Friday, January 25, 2008

Letter to Hamas and the Valiant People of Gaza

Is it Time to Take an Alternate Route on the Roadmap to Peace?

January 25, 2008

Dear Gazans,

Peace be upon you.

This letter asks you to consider an alternative route on the road map to independent sovereignty and peace. This alternative road asks the people of Gaza to take independent action toward establishing for yourselves a constitutional democracy as a separate and sovereign nation.

Many people in the United States recognize as I do that you are suffering under an illegal and immoral occupation as few other people in the world have suffered. You have shown the world your valiant spirit of perseverance and determination in the face of the greatest odds arrayed against you. We have been told by people who have visited Palestine that this is a time of even greater moral trials and that no one would find you lacking in moral courage if you were presently dispirited by the seemingly unending abuse that you have had to bear.

Perhaps what those of us who support you worry about the most at a time like this is that the pressures of occupation and oppression that you must bear will find expression in attacks among yourselves. This is the human condition of all imprisoned people who see no way out of their entrapment. The recent events of piercing the southern wall with Egypt was a welcome sign that you still have the courage and determination to breakout of your confinement rather than to destroy yourselves with in fighting. Now is also the time to break out of the mental confinement that prevents you from establishing your sovereignty, territorial integrity, and political independence.

I believe that now is the time for Hamas to lead the way toward an alternative future that accepts the present realities and at the same time shows the world the pride and resilience of your people. Now is the time for Hamas to lead Gazans to independence. While this might be called a “three-state solution”, such a condition may be only temporary until the West Bank can also assert its independence and reunification talks can begin. But for now, this present day, the time is ripe for you to create your own terms for independence. There is no hope of a “one-state solution” that combines Israel with Gaza and the West Bank. Also, In today’s reality with the USA supporting Israel unconditionally, and with Israel making unjust demands as preconditions to a “two-state solution”, there is no practical hope for an agreement to be reached with Israel. Israel will not agree to any arrangement of a two-state solution in which they do not control the terms. Today the reality is that Israel has successfully divided Gaza and the West Bank politically and co-opted the political conditions of the West Bank.

Therefore the only available alternative route on the road map to peace is for the people of Gaza, led by Hamas, to take your destiny in your own hands and set out on your own on the road to independent sovereignty. Do not wait for anyone to give you permission to do this. Such permission will not come, and indeed will not be deserved just because you ask for it. You must show the entire world by your concrete actions that you are committed to both peace and independence and then the world will respond accordingly.

To achieve both peace and independence means that you must show yourselves determined and capable of creating your own sovereignty based on democratic principles, that the people are sovereign and governed by law not by the rule of individuals or juntas. The rule of law is best demonstrated by the creation and allegiance to a constitution, rather than to a person or party. If Hamas were to demonstrate that it is committed to creating a nation with democratic principles, I believe it would secure the faith and loyalty of the Gazan people for generations.

The commitment and determination for a sovereign nation based on democratic principles must be based on a strict policy and determination for peace. This will be the greatest test of Hamas. It will mean a certain amount of determination to not strike back at Israel when Israel can be guaranteed to attempt to provoke violent response in order to undermine the credibility of Gazan independence. But if on the one hand Gazans led by Hamas can show the world that they are committed to building an indigenous democratic governance and on the other hand that they are determined to do it peacefully, then the world will come to the aid of Gaza when it previously has been reluctant to do so.

What do I mean when I say democracy? It is relatively simple. There are three dimensions to democracy and each dimension has two poles making six primary factors:

The Axis of Sovereignty: 1. The people are sovereign. 2. The people exercise their sovereignty by the rule of law not individuals, cliques, or juntas.

The Axis of Self-Rule: 3. The people govern by majority rule. 4 The majority rule is constitutionally limited by minority rights.

The Axis of Protection Against Tyranny: 5 The governance system has a separation of powers so no one branch or group has all the power. 6. The governance system has checks and balances to prevent the abuse of power within a single branch from becoming tyrannical.

Along these three axes, the dimensions of democracy may be measured and plotted.

By using these six benchmarks, any nation’s system of governance that is created under its own local customs, culture, and conditions can be rightly and truthfully called a democratic nation. Today in the USA we have seen our own government stray from these principles and to that extent our own claim to being a true democracy is jeopardized.

I do not presume to tell the people of Gaza what particulars may be adopted to meet your own sensibilities for democratic self-governance. I have full confidence that you have both the cultural and intellectual conditions necessary for meeting together in good faith to craft a democracy that is suitable for your own needs and self expression. Simply apply your historical conditions and culture toward working to embody these six factors of democracy and you will achieve your purpose.

I will point out that the most delicate aspect of democracy is in the Axis of Rule. Many people believe that democracy is sufficient where the majority rule. That is not the case. The rights of the minority must be protected for many reasons, but chief among them for the very practical reason that everyone will be in the minority at one time or another. Also, some people misunderstand what it means to protect minority rights. Some people believe that by giving the minority the ability have a say in debates alone is sufficient. That too is not the case. It is not good enough that a minority must be allowed to participate in a debate if the minority is then exploited or oppressed after the majority has voted against them. The prevention of exploitation and oppression of minorities is something that must be enshrined with equal power and assurance in the commitment to majority rule. A majority that does not restrain itself from exploiting the minority while it has the power is a majority that has become tyrannical and is abusing its power. That is mob rule, not democracy. But how the minority is to be protected, by what specific appropriate rights and how they are to be enshrined in a constitution, this is for the Gazans to determine, not outsiders.

Additionally, I will point out a common misunderstanding that occurs in the Axis of Protection Against Tyranny. When the government is created having a separation of powers within itself, there is always a primary and fundamental question of the reserved right of the people to their sovereign power. It is not enough to say that the people will create a constitutional government and then the government will rule over the people. The sovereignty of the people must always trump the power of government. The people must be acknowledged to be ruling themselves by means of the government, not that the government is ruling the people. This is the most important and primary separation of powers that is the essential context for democracy even though it may not always be explicitly spelled out in a constitutional document, though it should.

Also, because the people are sovereign, the checks and balances of the system of governance must include the power of the people to have free discussion and access to the information that is necessary for that discussion to be both relevant and fruitful. Failure in this regard, where US corporations control the media, is a primary and fundamental problem with American democracy. All of the European democracies have a better system of information and a freer press than the USA. That is one reason that they are not as imperialistic in their world relations as the parochialism of the USA engenders by the failure of a truly free press in the USA. Gazans, as led by Hamas specifically, must create a trusted environment for free exchange of ideas and dissemination of information for democratic self-rule to be effective. This will be the greatest gift that Hamas could ever provide for the people of Gaza.

So what are the steps that Hamas should take on this alternate route?

FIRST, Hamas, as the elected representatives of the people of Gaza, should immediately declare the sovereignty of the people of Gaza to independent self-rule by issuing a Declaration or Testament of Independence. I suggest that such a statement of independence:

1. - State the necessity for the action to protect the people from the current condition of occupation that violates international law and to seek the aid of free nations for the support of the people of Gaza;
2. - Affirm the right of the people of Gaza to self-rule;
3. - Promise to initiate a process for the creation of a constitution by which the people of Gaza will express their aspirations for democratic self-rule;
4. - Affirm that Hamas accepts and abides by UN Resolution 242 and that as soon as Israel withdraws its armed forces from the occupied territories as referenced in Resolution 242 that the provisional government established by Hamas will recognize the territorial inviolability and political independence of Israel;
5. - Affirm that when the people of the West Bank achieve independence that talks for reunification between Gaza and the West Bank will be held;
6. - Affirm that Hamas and any provisional government will abide by International Humanitarian Law, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the rulings of accepted international tribunals on that law and that Hamas expects that the nations of the UN will also abide by such rulings and specifically come to the aid of Gaza and the people of the West Bank in upholding the ruling of the International Court of Justice that Israel's construction of a wall on Palestinian land violates international law;
7. - Ratify the importance of human rights with a statement of commitment to the principles spelled out in the UN Universal Declaration on Human Rights;
8. - Ask for the assistance of the UN and individual nations toward establishing an independent nation of Gaza;
9. - And ask that the nations of the world immediately send diplomatic delegations to Gaza in order to begin the process of mutual recognition.

There is no reason to delay this step. It will send a shock wave around the world that will get the attention and respect of nations that have heretofore watched from the side lines. This is the only viable way for the people of Gaza to demonstrate that you deserve to be treated with the dignity and respect equal to that given to Israel. No one can give you independence, you must assert it for yourselves.

In such a manifesto of independence, I caution that it is important to show restraint in declaring the necessity of independence in the context of the aggression shown by Israel. Yes it is important that the violations of international law by Israel be clearly stated, including the failure of Israel to provide protections for occupied peoples, the illegal confiscation of property and resources, and the violations by Israel through its policy of collective punishment, but in outlining these violations it is imperative that in order to develop a credible acceptance of independence that you show restraint in their description and keep to Israel’s actual violations against the people of Gaza and not vainly attempt to list whatever you believe to be the ills or outrages of Israel in its own governance of itself.

SECOND, Hamas should immediately begin to organize and convene a provisional government. Hamas must have and show the world that is has the strength of integrity and purpose to work toward the goal of self-rule by including people of opposition parties in the provisional government. Hamas should regularize its armed forces into a legitimate defense force and into regional or municipal police forces. By the one action of demonstrating that Hamas is willing to give up direct control of its armed militia in favor of government controlled defense and police forces, Hamas will show the world that it truly has the best interests of the people of Gaza at heart. Hamas should have no fear of loss of political power, because the people of Gaza will rejoice in the honor and strength shown by Hamas through its commitment to self-rule.

THIRD: The provisional government should immediately send out diplomatic envoys to receptive nations with a request to help the people of Gaza end the Israeli blockade of Gaza. In addition to guaranteeing the freedom of navigation through international waterways under UN Resolution 242, this should include reference to the Berlin Airlift that ended he Soviet Union’s blockade of Berlin and ask the governments of the world to come to the aid of Gaza now with a similar Sea and Airlift to end the illegal blockade. Egypt should be asked specifically to recognize the independence of Gaza and to allow international relief and trade to travel through Egypt to Gaza. Also, Hamas should announce the beginning of reconstruction necessary to reopen Yaser Arafat International Airport (YAIA) in Gaza and seek specific cooperation and aid from any nation that will supply its expertise for this purpose.

FOURTH: Hamas should set a date as soon as reasonably possible for an election of delegates to a constitutional convention. Hamas should request that the Carter Center and the UN assist in guaranteeing that the election will be fair. Hamas has already demonstrated that it can hold fair elections and so this should not be an obstacle. The election of delegates hopefully will be on a proportional basis of representation so that minority voices will be included. Much will depend on the inclusion of minority party voices in a constitutional assembly for such an assembly to have the force of authority to be accepted by the people. Assure that the end product of the constitutional congress will be put to the people for ratification.

FIFTH: Put the proposed constitution to the people for ratification and pledge to enforce the results.

SIXTH: During the term of the provisional government, affirm the commitment to peace and international non-violence by preventing retaliatory attacks on Israel. There will be no greater force for gathering the assistance of the world to rally in support of the people of Gaza than to show that the Gazan people are committed to working through international tribunals, rather than by tit-for-tat attacks, to achieve justice. For every single act of aggression against the people of Gaza committed by Israel, the Gaza response needs to be taken to the UN and world judicial tribunals as well as to direct appeal to the people of the world. Forbearance in violent retaliation will gain far more for the people of Gaza than any meager result of rocket fire. While Gaza is attempting to reopen Yaser Arafat International Airport, if the Israelis attack it and destroy it, then there must be no retaliation but a determined demonstration to the world that the work will continue peacefully in the redevelopment of the airport. Gaza must be prepared to rebuild the airport as best it can many times over in order to get international investment from Western nations in the project which will be the best guarantee that it will not be destroyed by Israel.

SEVENTH: During the term of the provisional government, show that Hamas is willing to work democratically with local areas and neighborhoods by promoting local assemblies to provide input both to the transitional government and to the process of creating the constitution. By providing a measure of local municipal autonomy in districts, Hamas will demonstrate that it has a true commitment to democratic self-rule.

LASTLY, these steps along this alternative route to peace are within the reach of the people of Gaza without waiting for the agreement of either Israel, the USA, or other nations. A truly sovereign people do not need the approval of other nations to establish their independence. By establishing your independence on your own terms while showing the world that you acknowledge the necessary requirements of democratic principles for any nation that embarks on self-rule, Hamas will gain the respect of people everywhere for itself and for Gaza.

Peace be upon you, the people of Gaza.

Gregory Wonderwheel
Santa Rosa, California, USA

P.S. for Blog: Here is a link to other comment on a "three state solution." Use your favorite search engine (mine is ) to find more.

New York Sun Editorial

Factoids: Gaza is a little larger than the independent island nation of Granada, over twice the size of the independent nation of The Principality of Liechtenstein and over 150 times the size of the independent nation of The Principality of Monaco. If Gaza became an independent nation it would be the 201st largest nation with approximately 32 smaller nations.

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