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The argument that the closure is putting pressure on Hamas to either change its ways—renounce violence and recognize Israel — or force people to make room for an alternative are misguided. It is true that many Palestinians are increasingly frustrated with Hamas’ rule of the strip, however, it is doubtful whether this is anywhere near a critical mass. Beyond the existence of large powerbase of devotees, the lack of a credible enough alternative to Hamas as well as its own physical control over the territory and its people, preclude the possibility of change.
In fact, the toppling of Hamas — only conceivable with external support — would unleash the more uncompromising organizations that Hamas is already struggling to suppress.
As it has been said many times before, the Islamic movement is not going to disappear into thin air and there is no possible solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict without it. The dialogue by the US and the EU in Egypt with its intellectual progenitor, the Muslim Brotherhood, in fact provides a model to follow and for Hamas in particular to behave as a political party rather than a militia.
The Brotherhood was once seen as an extremist and violent group, to be suppressed not talked to. Whatever one’s views of Morsi, his brief rule demonstrated that the Brotherhood’s rhetoric did not prevent it from continuing the alliance with the U.S. or taking any steps to undermine the Camp David peace pact with Israel. Hamas need not be any different.
Before such a historic dialogue is launched, the siege of Gaza, must be lifted. The punishment of more than 1.6 million Palestinians cannot be an end in itself. It must be stopped now, in the name of all of our shared humanity.
But what chance is there of that happening when the evocative images the world gets of Gaza is of teens getting married, a story which tells us nothing about their wretched lives and what brought them there? It only serves to further dehumanize Gaza residents and as such stops all of us from searching for ways to attenuate extraordinary suffering — and seek a shared path forward for Palestinians, Israelis and the world.
Jose Vericat is a PhD candidate at Oxford University who has lived and work in the Middle East for more than a decade, as a reporter and a spokesperson for two EU security sector reform missions in the Palestinian territories.