As U.S. Secretary of State Powell winds up his Mideast trip, Palestinian leaders appear on the verge of announcing a hudna.
The Associated Press declared that "the success of peacemaking may well hang on a legal concept dating to the birth of Islam: a hudna, or a truce of a fixed duration."
The New York Times added Monday that a hudna would constitute "a major breakthrough... out of 33 months of violence."
Would a hudna with Hamas really mark "the success of peacemaking," a "major breakthrough" toward a nonviolent future?
The answer lies in the historical meaning of the Muslim expression, Hamas' track record, and the terms of the road map itself.
Hudna has a distinct meaning to Islamic fundamentalists, well-versed in their history: The prophet Mohammad struck a legendary, ten-year hudna with the Quraysh tribe that controlled Mecca in the seventh century. Over the following two years, Mohammad rearmed and took advantage of a minor Quraysh infraction to break the hudna and launch the full conquest of Mecca, the holiest city in Islam.
When Yassir Arafat infamously invoked Mohammad's hudna in 1994 to describe his own Oslo commitments "on the road to Jerusalem," the implication was clear. As Mideast expert Daniel Pipes explained, Arafat was asserting to his Islamic brethren that he will, "when his circumstances change for the better, take advantage of some technicality to tear up existing accords and launch a military assault on Israel." Indeed, this is precisely what occurred in Sept. 2000 when Arafat & Co. launched a terror assault upon Israeli citizens.
As for Hamas, they have proven time and again their commitment to a tactical hudna — replenishing their strength during the quiet periods, then returning with increased deadliness. As recently documented by The Washington Institute, Hamas agreed to no less than ten ceasefires in the past ten years, and after every single one returned freshly armed for terror. Hundreds of Israeli citizens have paid for these hudnas with their lives.
Israeli leadership is convinced, therefore, that yet another hudna would jeopardize three years of painstaking IDF anti-terror work that has left Hamas and Islamic Jihad reeling. As IDF Major-General Amos Gilad said on Monday, "For us as a nation, it is forbidden to interest ourselves in this hudna, which is a threat to any kind of peace." Echoing Gilad's words is the road map itself, which calls for the PA to "arrest, disrupt, and restrain" terror leaders — not granting an opportunity for replenishing their strength.
Colin Powell reinforced this on Friday when labeling Hamas "an enemy of peace" and stating: "I am anxious to speak to Prime Minister Abbas about efforts they are making to bring violence under control, to end violence, not just through the means of having a cease-fire, but going beyond that ... to end violence and the capacity for violence."
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Given the religious, historical and diplomatic facts regarding the actual meaning of hudna, it is disturbing to see the media nearly everywhere translate the term to English as "truce":
-- Fox News: "Palestinians Say Hamas Discussing Truce"
-- Hartford Courant: "Hamas Considers a Pragmatic Truce"
-- Anchorage Daily News: "Palestinian Officials See Hamas Truce On Horizon"
To a Western audience, "truce" suggests a Hamas commitment to peaceful resolution. This is, as we've seen, simply not the meaning of hudna.
Yet on Monday's major wires, Reuters casts Israel as the villain for rejecting a hudna: "Israel Pours Scorn on Truce With Militants."
Associated Press falsely presents the hudna as a fulfillment of the road map's demand to uproot terror:
"A truce is crucial for implementing a U.S.-backed peace plan, the 'road map' to Palestinian statehood by 2005. In the first stage, the Palestinians must dismantle militant groups, while Israel must gradually withdraw to positions held before the outbreak of fighting 33 months ago."
The road map to peace — and the memory of scores of terror victims — demand much more than hudna. HonestReporting encourages members to monitor their local media for accurate description of the term hudna, in its religious, historical and modern contexts.