Truly a “Hudna Civic”?

Yedioth Aharonot (June 19, 2003)(p. 2) by Sever Plotzker — The hudna means a temporary cessation of hostile actions among Moslem communities and/or between them and the outside world. The hudna has the compelling validity of a word of honor and a religious oath. In an Islamic tradition that has lasted for centuries, there are not many known cases of a unilateral violation of a “hudna”.

When the idea of the “hudna” was first raised by non-governmental elements in Israel, its objective was clear: To mobilize and encourage Palestinian civil society to act towards a prolonged and complete cessation of terror attacks against Israel. In conjunction, Israel was supposed to undertake a commitment to refrain from initiating targeted killings. During the period of the hudna, so hoped the initiators of the idea, the representatives of Israel and PA would sit down at the negotiating table and try to resolve their differences without the use of arms. The hudna was presented as the opposite of the Intifada: A dialogue between statesmen and civilians, rather than a discourse of terrorists and soldiers.

But such a civil hudna, this “hudna civic,” was not implemented.

Instead, the idea became something else: A dialogue between two extremist Islamic terror organizations on one hand (Hamas and Islamic Jihad), and the PA on the other. An absurd situation was thereby created in which the Palestinian Authority represents the Israeli government versus the leaders of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, while they-satisfied with their new exalted position-are once again reluctant to cease the terror attacks. They are bargaining and accepting with reserved approval the Palestinian Authority’s willingness to make them part of the national leadership,meaning the Palestinian leadership, an honor that was granted only to the al-Qaida terror organization in the Afghan Taliban administration. Until the Americans destroyed it.

The Israeli government, headed by Ariel Sharon, therefore finds itself in negotiations, indirect but clear to all, with terror organizations that in other countries, including Arab and Moslem countries, have been outlawed and pursued relentlessly. Had the gentlemen from Hamas operated in neighboring Egypt, for example, their bodies would have long ago been disposed of in a mass grave in a desert hideaway.

If our government believes that our national interest requires initiating a dialogue with Hamas, the decision on this should be clear, and considered versus Israeli public opinion and taking into account its implications for the global war on terror. But there is no point in hiding behind a “hudna” that is currently being concocted in Gaza, Ramallah and Cairo. This false “hudna” does not include a renunciation of violence, recognition of the other side’s rights and a return to civilian dialogue, but rather constitutes giving a prize and legitimacy to organizations whose sole reason for existence is murderous violence against civilians.

And what could the practical result be of a non-belligerence arrangement between the Palestinian Authority and the Islamic terror organizations? Like the result of any non-belligerence arrangement between murders and clerks: In time, the number of clerks drops and the number of murderers rises.

The Pitfall of the Hudna

Yedioth Aharonot (June 19,2003) (p. B5) by Guy Bechor (op-ed) — It is doubtful whether assent will be achieved between the different Palestinian factions for a temporary cease-fire with Israel. First of all, this is because they are talking about Israel and the terror attacks, but are referring to themselves,to the question as to who among them has grown stronger and who has become weaker as a result of two and a half years of a heightened violent effort.

Israeli society yearns for a cease-fire with the Palestinians, and therefore the talk about a hudna has fallen on attentive ears on our side. However, this initiative might actually lead Israel into a number of traps that it will find it difficult to extricate itself from.

The concept of the “hudna”, which was actually introduced into the Israeli-Arab discourse by Israelis, is drawn from the ancient warfare rules of the jihad, the Moslem war against the infidels. Its main thrust consists of a cease-fire, at the order of the imam, until the strength is renewed for continuing the battle. The aforesaid rules are all-encompassing and based on a passionate faith in the supremacy of the Moslems. Therefore, any recognition of a “hudna” by Israel would not only be confirmation of its being inferior and heretical, but also an acceptance of an Islamic vocabulary of eternal religious wars in which only its temporary existence can be tolerated. Moreover, an Israeli assent to a “hudna” is also, by definition, an assent to a date for the Hamas to renew its fire and to the justification of this renewal. Would it not be preferable to remain in the national-modern world of concepts, which refers to borders, peace accords and agreements between people that are not subject to Koranic injunctions?

At the same time, the adoption of the Islamic term could stimulate a return of Arab leaders to an absolute perception of Moslems against all the rest of the Christians or Jews. The Egyptian lesson teaches us that those who make frequent use of Islamic terminology, for any purpose, ultimately find that their society becomes an Islamic society.

Furthermore, the meaning of a “hudna” with Hamas is that not only is the PA speaking to it as an equal, but so are Egypt and other Arab countries, and indirectly Israel as well. This will make Hamas the key Palestinian speaker. Its leaders are those who will determine whether the flames will drop, what the dimensions of the hudna will be and when it will be violated.

Finally, there is concern that Israel could enter into a new-old pitfall. The understandings of Operation Accountability and Operation Grapes of Wrath in Lebanon turned IDF soldiers into ducks on a shooting range. In these understandings, Israel committed itself not to harm Lebanese civilians, while Hizbullah committed itself not to fire Katyusha rockets at Israel, whereas nothing was said about attacking our soldiers.

This time, Hamas is committing itself not to carry out terror attacks in Israel, while Israel is supposed to commit itself not to kill the organization’s activists, but nothing is being said about settlers and IDF soldiers in the territories. It is true that Israel is insisting on eliminating “ticking bombs,” but world pressure on Israel will portray it as breaking the cease-fire with each such targeted killing.

Israel must remember and remind others of the original road map, which seems to have been forgotten. This road map does not mention a “hudna”, a truce or mutual kisses between the different Palestinian factions. If the Palestinian Authority wishes to have international achievements, it must do what it has never done before: Dismantle the opposition organizations, put a halt to incitement, prevent violence and create a new Palestinian climate. This is one of the lessons that the Intifada of the Palestinians themselves has taught us.