Friday, January 27, 2006

Hamas Election Victory...

What are we to make of Hamas' sweeping election victory?

In my view, the engagement of a terrorist group in the political process in such an important manner, can only be a good thing. History shows that when such groups increasingly politicise, they tend also to progressively demilitarise. Moderate elements from within start to dominate and gain increasing momentum. Sinn Fein is an excellent example.

Hamas has said its year-long ceasefire demonstrates that it is committed to the political path. But last night, Dr Zahar said his organisation reserved the "right to resist" Israeli attacks on its activists and Palestinian territory. "We are under occupation. The Israelis continue aggression against our people: killing, detentions, demolitions. In order to stop this, we are entitled to self-defence by all means including using guns. If the Israelis stop their aggression, we will be committed to the quiet," he said.

Reactions from world leaders didn't vary much:

Bush:

Mr Bush implicitly acknowledged that it would be difficult to shun a movement that has won a fair election at a time when the west is pressing other Arab countries to democratise. He said the result was a "wake-up call" for the old Palestinian leadership.

Blair:

Tony Blair said Hamas had won a powerful mandate, but must decide "between a path of democracy or a path of violence".

From Israel, the same old "terrorist rhetoric":

"If a government led by Hamas or in which Hamas is a coalition partner is established, the Palestinian Authority will turn into an authority that supports terror," said Mr Olmert. "Israel and the world will ignore it and make it irrelevant."

Via The Guardian.

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9 Comments:

At 5:54 AM, Anonymous David Zarnett said...

Gert, Sinn Fein was the political-legal cover for the terrorist IRA. (I use terrorist here not for any political agenda but based on one definition of terrorism as the use of violence for political ends.) They were never militant and therefore never demilitarised after being incorporated into the Irish political system.
In that case, the assumption that Hamas may demilitarise like Sinn Fein did is wrong. Perhaps a better analogy would be Hezbollah who have been incorporated into the Lebanese parliament and have not yet disarmed.

 
At 12:09 PM, Blogger Gert said...

Hi David, I'm pleased to see you still drop by here, once in a while.

"Sinn Fein was the political-legal cover for the terrorist IRA. (I use terrorist here not for any political agenda but based on one definition of terrorism as the use of violence for political ends). They were never militant and therefore never demilitarised after being incorporated into the Irish political system."

Here we go again: how many times have we heard this circular argument before? Only if you look at the situation in the most theoretical of ways (which in such a situation really doesn't help) would you maintain such a statement... with a straight face!

Everybody in question, including HMG, assumed close links between Sinn Fein and the IRA. Both were (and still are mutually dependent, although not one entity, I'll gladly concede that). Gerry Adams WAS a former IRA operative.

So, the description "Sinn fein is the political wing of the IRA" may have been STRICTLY speaking wrong, it is right ON THE GROUND, for practical purposes.

The point I was making that when a movement with a militant wing, starts taking part in the political process, it's violent militancy tends to start to decline. Sorry, but that's as clear as rain to me.

 
At 5:35 PM, Anonymous David Zarnett said...

I am fully aware connection between the Sinn Fein and the IRA. Many terrorist groups have always used some sort of political cover to mask their illegal-subversive actions. (i.e. Serbian Black Hand and Narodna Obrana)

With a straight face I maintain that your comparison is not the right one. A more appropriate comparison is one between Hezbollah and Hamas. Sinn Fein and the IRA have different goals, live in a different region and work from different (although connections can be made) extremist ideologies.

Hezbollah like Hamas is supported by Iran. They both reject the existence of Israel. They both use the Qu'ran as the source of their constitution. They even share operational tactics (i.e. lobbing missiles into Israeli towns).


Perhaps my critique of your comparison was too theoretical. But I still assert that your comparison leads to the wrong conclusions simply because you have chosen the Sinn Fein/IRA who greatly differ from that of
Hamas.

This all being said, I do agree that Hamas in power might moderate because they now have to focus on picking up the garbage on time, collecting taxes and other mundane things that every democratically elected governmnet must do. This will take time away from them planning suicide bombings.

 
At 7:27 PM, Blogger Gert said...

David,

Fair points.

Still, for someone with a keen historical and theoretical eye, I'm surprised you don't seem to accept the notion that most human struggles end in a stalemate and talks, i.e. a political process. If only all did...

I often use the N. Ireland example to illustrate the principle rather than to prove it. All analogies are flawed, in that respect the Hezbollah example is perhaps better suited and I'll bear that in mind.

"...I do agree that Hamas in power might moderate because they now have to focus on picking up the garbage on time, collecting taxes and other mundane things that every democratically elected governmnet must do. This will take time away from them planning suicide bombings."

I find the latter part of your statement a little gratuitous and even rather mean-spirited (no offence taken), so I won't comment on it.

 
At 2:06 AM, Blogger Emmanuel said...

Saying "This will take time away from them planning suicide bombings" is mean spirited?!? Hamas is a terrorist organization that planned hundreds of suicide bombings, and that's a fact. Writing about their possible future activities, including terrorism, is natural.

 
At 4:21 PM, Blogger Gert said...

emmanuel:

"Writing about their possible future activities, including terrorism, is natural."

Natural maybe, helpful definitely not.

Hamas has won a democratic election and that has to count for something. In Europe we already see threats of withdrawing Palestinian aid as a result of this development [the election].

If only they were as quick to condemn Israeli trespasses, threats, violence and the creeping landgrab...

Let's not forget there is relative calm right now and that maintaining it will require efforts on both sides. There is no tremendous shortage of extremist Israelis calling for complete occupation of Israel/Palestine, or even the extermination of all Palestinian "vermin". Some of these people are actually quite "respectable" citizens.

 
At 1:43 AM, Anonymous David Zarnett said...

Gert,

You tend to make many insightful points. But your point that it is not helpful to discuss Hamas' terrorist activity is not one of them.

Actually your response to Emmanuel does little to explain exactly why you think it is not a "helpful" discussion piece.

Your initial post even addressed this very issue as you made the comparison with Sinn Fein. Now that Hamas holds 70 out of the 134 possible seats in the Palestinian Parliament it is of use to remind ourselves of exactly what Hamas is and their history. It is quite hypocritical to refer to discuss the Israeli extremists who the resurrection of Greater Israel while dismissing any discussion of Hamas' terrorist essence.

A discussion of all the issues at play here is always useful in this debate.

 
At 1:45 AM, Anonymous David Zarnett said...

Forgive the typos, I meant to hit preview first.

 
At 2:30 PM, Blogger Gert said...

David,

"It is quite hypocritical to refer to discuss the Israeli extremists who [desire, my addition and emphasis] the resurrection of Greater Israel while dismissing any discussion of Hamas' terrorist essence."

Fair point. Perhaps I should refrain from discussing Israeli extremism, as it usually ends up in "tit for tat".

My reason for not emphasising Hamas' terrorism (there, I've said it...) is more subtle than you might think and is due to a position I've maintained for a long time (the "etymological" argument, you may remember it), as well as the fact, more importantly, that the terrorist denomination is used incessantly by people like Bush, in the phrase "we don't talk to terrorists". This is essentially a mantra used by Governments around the world but one they don't really adhere to. Negotiations with the IRA started through back channels, in complete secret, but negotiations they were nonetheless. Gradually these talks became more politically acceptable, despite considerable resistance in the Protestant camp.

Today's grandstanding will of course go the same way. The US and EU will continue to communicate with Hamas, through other, "covert" diplomatic conduits...

And to be fair, I've always maintained that the Palestinians should renounce the use of violence, except in clear cases of self defence.

If you wish to discuss Hamas' terrorism here, feel free, although a post on your blog might be more interesting as well as more visible.

You may also want to comment on this post: Hamas quagmire...

 

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