Debate on Hamas and terrorism

The Conflicts Forum held a debate about a week ago on "an elected Hamas is still a terrorist organization" in which, among others, Stephen Cook, Dan Ayalon, Mark Perry and Stanley Cohen participated. The point being debated is rather badly phrased -- it's obvious that Hamas has used terrorism as a tactic in its struggle for the liberation of Palestine -- but the debate is lively and stimulating. It's really a debate about one (really meaning the US or "international community" in this context) should embrace Hamas as a potential partner for peace rather than ostracize them. Since there are plenty of occasions where political groups that use terror tactics have been integrated politically (from the Zionist terrorist groups of the 1940s to the IRA to the PLO) that question should be moot. The really bigger question, it seems to me, is whether some partners on both sides are interested in peace at all. I don't think that in Israel either Likud, Kadima, or a good part of Labor is really interested -- hence the failure of Oslo and the continual race to expand West Bank settlements under various governments since the mid-1990s. On the Palestinian side Hamas has not resolved some of its ambivalence, although it is certainly seems more willing to consider a fair two-state settlement than a group like Islamic Jihad. Both sides have used, on purpose and with the intent to terrorize, unthinkable violence against civilians. But the Palestinians have done so largely out of self-defense against a foreign occupier while the Israelis have done so mostly to perpetuate an occupation internationally recognized as illegal and to crush a liberation movement.

Correction: The debate was not hosted by the Conflicts Forum but rather by Intelligence Squared, which also chose the phrasing of the question.