems associated with subsistence or hunger. This is what the Arab spring wanted: bread first, then equality, freedom, etc.

In Syria, we have the opposite example. Here, fighting and bloodshed are still the option of choice and no one wants to enter into dialogue.

The whole world had hopes for peace in Geneva, but the two sides are not willing to give up something, as talks would require. Thus, Syria and Syrians are enduring even greater suffering.

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