For those who are home, and for those who are on the way. For those who support the historic and just return of the land of Israel to its people, forever loyal to their inheritance, and its restoration.
In the four years since it swept Palestinian parliamentary elections, Hamas has neither moderated its policies nor adopted democratic principles. Constantly torn between its ideology as an Islamist jihadi movement and its responsibilities as a governing authority in the Gaza Strip, Hamas has proven unwilling to transform itself. The result has been an ongoing ideological and political crisis for Hamas and, more generally, the Palestinian Authority. Last October, Hamas was faced with the challenge of new elections mandated by Palestinian law and set for January by the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, whose Fatah faction is Hamas’ chief rival. Hamas’ reaction was to ban any voting from taking place in Gaza. Consequently, Abbas postponed the elections indefinitely, sparking heated debate with Hamas over the legitimacy of his continued tenure as president.
Soon after Hamas’ 2006 electoral victory, I identified some conditions necessary for co-opting ideologically extreme and violent political movements (“Can Hamas Be Tamed?” March/April 2006). I argued that Hamas was unlikely to become more moderate in the foreseeable future, primarily because there was neither a strong Palestinian government nor a viable political center capable of containing and co-opting the group. Unfortunately, this has proven to be true -- and it remains so today.
After winning the 2006 election, Hamas immediately began grappling with various conflicting pressures. The Israeli government, which evacuated its citizens and military from Gaza in 2005, reacted strongly -- militarily, economically, and diplomatically -- to the continued firing of rockets from Gaza into southern Israel, first by factions other than Hamas and later by Hamas itself. Meanwhile, immediately after Hamas’ electoral victory, the Quartet (the United States, the European Union, the United Nations, and Russia) demanded that Hamas, in order to gain international legitimacy, commit to nonviolence, recognize Israel, and accept previous agreements signed between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. All the while, Hamas felt a domestic imperative to secure Palestinian national unity. In the face of these pressures, it consistently tried to govern without moderating its ideology. It remained dedicated to “resistance” and to Israel’s destruction -- and therefore opposed to any concept of a real peace process.
I visited Hevron in November 2000 after the outbreak of the Rosh Hashanah War to see what could be done to assist in the face of the growing daily attacks on the community. After returning to work for the community in the summer of 2001, a bond and a love was forged that grows to this day. My wife Melody and I merited to be married at Ma'arat HaMachpela and now host visitors from throughout the world every Shabbat as well as during the week. Our goal, "Time to come Home!"