What is the truce (hudna) that Hamas offers?

  January 30, 2022   Read time 2 min
What is the truce (hudna) that Hamas offers?
Hamas’s defiance of both continuous Israeli attacks and mounting international criticism against its suicide operations has been accompanied by the offer of a hudna – the religious Islamic concept of the classical notion of a truce, though with certain differences – with the aim of easing pressure.

The hudna is a rather flexible traditional Islamic war practice which was first used by the Prophet Muhammad in the famous Hodaibiya hudna, when in 628 AD he concluded with his enemies a ten-year truce, during which people of the two parties were to live in peace. Later in Islamic history hudna were used by different rulers to achieve different goals, hence the flexibility and broad meaning of the concept. The debate remains open among Muslim scholars whether the hudna concept is merely a tactical ceasefire or a more sophisticated practice which lays the groundwork for non-violent solutions.

Bound by its religious roots, Hamas has felt the need to justify its adoption of any controversial policy on Islamic religious grounds. Hamas’s offer of a truce would seem to contradict its leading principle of Jihad – military struggle – against Israel. Similarly, refraining from military struggle was the approach that was officially adopted by the PLO and the Palestinian Authority and which ended in peace negotiations with Israel which were, in turn, strongly opposed by Hamas. To yield to a ceasefire Hamas would be seen to be simply following in the footsteps of its rivals, risking the loss of its distinctiveness.

Thus, by offering the hudna Hamas has been very keen to distinguish this concept from the practice of the PLO and the Palestinian Authority, which has always been described by Hamas as capitulation. There are two main distinctions that Hamas draws between a ceasefire and a hudna. The first is that a hudna is only an agreement on halting hostilities, not a peace treaty which could comprise concessions, and the second is that a ceasefire has lately come to imply an openended agreement whereas the hudna is limited by a period of time that is agreed between the belligerent parties. If the PLO and the Palestinian Authority are ready to abandon armed struggle and promote a lasting ceasefire, Hamas is not ready to do the same. The furthest that it could do, the hudna argument runs, is to agree on ten or 20 years of ceasefire without compromising on Palestinian rights. The hudna would calm down the situation, end violence and save the blood of civilians. The question, of course, is what would happen after the hudna? Hamas’s answer is that the next step would depend on the acceptable behaviour of Israel and its intentions: the hudna could be renewed or ended.
On several separate occasions, Hamas has offered a hudna to Israel. The late Sheikh Ahmad Yasin was the first to suggest the idea back in 1993. Since then Hamas figures have repeated the offer, sometimes changing the period of time that it included (ten, 20 or even 30 years). Israel has always ridiculed the offer, yet some Israeli politicians conceive it to represent a pragmatic element in Hamas that should be encouraged. When Hamas came to power and controlled the Palestinian Authority in January 2006, it renewed its offer of a hudna to Israel for from ten to 20 years.

Write your comment