A TRUCE BY ANY OTHER NAME: HUDNA & TAHADIYAH
By Micah Halpern
Monday January 26, 2009
Israel is proposing an eighteen month truce with Hamas. Hamas is asking for a twelve month period of quiet with Israel. So what's it gonna be?
It's gonna be a serious problem. As the prison guard in the movie Cool Hand Luke so eloquently put it: "What we have here is a failure to communicate." What we have in this particular case is failure to communicate on two levels.
Level one deals exclusively with Hamas. Truce, cease fire, deal - these notions are all anathema in Hamas' understanding of Islam.
In Arabic culture conflict can be resolved in only two ways. One way is Hudna. Hudna has a deep historical and theological history. The second way is Tahadiyah. In contrast, Tahadiyah has no theology and absolutely no history outside of modern, contemporary events.
Both terms have been bantered about, both have been mistranslated. Neither Hudna nor Tahadiyah means what politicians in Washington DC, the United Nations and European capitals think they mean.
Hudna is a concept best described as a tactical response to being out numbered and out armed. As opposed to admitting to losing in conflict, Hudna is a move that permits the fighting to be halted in order to be continued on another day. One strikes a Hudna in order to regroup, rearm and then, most importantly, to attack and vanquish the party that you struck a treaty with. Hudna has a built in time limit of 10 years, but it may be renewed. It is far from anything we would consider to be a truce.
As a classic form of Islamic diplomacy Hudna was first introduced by the prophet Mohammed when, according to the Koran in the 48th Sura known as "The Victory," Mohammed engages in an agreement with the tribe of Quraysh.
The story begins in Medina. Mohammed takes 1500 men and marches on Mecca, his native city. He is confronted by an army that is far superior to his own from the tribe of Quraysh at a place called Hudaiybiyah. It is at Hudaibiyah that the two parties agree on a ten year pact. But two years later, after building a bigger and better army Mohammed breaks the treaty, attacks and enters Mecca victorious.
As the ten year pact or treaty was being negotiated, Mohammed's advisers, principally his general Umar ibn al Khatib, rejected the idea. The advisers called entering into a pact with the knowing intention of reneging on your word dishonorable. But the Prophet made it very clear that this was the way to proceed and so it was done.
As an interesting aside, the Sura aka "The Victory" in Arabic is called Al Fath. It was no accident that the first Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, chose to name his organization Al Fatah after that very same Sura in the Koran.
Tahadiyah has much less history. It is not a theological term, it is not in the Koran and there is no link to any decision or stratagem of Mohammed.
As a modern Arabic term Tahadiyah simply means calm or lull. It is a very problematic term and it is the term that Hamas is using now in talking about the cessation of hostilities with Israel. Tahadiyah does not mean cease fire. A lull implies a reduction, not a stoppage, of aggression. The concept of Tahadiyah implies that there is plenty of wiggle room. Tahadiyah is not quiet nor is it a commitment to enforce a quiet. Quite to the contrary a Tahadiyah actually allows for attacks and a gradual increase of pressure and a change in the status quo over time. It is a very ambiguous and amorphous term that translates into a very ambiguous and amorphous status on the ground.
Tahadiyah is a diplomatic Pandora's Box. Hudna is diplomatic double talk. It really makes no difference if the world-at-large believes that Israel and Hamas have a year long truce or an eighteen month long truce. In the end, the hostilities will resume when Hamas is ready for the hostilities to resume. And then, Israel had better be ready.
Read my new book THUGS. It's easy. Just click.