Abu Marzouk, a key figure of the Hamas politburo, had never spoken with a representa­tive of a Jewish publication before he responded positively in April to a request for an interview by the left-leaning American Jewish daily the Forward.

For the five-and a-half-hour interview, conducted in English over a period of two days, Cohler-Esses traveled to a suburb of Cairo, where Marzouk has made his home since Hamas vacated its Damascus headquarters. There were no preconditions set on the interview, and a well-prepared Cohler-Esses asked hard-hitting questions. In the end, the Forward, in an editorial, expressed serious doubts about Hamas readiness to be “a partner for peace.”

With this said, however, there is one major point made by Marzouk that requires a closer examination:

Hamas, he said, would not agree to a final peace treaty with Israel. “When we reach the agreement, our point of view is, it’s a hudna. Let’s establish a relationship between the two states in the historic Palestinian land as a hudna between both sides.

“It’s better than war and better than the continuous resistance against the occupation. And better than Israel occupying the West Bank and Gaza, making all these difficulties and problems on both sides.”

What he’s talking about, then, is an Israeli withdrawal to the ’67 lines that culminates, from Hamas’s perspective, not in a final peace treaty, but with a hudna.

Hudna is routinely translated as “truce.” Thus the casual Western reader might conclude from Marzouk’s words that Hamas is tired of fighting, weary of launching terrorist attacks, and might be on its way to evolving a more peaceful stance. Perhaps in time, it could be reasoned, a temporary truce negotiated by Hamas might even become permanent.

Such a conclusion, however, would reflect a very serious and dangerous misreading of the situation. For a hudna is not a “truce” in the Western sense of that word. As Dr. Denis MacEoin, writing in the Middle East Quarterly has observed, there are more than seven other Arabic words for truce or cease-fire in Arabic. A better understanding of the full cultural baggage attached to hudna is necessary in order to grasp what Marzouk has really said:

A hudna is always temporary, and not for a duration of more than ten years. As a concept, it does not carry within it the potential to develop into a full peace. Rather, it is arrived at during times of Muslim weakness, when it is perceived as desirable to seek a respite from open hostilities.

Historically hudna is associated with the Truce of al-Hudaybiyya in the seventh century. Muhammad and his followers had abandoned Mecca to non-Muslims because they did not have sufficient strength to hold it. At Hudaybiyya, a truce was negotiated that was to permit the Muslims to return unarmed to Mecca annually for the next ten years for purposes of religious pilgrimage. Two years later, however, using an infraction of the agreement as a pretext, Muhammad and his followers, who then had sufficient strength, moved in and took Mecca; its residents, believing they had a truce with Muhammad, were unprepared to do battle.

This is the model: When weak, strike a temporary truce, utilize the time to regroup and garner additional strength, and then move in.

Once this is understood, then a hudna with Hamas must be viewed as tactically a negative for Israeli defense. When there is no hudna in force, Israel is able to act for security purposes, hitting a rocket launching site there, a tunnel from which arms are smuggled there.

But if there is a temporary truce in force, in Muslim terms, Israel is expected to refrain from all hostilities. At the same time, Hamas, while temporarily refraining from hostilities as well, will have no compunction about building its arsenal and training its troops. Thus will it garner strength towards the day of its choosing when, most certainly, it will break that truce and hit Israel.

American-Israeli Arlene Kushner, author, journalist and blogger, has written extensively about Israel security issues. She serves as a consultant to the Center for Near East Policy Research; her work can be seen at .

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When I left the U.S. in 2001, and came to Israel as an olah (a new immigrant) I was eager to share personal impressions and solid information about the situation here. Thus was my listserve born. This list has grown, and its content and style have been refined. Now I do several postings a week, offering both reliable data and analysis.

Shortly after initiating my listserve, I began to work professionally as an investigative journalist for the Center for Near East Policy Research. Today I serve the Center in a consultant capacity. I work, as well, as a freelance writer.

New Jersey born and bred and a resident of Maryland for several years, I have been living in Jerusalem since shortly after my arrival in Israel.

If there has been a constant in my work over time, it has been my writing, but in many ways my background has been eclectic.

My bachelors degree is in psychology and my masters in counseling and human services.  I took up the cause of the Jews of Ethiopia in the 80s and early 90s, via the American Association for Ethiopian Jews; I worked in the field with people newly arrived in Israel, and assisted with relief and rescue efforts from the States.

I then turned to designing softskills software -- training in the computer on diversity, stress reduction and using your whole brain effectively -- and producing Jewish educational software and hard copy materials.  Simultaneously, I conducted live workshops on stress reduction, Jewish identity and more.

For a period of time, I worked with a top non-governmental anti-terrorist in the US.  This led, fairly directly, to my investigative journalism.

My articles have appeared in such venues as Azure MagazineThe Jerusalem Post,, American Thinker, Arutz Sheva, YNet, National Review Online, The (Philadelphia) Jewish Exponent,  MidstreamPresent TenseThe New York TimesBaltimore Jewish TimesOutlookAmitThe Evening Bulletin (Philadelphia), and The Aish website.

I have produced several major reports on UNRWA for the Center for Near East Policy Research, as well reports on the true nature of Fatah, the dangers of funding PA security forces, the Israeli NGO Adalah, and more.

I have written three books: Disclosed: Inside the Palestinian Authority and the PLO in 2004, and Falasha No More (for children) andTreacherous Journey: One Man's Escape from Ethiopia, both in 1985.

I have done interviews with BBC online,, Voice of America, IBA English News (Israeli TV), and IsraelNationalNewsTV.

I am on the Board of Advisors of EMET, a Washington based organization dedicated to providing policy makers in the US with accurate information.


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