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Hamas Can Achieve the Right to Work For Palestinians in Lebanon by Reconciling With Fatah and Iran

by

Damascus

Despite the 12/12/2017 announcement by rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah that a deal has been agreed to during this month’s Cairo Reconciliation talks and that details would be announced later, it is doubtful that substantive progress will result. Or that this time the results will differ much from the preceding half-dozen still-born ones over the past decade. When the talks achievements are enumerated they will likely yet again include only window-dressing with respect to the key issues of control of Hamas’ military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam or fixing a date for the holding of the crucial Palestinian elections. Previous announcements of a negotiated reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah, the last ones being in 2014, have always failed to materialize.

Neither side wants to be accused of torpedoing Palestinian reconciliation. Nor will either side give up significant power to the other. The parties may agree to a partial deal over such matters as control the Gaza Strip side of the border crossings, the future of Hamas’s civil service administrative workers, the Hamas controlled health service and who will control the south Gaza Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza.

However, despite the grim prospects, by ending the decade-old schism of strained relations with Fatah and reconciling also with Iran, Hamas has a historic opportunity to achieve elementary civil rights for Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. Toward reconciling with Fatah, Hamas has expressed willingness to disband its own administrative committee in charge of the Gaza Strip in favor of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) based in Ramallah and is considering ceding to the PNA the Gaza border crossings Israel and Egypt. While some Hamas leaders have maintained that the movement’s military force is not up for negotiation, some in Fatah insist on an end to all military manifestations outside the control of the PNA.

In addition, after half a dozen failed attempts, it now appears that all the concerned parties are finally supportive of Palestinian reconciliation including the various countries and their militias that continue destroying Syria and her people. Hamas is under heavy pressure to reconcile with Fatah given the escalating humanitarian crisis throughout the Gaza strip which has been intensified by the siege imposed by Egypt and Israel as well increasingly from Palestinian public opinion in Gaza calling for a better quality of life by lifting economic pressures.

Gaza based Hamas has a duty, as do all people of good will, to demand that Lebanon’s sectarian political bosses permit Palestinian refugees the right to work and thus to earn a living for their families. Fortunately, given recent events, Hamas now has a unique, even historic opportunity to achieve for their sisters and brothers elementary civil rights.

Hamas is currently in high demand from various interests and has an excellent opportunity to demand a human rights consideration of Iran, Hezbollah, Fatah, and Syria. One phone call from Tehran or Damascus to Hezbollah’s security zone in south Beirut can, after three decades of excuses, grant Palestinian refugees in Lebanon the most elementary civil rights enjoyed by every refugee on earth-even in occupied Palestine-but not in Lebanon.

Overdue Reconciliation

The concept may appear deceptively simplistic. But this observer who has had the opportunity to work on this fundamental human rights issue the past several years with the Beirut-Washington DC based Palestine Civil Rights Campaign (PCRC) is optimistic it may well be achieved via the following steps briefly discussed below.

For seven decades since the 1948 Nakba, the anti-Palestinian prejudices of a majority of Lebanon’s decision makers have blocked these rights in violation of numerous principles, standards, and rules of international humanitarian law. This has led to the damage of Lebanon’s economy, social fabric and loss of self and international respect. Some Palestinian leaders in Lebanon and regionally have also failed their people in Lebanon among other ways by refusing pleas from Lebanon’s 12 refugee camps to wage a street-based civil rights struggle to achieve elementary civil rights. Rights that even the occupiers of Palestine grant to those they continue to dominate.

Hamas and Iran Reconciliation as part of the Hamas-Fatah deal?

Sunni Hamas is willing to improve its relations with Shia Iran after a diplomatic gridlock caused by the Syrian crisis resulted in Iran cutting off aid to Hamas in 2012 with the exception of its 45,000 military wings, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades. Iran wants the al-Qassam Brigades, also known as the Hamas ‘Foreign Legion” to join its own 100,000 plus Shia Popular Mobilization Brigades (PMU which comprise a significant part of Iran’s own two-year-old regional “Foreign Legion.” Tehran promises to someday liberate Palestine but today wants Hamas to assist with other regional projects including more than one in the Gulf. Also in Tehran’s geopolitical sites is having Hamas’ use its future increased power in the PLO to marginalize Fatah and dominate the PLO. Suggesting among other things that Sunni and Shia can cooperate when it’s in their mutual interests and their religious differences are not manipulated for political purposes.

Hamas spokesperson Badran told the media last week that its relationship with Iran has a long history and, in fact, Hamas never cut ties with Iran. “It is true that for a while, we have seen some cooling in ties amid the situation in Syria, but we have no disagreements on the Palestinian question. Iran has always supported us and for the last two years we have been working on restoring our relations. We decided in Palestine that we would continue to strengthen our relations with Iran.” For us, it is important.” With respect to Hamas spokesman Husam Badran’s comment last week that Hamas and Iran have no disagreements on the Palestinian Question he does not accurately represent the majority of Hamas members who according to a recent poll very much consider the achievement of the right to work and home ownership in Lebanon to be a pillar of the “Palestinian Question.” Meanwhile, Palestinians are appealing to Hamas that Iran needs to support giving Palestinians in Lebanon, where Iran has major control, elementary civil rights.
Palestinians in Lebanon can benefit from a Hamas deal with Iran

Iran’s commitment to the right to work for Palestinians in Lebanon waiting for the first opportunity to return to their country is overdue. The fact is that for more than three decades Iran has not acted on this elementary civil rights issue but rather has reportedly instructed Hezbollah to offer only “Resistance” words but nothing more substantive. Hezbollah has complied. From time to time Hezbollah does admit during ‘privileged conversations’ that Palestinian civil rights in Lebanon is not part of its political agenda. One reason is sectarian leverage but equally is instruction from Tehran based on the “Iran Model” for this region. One aspect of which is that Lebanon must remain broken and barring Sunni Palestinians in Lebanon from their civil rights helps advance Iranian interests and influence. Despite annual Al Quds and Ashoura Day rhetoric to the contrary notwithstanding.

Hezbollah, as well as Lebanon’s other sects, is well aware that it would require only 90 minutes of Lebanon’s Parliament time to enact the most elementary civil rights to work and home ownership that virtually every refugee on earth is granted by international humanitarian law. Except for Lebanon which is the sole UN member state out of 193 that has ignored its international obligations and also its multiple agreements with Washington when it accepts American aid. US law, including the 1960 Foreign Assistance Act and the 1976 US Arms Export Act require that Lebanon grant refugees their elementary civil rights without exception. These in addition to other US laws applicable to Lebanon’s receipt of foreign assistance require that Lebanon’s government implement these laws. Lebanon continues to flagrantly ignore these humanitarian requirements.

Hamas also patiently continues to negotiate with Iran which as noted below wants to restore full relations with Hamas for several reasons. Not least of which is Iran’s continuing loss of support among the Shia of Lebanon and more so among the Shia of Iraq. Iran apparently calculates that it needs Sunni Hamas to partially make up its perceived continuing shortfall in Shia manpower and support.

Hamas can offer Tehran during reconciliation talks an historic condition precedent to the restoration of full relations with Tehran. Hamas should request of Iran that that Hezbollah use its political power in Lebanon’s Parliament to quickly enact the elementary civil rights to work and home ownership. Hamas should propose a 6-month window to achieve this. Failure would severely jeopardize the coveted Hamas-Iran deal and would doubtless increase the growing animosity that Hezbollah is struggling with from a growing number of Palestinians and their supporter’s globally. Many realize that while playing the Palestinian card and talking the talk, Hezbollah to date Hezbollah has been one of the two main barriers to Palestinians refugees in Lebanon being able to achieve civil rights. Partially dictated from Iran in order to maintain its regional power template because there is fear that if a large number of Sunni’s, (read Palestinians) can enter the job market they will benefit not just economically but also politically.
Reconciliation doubts remain

This observer is not very optimistic that full ‘reconciliation’ will actually happen yet despite the recent public statements from Fatah and Hamas and Egypt’s committed mediation of the project. But that does not rule out Hamas employing the current political opportunities that this process offers for gaining Palestinians in Lebanon their three-quarter century overdue elementary civil rights in Lebanon.

The reasons for skepticism about a real Hamas-Fatah deal include more fundamental problems than those briefly noted above. Hamas’ perhaps too quick move back to the idea of reconciliation was a major reversal for Hamas and was partly dictated by the group’s fears of potential financial collapse and political marginalization following its main donor Qatar being hit with a diplomatic crisis from formerly key allies.

The Fatah-Hamas Palestinian conflict cannot accurately be reduced to being just a “power struggle,” because while it is one significant aspect of the problem there are more major barriers.

The essence of the Hamah-Fatah Palestinian conflict is that each party has different fundamentals and references, national program, priorities, concepts for the management of Palestine’s national framework and for a decade have not be able even to agree on something so vital and fundamental as a National Charter. All compounded by self-serving external forces including Israeli, Arab, regional, and international actors seeking their own benefits.

Nor have the parties ever been able to agree on essential fundaments or even on a definition of Palestine. Fatah, gave up approximately 80% of historic Palestine at Oslo, recognized the legitimacy of Israel and will accept a two-state solution. But Hamas and Jihad leaders refuse to relinquish any part of Palestine and refuse to recognize Israel.
Under the terms of the Oslo Accords Fatah agreed to major obligations concerning the “peace process”, among them being non-recourse to armed resistance, renunciation of violence, and the establishment of a Palestinian Authority (PA), which turned out to be under the hegemony of the Israeli occupation while being subsumed politically, economically and security-wise under Israeli-Western conditions powered by Washington.

As Dr. Mohsen Mohammad Saleh of Beirut’s Zaytouna Centre has written recently, that following Oslo, Fatah had hoped that it would convert this autonomous PA administration to a fully sovereign Palestinian state in just a few years. However, after 24 years, they have found out that they have been managing an authority that serves the purposes of the occupation more than the aspirations of the Palestinian people.”

Hamas will not accept Fatah’s stance and plans that PLO leadership, executive work, security forces, and political relations are the sole responsibility of Fatah, while Hamas’ pursuit of resistance will mean a breach of Fatah-led authority’s commitments, and an obstacle to Fatah’s national political process that is committed to a two-state solution. Consequently Fatah will surely work to dismantle and destroy Hamas’ resistance arguing for a monopoly of power, employing “one authority, one decision maker, one security.

Will Iran cooperate with Hamas in gaining civil rights for Palestinians in Lebanon?

Hamas spokesperson Badran told the media last week, “Our relationship with Iran has a long history and, in fact, we have never cut ties with Iran. It is true that for a while, we have seen some cooling in ties amid the situation in Syria, but we have no disagreements on the Palestinian question. Iran has always supported us and for the last two years we have been working on restoring our relations. We decided in Palestine that we would continue to strengthen our relations with Iran. For us, it is important.” Meanwhile, Palestinians are appealing to Hamas that Iran needs to support the Palestinians in Lebanon with the elementary civil right to work and home ownership in Lebanon where Iran has major political control.

With respect to Hamas spokesman Husam Badran’s comment last week that Hamas and Iran have no disagreements on the Palestinian Question he does not accurately represent the majority of Hamas members who according to a recent poll very much consider the achievement of the right to work and home ownership in Lebanon to be a pillar of the Palestinian Question. The fact is that for more than three decades Iran has not acted on this elementary civil rights issue but rather has instructed Hezbollah to offer only “Resistance” words but nothing more which it has done. From time to time Hezbollah does admit during ‘privileged conversations’ that Palestinian civil rights in Lebanon is not part of its political agenda. One reason is sectarian leverage but equally is Hezbollah’s instructions from Tehran based on the “Tehran Model” for this region. One aspect of which is that Lebanon must remain broken and barring Sunni Palestinians in Lebanon from their civil rights helps advance Iranian interests and influence. Despite typical Al Quds and Ashoura Day rhetoric to the contrary notwithstanding.

Hezbollah, as well as Lebanon’s other sects is well aware that it would require only 90 minutes of Lebanon’s Parliament time to enact the most elementary civil rights to work and home ownership that virtually every refugee on earth is granted by international humanitarian law. Except for Lebanon which is the sole UN member state out of 193 that has ignored its international obligations and also its multiple agreements with Washington when it accepts American aid. US law, including the 1960 Foreign Assistance Act and the 1976 US Arms Export Act require that Lebanon grant refugees their elementary civil rights without exception. These in addition to other US laws applicable to Lebanon’s receipt of foreign assistance require that Lebanon’s government implement these laws. Lebanon continues to flagrantly ignore these humanitarian requirements.

Looking toward a decidedly unpredictable intermediate period in the Levant geopolitically/strategically, Hamas could achieve something seismic for her people that would impact the future of the region and would advance their Full Return to Palestine. Much of the local Palestinian leadership has failed badly to advance civil rights for Palestinian refugees in Lebanon and must stand aside for the new generation of younger, bright, energetic, open-minded Palestinian camp dwellers in Lebanon to better their lives. The only thing holding them back is being barred for purely political reasons from the most elementary civil rights to work and home ownership outside the squalid 12 camps.

If Hamas takes a leading role and applies its political acumen in negotiating with those who can arrange 90 minutes of Lebanon’s Parliaments’ time to enact Palestinian civil rights, it will achieve historic and much needed opportunity for Lebanon’s Palestinians and usher in a shortened timetable for Full Return to Palestine.

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Franklin Lamb volunteers with the Lebanon, France, and USA based Meals for Syrian Refugee Children Lebanon (MSRCL) which seeks to provide hot nutritional meals to Syrian and other refugee children in Lebanon. http://mealsforsyrianrefugeechildrenlebanon.com. He is reachable c/o fplamb@gmail.com.

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