Friday, January 27, 2006

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Open Hamas thread

I'm at a conference all day today, which means I conveniently do not have the time to post deep thoughts on Hamas' electoral victory in Palestine. So I'll let me readers comment instead. Go to it!!

But click here and here if you want an inkling of what I think. And click here for Esther Pan's concise summary of the situaion at

UPDATE: Michael Herzog has a very pessimistic take at Foreign Affairs:

Optimists argue that Hamas' participation in mainstream Palestinian politics will spur the group to moderate its radical goals and terrorist tactics. But history shows that political participation co-opts militants only under very specific conditions -- and almost none of those exist in the Palestinian Authority today.

posted by Dan on 01.27.06 at 10:42 AM


It will be much easier for Israel to defend itself against terrorists when the ruling party of Palestine openly calls for Israel's with the kid gloves!

posted by: John Kneeland on 01.27.06 at 10:42 AM [permalink]

"Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power." - Abraham Lincoln.

Hamas' new power in Gaza gives it the opportunity to steal billions just like its predecessor. We shall see what it does with that power.

posted by: Tom Holsinger on 01.27.06 at 10:42 AM [permalink]

Well, if one wants to promote democracy, one has to live with the inconveniences.

It is far too early to tell where HAMAS will go with its new power, but at least it demasks the underlying power struggles. Fatah, corrupt, weakened and effectively compromised by its earier failures and effective betrayal by the Israelis was not going to be able to pull the Palestinians together for effective political decisions.

HAMAS may have the power to reach compromises with its devil (Israel) in the way that say Nixon was able to do a deal with China.

Or maybe not.

The foolish hyper-Zionist slavering over pulling off the 'kid gloves' is mere childishness. Another descent into pecking at each others eyes helps neither the Palestinians nor the Israelis. It does, of course, play to those with a comic book understanding of the issues.

posted by: collounsbury on 01.27.06 at 10:42 AM [permalink]


Let's keep in mind that Israel is only "pecking at their eyes" becuase it chooses to. Militarily speaking, Israel can fully debilitate Hamas if they choose a path that is clearly aiming to destroy Israel.

posted by: Rick Latshaw on 01.27.06 at 10:42 AM [permalink]

Contrary to popular belief, in respect to the “peace process,” Israel is the problem and not HAMAS. And it is amazingly ironic that people as brutal and war like as Bush and the Israeli government have the hypocrisy to call for HAMAS to give up violence. They should be the first to lay down their arms, if they believe in non-violence.

Also contrary to popular belief, the corruption that Palestinians talk about is not so much the stealing of money. Maybe FATAH did steal money, but their biggest corruption is that they did not listen to the will of the Palestinian people, but were simply puppets of the USA and Europe, unable to confront the world and fairly represent the suffering the Palestinians must endure. No one knows whether HAMAS spends its money efficiently, or whether they steal their money, because their financial information is secret. It is impossible to know how honest they are. But everyone knows that HAMAS is independent of pressure from the West, and is not going to give up on the fundamental rights of the Palestinians. It is because FATAH has continued to bend what was acceptable suffering, because they gave up so many rights, and because they got nothing in return, no peace, no stability, no economic growth, no freedom… that they are corrupt. They are corrupt because they had more contact with American, Israeli and European officials then they did with regular Palestinians, and continued to be show nothing for it. They could no longer be trusted.

That is why a HAMAS victory is completely rational. For years and years now, the Palestinian people have been under siege. They have been caged and occupied, they have tanks in their streets, their land is being stolen, their trees are being cut, their economy they have been completely cut off from the rest of the world, and they are put in Bantustans so harsh that the South Africans feel embarrassed at the suffering.

Israel destroyed the "peace process" by never being interested in peace, by occupying Palestine, putting checkpoints on every block, by making Palestinians prisoners in their own homes. And likewise, Israel destroyed Fatah by killing Arafat, by jailing Palestinian leaders like Marwan, by destroying the police forces, by blowing up the police stations, by building a giant Apartheid wall (and militarily enforced razor wire/electrified fence and trenches) that makes life for Palestinians all the more hard...

Israel could have negotiated with Fatah or Arafat, and could have attempted to make peace with some humility. Recognizing that the creation of their state caused massive suffering for the Palestinian people. They could have recognized the refugee's plight, they could have treated the Palestinians as though they were human, as if they were equal people who had a right to live on the same land as Jews, but they never did. So the natural reaction is for the Palestinians to support people who will no longer give away their rights, who will not toe the American line on Israel, and who will actually represent the will of the people.

HAMAS is able to build hospitals and schools, but the FATAH did that as well. The PA did build schools and had high quality health care systems (when it was not blown up by the Israelis, or closed because of curfew). But they couldn’t end the occupation, and they couldn’t stop the Israelis from attacking and destroying the police and any semblance of “Authority” that the PA had. And HAMAS itself is just a patrimonial as FATAH. True they help the poor, but you don’t move up on the HAMAS list via elections. Internally they are not democratic.

Being Palestinian myself, my problem with HAMAS in power is that I worry that their big victory will empower them to take away much of the plurality that makes Palestinian life so wonderful. For people who are already under military occupation, an additional cultural occupation for those who are not religious Muslims would be pretty sad. I just hope that they do not become too arrogant and start to enforce cultural and religious things on the society as a whole.

posted by: Joe M. on 01.27.06 at 10:42 AM [permalink]

Israel killed Arafat? C'mon, Joe...

posted by: Don Mynack on 01.27.06 at 10:42 AM [permalink]

Amazing how the wall, which has made life for Palestinians so much more hard, has also made it so much harder for Palestinians to blow up Israeli teenagers at nightclubs and restaurants.

posted by: asg on 01.27.06 at 10:42 AM [permalink]

No predictions, but indeed history shows that Hamas has often benefited from the Fatah-run Palestinian Authority being able to take strong -- and technically factual -- stands that *it* was not attacking Israel, only this errant, implicitly uncontrolled Hamas was attacking Israel. That has clearly moderated Israel's responses at times in the past, but Hamas as a ruling party does not have this option. Israel's responses to Arab governments run by folks who attack Israel are also on record, and none of them include allowing themselves to be annihilated or pushed into the sea.

My understanding is that Hamas campaigned on slogans emphasizing its social works and Fatah's corruption and ineffectiveness. To the extent people voted for Hamas candidates on those grounds, the new governing party might better start thinking about how it's going to deliver in those areas. Suicide bombings and mortar attacks on Israel aren't demonstrably effective when it comes to fostering Palestinians' security and prosperity.

posted by: beachrat, F'86 on 01.27.06 at 10:42 AM [permalink]

Let's keep in mind that Israel is only "pecking at their eyes" becuase it chooses to.

Becuase there are no other real options.

What, reoccupy?


And the same round robin effect of pecking eyes, classic insurgency-counter insurgency without the slighest hope of 'winning hearts and minds'

Militarily speaking, Israel can fully debilitate Hamas if they choose a path that is clearly aiming to destroy Israel.

HAMAS equally well lacks the ability to be more than a deadly nuisance.

They can remain locked in a wasting struggle, or they will pull apart. Simple as that. There are no other options. Even the walling off is a failure given the negativity it will generate inside Israel via the Israeli Arabs, who have already begun to show a long slide towards sympathy to their cousins.

posted by: collounsbury on 01.27.06 at 10:42 AM [permalink]

The sad reality, I am afraid, is that is the best possible outcome for Isreal and the worst possible outcome for the people in the West Bank and Gaza.

The simple fact is that Isreal is nearly done with thier "apartheid" wall (I love that.) Isreal will then have the ability to sit back and essentially watch the events unfold. Unfortunately, as we can see already, that series of events is likely to include civil war, or at the very least extreme violence in the territories.

With the barbarity of thier neighbors in full display (with the benefit that said barbarity will no longer be directed at jews) the world will be in no position to argue that Isreal engage this mess. In short, Isreal now has a future that doesn't include the West Bank nor Gaza, nor all the baggage inherent in both regions.

posted by: Jon Black on 01.27.06 at 10:42 AM [permalink]

Vital Perspective has a call to action for the international community.

posted by: Jonathan Ross on 01.27.06 at 10:42 AM [permalink]

People talk as if the Palestinian people chose terror over something else. Let's not forget that Fatah is basically a terorist organisation too, but one that has worn sheep's clothing when convenient, and to keep the funding coming from the European stooges.

This result shows that the Palestinian people deeply support terrorism. Now, anyone who had eyes could have seen that. they could have seen ho the Oslo accords were made a mockery. They could have seen the celebrations when Israeli teens were blown up while waiting for pizza, or mothers were sitting on a bus. They could have seen the Palestinians dance, dance in the streets on Septemeber 11, 2001.

The "peace process" was always a joke, whther with Arafat, Abbas or anyone else. The Palestinain people will not be happy until Israel is wiped off the map.

Israel's wall has never looked like a smarter move. The new process should complete the pocess of disengagement.

posted by: wph on 01.27.06 at 10:42 AM [permalink]


"Becuase there are no other real options.

What, reoccupy?"

There are options that are on the table if Hamas remains committed to the destruction of Israel.

Israel has never used its full miliary power against the Palestinians- and Hamas' role could justify it doing so.

Forget reoccupy, how about destroy Hamas and its sympathizers once and for all?

"HAMAS equally well lacks the ability to be more than a deadly nuisance. "

This is factually wrong. Hamas has guns, basic rocket technology and suicide bombers.

Israel has the stongest military in the Middle East. They aren't equal militarily, and people (including yourself) forget this and fail to recognize that Israel has restrained itself from using its full military power.

There are options. And they are becoming increasingly justified by Hamas' continued stance.

posted by: Rick Latshaw on 01.27.06 at 10:42 AM [permalink]

It's good to know that the genocide option is still on the table. The memory of the Holocaust expressed nicely!

posted by: joe m on 01.27.06 at 10:42 AM [permalink]


Your posts are laughable. Destroying a terrorist organization is not genocide- a whole people or country is.

No one is suggesting that- except Hamas.

posted by: Rick Latshaw on 01.27.06 at 10:42 AM [permalink]

Let's see. Democratic election, free and fair, in the Arab world. Bushie Wet Dream. Uh-oh. Outcome bad. Bushie Nightmare.

Wasn't it that paragon of political philosophizing, Donald Rumsfeld, who responded to "carping liberals" in May 2003 who thought that social chaos in Baghdad was sort of a bad thing that "democracy is untidy?"

I think Rumsfeld, speaking for the administration, just told us all to "accept that its untidy" and let "the people sort it out."

Soooo -- why are we so upset that the people sorted it out?

posted by: Hemlock for Gadflies on 01.27.06 at 10:42 AM [permalink]

Hamas has a choice rule like a political party or rule like madmen. Having delivered real services to its people it will find it dificult to continue a two track strategy while in power.
Renouncing its charter is plain BS because it can and still send suicide bombers. Actions is what counts not words.
In this vain of thinking threats from the rest of the world are pointless. Hamas hasn't even set up a government yet. Look for a surogate at the international political level in the foreign
ministry like the woman Hawali Aswali(? I can't find her name) and a professional economist in the finance ministry whom the West knows.
At home the problem will be Fatah's control of the Interior Ministry and police forces. If they do not acquiesce the civil war only the Israeli's want will occur and make no one happy.
If in trying to control Hamas the West cuts off the money other actors will provide it and its use will not be to buy peace.

posted by: Robert M on 01.27.06 at 10:42 AM [permalink]

Something that struck me after reading a column at concerning Japan's desire to amend their constitution to allow for a real military force: Their neighbors (oppressive communist regimes in China & North Korea, notably) have been the biggest complainers. But a major aspect of this issue one must look at is the government's treatment of their own people. Japan is home to a nation of people who are free and equal in the eyes of the law and government, in the same manner as American or Western European demoocracies. The Israeli government treats its people with much of the same respect for human dignity as the rest of the West and Japan.

How does the Palestinian "government" treat its people? How has Hamas treated basically everyone it has come into contact with? We are not talking about a group that views equality and freedom as inalienable human rights. We are looking at people whose greatest desire is the absolute destruction of an entire state that is recognized by all legitimate governments around the world. How anyone can argue that Israel is the criminal state on this issue is beyond me and my understanding, especially in view of the hard facts of Palestinian murder, greed, corruption, and intense desire of hegemony in the Israeli sliver of the Muslim world.

posted by: Matthew on 01.27.06 at 10:42 AM [permalink]

Of course israel has total military superiority. But they depend for their national existence on US public opinion, and they mustn't risk that too much. So it would be difficult for them to kill an entire political party in palestine, unless they prepared the ground in the USA very carefully with sufficient propaganda first.

Most of israel's oil comes from russia, some they buy on european markets. If those sources were closed to them they would have trouble, they would have to depend on the USA to give them about 1% to 2% of our own oil consumption -- which we have agreed to do. But the more we think of them the way we did south africa under aparthied, the less willing we'd be to do that. If europe imposed sanctions, israel would be in severe trouble. If the US Navy enforced sanctions, israel would have a new government in short order.

So they absolutely have to make sure that US public opinion stays firmly on their side. And it's been slipping. More and more people have seen little glimpses of what israel has done to palestinians.

Perhaps the simplest approach would be "transfer". The israeli army could move in with artillery and persuade all the palestinians in the west bank to walk to jordan. They might manage to do that with as little as 30,000 palestinian casualties, though 100,000 seems more likely. They'd get a lot of bad press but after that palestinians wouldn't be their problem and within a few years it would turn into history. But they'd need the US to approve.

Short of that, naturally they want to reduce contact between israelis and palestinians. Then as the palestinians slowly get starved out, as they die of epidemic diseases, etc -- it doesn't look like israel's fault nearly as much as when it's israelis bombing them and shooting them. But israel can't keep enough distance. Israel has to keep the border with jordan closed. If they let palestinians travel back and forth, if they let products get transported unsearched, then palestinians would bring in weapons and israelis would start to take more casualties. And with the border closed, and the internal borders closed, it stays clear to anybody who looks that it's the israelis responsible for palestinian malnutrition, and palestinian epidemic disease. This is something that can't just be walled off -- unless they can wall away the reporters, and make sure that americans don't see much about it.

It's important to israel that there be no negotiations with Hamas. Not because of the threat that negotiations might lead somewhere that could involve an israeli concession. Because Hamas might be competent enough to get media attention from it, onto things that would make israel look bad.

posted by: J Thomas on 01.27.06 at 10:42 AM [permalink]

Jews rounded up Arabs/Palestinians and forced them into concentrated refugee camps for a better ethnic future…well….the irony is just heartbreaking

posted by: NeoWhat? on 01.27.06 at 10:42 AM [permalink]

So they absolutely have to make sure that US public opinion stays firmly on their side

It is difficult to get a firm number, when it comes to US subsidies for Israel. The money is hidden in a number of places in the budget. Ive seen numbers as large as 8billion$ plus another 2billion from north American Jews and divide that by 4.5 million israeli jews and that leaves you with a subsidy as large as $2200 per year per capita! In other words Israels hand is not a free as you might think with that level of subsidy. I hope the situation ends well ...but I am not optimistic! Democracy is not a panecea.

posted by: centrist on 01.27.06 at 10:42 AM [permalink]

Centrist, for US subsidies to israel to be a negotiation point, the USA would need the will to make them negotiable.

So long as US public opinion supports israel, even to the extent that it dwindles into well-funded campaign contributors and strategists etc, those funds will be not only hidden but untouchable.

If the extent of the funding was revealed, that would be a start at changing US opinion. So it won't.

posted by: J Thomas on 01.27.06 at 10:42 AM [permalink]

The tone of this thread is headed where so many of these threads go so I'll bring up something new. Hamas spokesman say a long term truce might be negotiable. Would a 50 year truce allow Hamas to preserve their purity and allow them to move forward with nation building? Would the US and the EU speak with and support financially a Palestine with no change in the Hamas covenant but a long term truce in place. Are there historical precedents for this kind of deal? Joe, would the Palestinians support such a move and take steps to eliminate attacks on Israel's side of the fence? Would Israel evacuate settlements in the West Bank in exchange for a long term truce? Would they stop the targeted killings?


posted by: Mark on 01.27.06 at 10:42 AM [permalink]

Here is the official position of Hamas's top leader, Khalid Mishal.

Personally, I agree with everything he says in this article. Unfortunately, that makes me very pessimistic as to what is going to happen in the near term. I can already tell you what is going to happen. As we saw today more then once, there are Palestinians who still want to attack Israel, for whatever reason. I am confident that this is not coming from HAMAS. But Israel will not care who is doing it and will take it out on the PA and on Palestinian society all together, and especially HAMAS. Just as they applied curfews and demolished whole sections of Jenin, flattened the Muqattah and sieged Arafat and such when attacks were coming from Palestinians. Israel will be in no mood to allow anything to happen when HAMAS is in power, so they will make sure to be especially harsh, trying to show that they are “tough on terrorism” or whatever stupid nonsense they come up with to punish the Palestinians. This is just going to make things worse for the Palestinians, and at some point HAMAS will break and start bombing Israel again… and the cycle will continue.

Khalid is exactly right as to why the Palestinians supported HAMAS in the elections. And notice that he doesn’t mention graft, and he doesn’t mention Islam. And, he is right that they can find alternative ways to fund the PA if the west stops giving them aid, and it doesn’t matter really. Since I don’t think that the USA is an “honest broker” and am all the more happy for their influence to be reduced, it works out for everyone. But it will not help to moderate HAMAS or the 60% of Palestinians who voted for them. You have to understand, HAMAS is very pragmatic. They are ideological, but they do not act as ideologs like Bin Laden or Zawahiri. But since they are ideological, as Khalid says, HAMAS will not moderate on basic rights like the right of return or the settlements or the general occupation and such. He says it flat out, and this is true, “Hamas is immune to bribery, intimidation and blackmail.” Again, it is that FATAH was not immune to the pressure from the west that they were kicked out of power.

It is with respect to this that I get to your questions. HAMAS’s position is set. It is up to the Israelis to decide what happens with the conflict. HAMAS is not going to go out looking for a fight (they know they will all be killed and that it would make life worse for the average Palestinian), but they will not back down in the face of pressure. The problem is that I do not think that Israel has any intention to get rid of settlements (and especially big ones), or giving the Palestinians control of their own boarders or allowing them any semblance of freedom. It is the very fact that the Israelis believe they have the right to control the Palestinians that keeps the conflict going.

I see only one possible option in the long-term. And that is for a single bi-national state. There is too much interconnection (and each side is too much in the other’s way) for any divided solution to be able to hold over time. For that matter, I think that it is just more just anyway. For all people to live together as equals. The problem with this is not the Palestinians, they would support it given the chance (even Khalid’s article seems to strongly suggest that he supports a one state solution). But the Jews still believe that they have the right to a Jewish State, and they generally believe that they are superior to the Arabs and that Arabs are uncivilized and only want to kill Jews. The way that so many Jews like Netanyahu have been likening the HAMAS victory to the rise of Hitler just shows how little they understand about the situation. Until Israel realizes that it is the oppressor, that the Palestinians are the victims, there is not going to be peace (and I realize, some Jews have been victims of Palestinian violence (and they obviously have a history of suffering), but overall, the Palestinians are the ones who have suffered from this war).

Hope that answers your questions Mark.

posted by: joe m. on 01.27.06 at 10:42 AM [permalink]

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