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An open letter to Ismail Haniyeh and Yahya Sinwar

By Alon Ben-Meir - posted Monday, 11 June 2018


Dear M. Haniyeh and Sinwar;

I am writing this letter to you in the wake of the latest confrontation between Palestinian demonstrators and the Israeli military that tragically resulted in the death of 120 Palestinian youth. I maintain that all this bloody mayhem could have been avoided had you concluded long ago that the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict rests on ending all violence and no longer perpetuating demands such as the right of return, knowing that this will never come to pass.

Time and circumstances have changed but you remain stuck in the past, unwilling to change your strategy. Sadly, you still believe that being militant and uncompromising is what will restore your rights, however misguided and unrealistic that may be, and regardless of the fact that your people are growing intensely unhappy with your leadership.

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You must bear the responsibility for the deaths of so many because, notwithstanding Israel's disproportionate and horrifying response, you knew that such a call for border protests would result in many demonstrators being killed. Your strategy toward Israel is bankrupt and has done nothing but severely damage the Palestinian cause while inflicting horrible pain and suffering on the multitude of young and old to no avail.

You find comfort in illusions of destroying Israel, but they are just that-illusions which have led you nowhere. You are besieged from the inside and outside, living on handouts with rampant and devastating unemployment, wide-spread poverty, hopelessness, and mutilating despair.

You have harnessed the Palestinians' despair and instigated the youth to tear down the fence separating Gaza from Israel under the banner of the right of return. Whether the Palestinians have such a right or not is no longer relevant under the current state of affairs. No Israeli government, regardless of its political leanings, will allow the Palestinians to return en masse as this will obliterate the Jewish national identity of the state, which nearly all Israelis want to safeguard at all costs and under any circumstances.

Moreover, the right of return of the "Palestinian refugees" living in Gaza and the West Bank has been completely misinterpreted over the years. The Palestinians, however, chose to perpetuate the narrative of the right of return because they wanted to keep the issue of the refugees alive and justify their claim to the entirety of mandated Palestine.

Every Palestinian in Gaza is living in his own homeland, unless you consider Gaza not to be a part of Palestine. As such, the Palestinians in Gaza are not refugees by any definition. They are internally displaced, and the solution to their dismal situation lies in resettlement and/or compensation. What you have done is send your youth to death under the false banner of the right of return only to score public relation points.

You criminally mismanage your financial resources. Instead of building clinics, schools, industrial parks, infrastructure, and housing which are all desperately needed, you squandered over a hundred million dollars to build tunnels, buy and manufacture weapons, and train militias. Tell me, what end would this satisfy other than your hollow pride?

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Yes, you can fire hundreds of rockets at Israel, and kidnap or kill a handful of Israelis. But you are not now and will never be able to win any military confrontation with Israel-only suffer terrible human and material losses, which you know well from past encounters with Israeli forces.

You cannot demand the lifting of the blockade and in the same breath call for Israel's destruction. You cannot resort to the use of force and buy weapons, and expect Israel to ease access to and from Gaza.

You cannot inflame the public by spreading poisonous propaganda only to nurture hate toward Israel, and expect the Israelis to believe that you will ever be willing to coexist with them peacefully.

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About the Author

Dr. Alon Ben-Meir is a professor of international relations at the Center for Global Affairs at NYU. He teaches courses on international negotiation and Middle Eastern studies.

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