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Reflecting on Hamas and the Prospects for Mid-East Peace

URI Executive Director Charles Gibbs offers his reflections on the recent victory of Hamas in Palestinian Parliament elections—beginning with despair and ending in hope.

By Rev. Canon Charles Gibbs

My Dear Friends,

Greetings of love and peace.

Like people all over the world, and especially our sisters and brothers in the Middle East, I have followed the Palestinian election with intense interest and great hope that the results would lead toward a secure, just and prosperous peace for the Palestinian and Israeli people.

Both people have suffered far too long. Both people, if we believe the results of public opinion polls over the past several years, yearn for peace and are prepared to see their governments reach a peace accord.

So what do I make of the emerging results this election that would remove the Fatah party from power and replace it with Hamas?

To be honest with you, I don't know.

I would like to continue hoping for the best. Hamas has won an obviously strong following among the Palestinians. Some attribute this following to Hamas' success in providing social services for the people; others say it is a reaction to Fatah's corruption and ineffectuality. Both of these motivations to support Hamas seem positive.

And yet it is easy to be seized by despair. Hamas continues to avow the destruction of Israel, not a starting point for peace. And there are concerns that they may attempt to create a Palestinian society governed by an extreme, conservative practice of Islam. Many in the international community, including in the Israeli government, want nothing to do with Hamas.

The months that lie ahead will reveal much about both the near and long term prospects for peace in the Middle East. I pray those prospects grow better and better as the days and weeks pass.

I pray that Hamas will disavow its stated commitment to destroy Israel and cease from all violence against innocent civilians.

I pray they will build on their successes providing a better life for the Palestinian people, that they will eliminate corruption from the government and commit to an open society where people are free to practice their religion as they see fit.

I pray that Israel's leaders find a constructive way to engage the new Palestinian government, a path that leads away from unilateralism and violence, forging a true partnership to establish a just and sustainable peace.

I pray that leaders and people of the other nations of the world will do all in their power to help create the necessary conditions for such a peace.

It is said that as Benjamin Franklin watched the often tumultuous deliberations of the Constitutional Convention that would determine the future of the United States, he was alternately filled with despair and hope. He found himself looking at the chair sat in by George Washington, who presided at the convention. On its back was a half-sun, either rising or setting. During those deliberations, Franklin often wondered if the sun and the convention were setting into the darkness of division, or rising on a new day of a shared, positive destiny.

By the end of the convention, he determined that the sun was, indeed, rising.

So, today, as we watch the events unfolding in the Middle East, it is easy to wonder if the sun is setting into the darkness of deeper violence and division, or rising on a new day where violence ceases, old enmities are healed and the Israeli and Palestinian governments and people move forward together in peace.

For my part, I will pray that the sun is rising.



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