Friday, January 27, 2006

The Meaning of the Hamas Victory

An excellent analysis from Ami Isseroff of MidEast Web

All indications are that the "militant" Hamas movement has swept the Palestinian elections, winning a majority in the Palestine Legislative Council (PLC) and putting themselves in position to form the next government. The current PNA government has resigned. Mahmoud Abbas will remain President, at least for now. The upset was feared, but not expected. The conventional wisdom was that Hamas would gain influence in the government, but would not control it. Pre-Election polls and exit surveys generally showed a slight advantage for Fatah, and indicated that neither side could govern without a coalition. Until a few hours ago, everyone was breathing sighs of relief. Not any more. The current results seem to give Hamas a solid majority. They could form a government without the Fatah. I didn't see that one coming, and I bet nobody else did either.


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Yesterday, Wednesday, January 25, was without a doubt a great day for Palestinian democracy. Elections were fairly orderly and relatively fair. One person was killed in a Fatah election-related feud on the day before the election. The Hamas used mosques to get out the vote, the Fatah urged PNA employees to vote for them, but the elections were reasonably fair. The results may be a disaster for peace and for the Palestinian people.

To understand the potential gravity of the event, we need only examine the Hamas record of suicide bombings, and their charter and the Hamas history.

Calling the Hamas "militant" is more than an understatement. It is like saying Stalin was an "outspoken activist." Hamas began about 1985 as a seemingly innocuous charity and religious group that even got the support of the Israeli government. However, when the first Intifada started, Hamas turned militant. They drew up their charter, which explains their views on negotiations and what might be called "the Jewish question." It is hard to imagine a more racist and terrifying document. Some quotes:

"Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it."
"The Islamic Resistance Movement believes that the land of Palestine is an Islamic Waqf consecrated for future Moslem generations until Judgement Day.It, or any part of it, should not be squandered: it, or any part of it, should not be given up. "

"There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors."

"After Palestine, the Zionists aspire to expand from the Nile to the Euphrates. When they will have digested the region they overtook, they will aspire to further expansion, and so on. Their plan is embodied in the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion", and their present conduct is the best proof of what we are saying."

Article 7 of the charter explains their view of the role of Islam regarding the Jews:

Moreover, if the links have been distant from each other and if obstacles, placed by those who are the lackeys of Zionism in the way of the fighters obstructed the continuation of the struggle, the Islamic Resistance Movement aspires to the realisation of Allah's promise, no matter how long that should take. The Prophet, Allah bless him and grant him salvation, has said:

"The Day of Judgement will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him. Only the Gharkad tree, (evidently a certain kind of tree) would not do that because it is one of the trees of the Jews." (related by al-Bukhariand Moslem).


A collective paralysis of will allowed the world, including Israel, to allow participation of the Hamas in elections, even though such participation is expressly forbidden by the Oslo interim agreements that supposedly form the basis for the existence of the Palestinian National Authority. Annex 2, Article III of the Oslo Interim Agreement states:

3. The nomination of any candidates, parties or coalitions will be refused, and such nomination or registration once made will be canceled, if suchcandidates, parties or coalitions:

1. commit or advocate racism; or

2. pursue the implementation of their aims by unlawful or non- democratic means

An organization that cites the forged Protocols of the Elders of Zion in its charter is racist, and an organization that sends suicide bombers to explode in public places is pursuing the implementation of their aims by nondemocraticmeans. Unfortunately, banning the Hamas would have made the elections undemocratic.

True, the Hamas was making pacific noises and ran on a mild platform. Eternal optimists like myself can look for hope in that, but these noises did notresult in any fundamental change.

Everyone will now look for whom to blame. Most of the parties can look in the mirror. We all understood that following the death of Yasser Arafat, it would be difficult to keep the Fateh and the PLO alive, because nobody else, including Abbas, has the charisma and prestige of Yasser Arafat. The difficult was made impossible, however, by the actions of Abbas himself, the Fateh, The Palestinians, the USA and the quartet partners, and Israel.

Abbas invited the Hamas to participate in the elections. Like US President Lyndon Johnson, he wanted his opponents inside the tent, pissing out. However, Abbas's rivals were not any old political group, but an armed militant organization. He didn't make disarmament a condition of participation, thereby losing his chance to disarm the Hamas peacefully. He didn't make abrogation of their charter a condition of participation. He failed to do anything that would strengthen his own position. Instead of presenting the Israel disengagement as a hopeful fruit of moderate policies and international support, he went along with the Hamas propaganda that the disengagement was won by the "martyrs." Abbas failed to act against corruption and anarchy in the Palestinian government. giving Palestinians the certainty that a vote for Fatah was a vote for more of the same. Fatah failed to unite behind Abbas, instead finding every way possible to undermine his position and generating a good deal of the anarchy that plagues the Palestinian community.

To counter the Fatah, the Palestinians failed to strengthen any of the moderate alternatives, instead throwing their support to the most militant and reactionary group.

The USA supported Abbas openly, a fact that came to light in the last days before the election. In Palestinian society, that was virtually the kiss of death. The US and the quartet failed to prod Abbas and the Fatah to make the necessary reforms, and failed to help them build a government network of social services that could compete with and counter the Hamas. They issued vague and contradictory threats against the Hamas rather that making it clear
that the Hamas must lay down its arms, abrogate its charter and accept the principles of the Oslo agreements. It is too late now, for the Palestinian police may now effectively be replaced by the more motivated, and perhaps better armed, Issedin el Qassam brigades.

Israel did everything wrong as well. Contradictory threats were issued on a weekly basis, declarations made, and declarations reversed. If the Palestinian people had understood that a Hamas victory means the end of international aid programs, and the beginning of a new and aggressive Israeli security campaign,perhaps it would have made a difference. On the other hand, the Palestinians might feel it doesn't matter. The occupation in the West Bank is sufficiently miserable for their taste, and they don't see much improvement in their life.

Other than the disengagement, Israel didn't offer Abbas anything he could take home to his constituents.

In Israel, the Hamas victory could generate a wellspring of support for the right and extreme right. Israel is having elections too. True, the Likud is forecast to get only 14 out of 120 Knesset mandates according to the latest polls. However that could change rapidly. The growing power of the right outside the Likud has been overlooked. As polls show fairly consistently, The
National Union Party and Yisrael Beteinu may garner 11 mandates together, the NRP 3, and ultra orthodox parties another 15, with 22% of voters still undecided. With 42 mandates for the right even before the election of the Hamas, a government of the extreme right is not impossible in Israel. The prospect of such a government facing a Hamas-controlled government is not
enticing.

Perhaps the Hamas, like Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert, will have an epiphany in office. Perhaps they will see that "from here, it doesn't look the same as it did from there." Nonetheless, it is certain that we are in for "interesting times." At least, it was pleasant to be optimistic for a few days.

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