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Monday, February 13, 2006


the legitimate hamas

this tumultuous month in the middle east has passed so blindingly as to all but overwhelm this observer, but the consequences of the changes it has wrought will echo through the next years loudly.

to begin, peace in the region was dealt a tragic blow with the incapacitation of ariel sharon, whose genuine move to a middle ground of reconciliation with a palestinian state represented the most promising light of peace since the end of oslo. i cannot help but think that a brilliant opportunity has been snuffed at a time when it is desperately needed.

one wonders how sharon would have reacted to the victory of hamas in recent palestinian elections. perhaps it was a belated recognition of islamism's rise in palestine after decades of occupation, impoverishment and antagonism that motivated his recent change of heart -- for there is no denying that peace will be still harder to attain for an israel that could not come to terms with a secular arab nationalist palestine under arafat whose ends were arguably much closer to israel's than may be those of hamas.

while the likud-led political right in israel has predictably preached non-engagement on the grounds that doing so would legitimize a terrorist organization -- even calling the representatives of the palestinian people a "cancer", ostensibly to be operated upon by the israeli military in another step toward perpetual war -- one might point out to them that they are no longer (if they ever were) the arbiters of hamas' legitimacy. the palestinian people are, through free elections, if any of sharansky's panacea and the Global Democratic Revolution are to be accepted as anything but a farce of political convenience meant to cover a program of ruthlessly machiavellian imperial policing of interests.

as the united states attempts to marshall the powers of the global suzerain to isolate hamas by further impoverishing palestine in what seems open defiance of its own recently-held high democratic principles -- incisively articulating the hypocrisy of its leading idealists when confronted with the reality of their ideas in practice -- russia and france act as the united states was supposed to, in no small way undermining the credibility of america's entire professed motivation in its global actions over the last five years as so much democratist prattle. it remains to be seen if england will continue to take such a pragmatic view of hamas as it has under what will surely be crushing american pressure to toe an american-israeli right-wing line of isolation, but already russia's move has paid dividends to both putin and hamas. this offer of armistice will, of course, be as totally disbelieved as has been osama bin laden's -- for the true believers in the neoconservative vision, it is impossible that the enemy might be reasonable, and so any reasonable or conciliatory statements are ignored.

but at some point, these parties in deep ideological delusion and denial will have to (as others perhaps already are) come to grips with the reality of an elected hamas in palestine -- and with their unintentional role in assuring its place there by their own belligerence and indifference. issuing self-righteous proclamations about moral clarity regarding terrorism is decidedly unconvincing coming from states whose utter amorality is both obvious and widely known. beyond the plain fact that hamas is more than a terrorist organization -- for it also feeds the hungry and provides succor in a chaotic occupied land, more than either the israeli or american governments ever tried to do -- there is the fact that terrorism is and will continue to be as effective a path to political power as any, all being equally debased in their avarice of temporal power. what the united states hopes to achieve by dropping laser-guided bombs into city blocks or israel hopes to achieve by firing helicopter missiles into west bank towns, hamas hopes to achieve by suicide bombers. one can certainly understand the logic of not wishing to legitimize violence by rewarding it -- in either direction -- but the more complex counterpoint to that ideological simplification of the actual world must be also to understand when it has been legitimized despite whatever one thought to be best and the time has come to get on with the aftermath, regardless of how your ideology might comport with the empirical truth of events.

one wonders which side of this conflict lives further from that reality.

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I'm interested in seeing how Hamas handles the kind of infrastructure needs that occur on a day-to-day basis. This election may end up emasculating them as a violent ideological organization.
Being a fringe group can be fun with all it's rhetoric and gun-toting. Providing basic services to a population is a crashing bore. That and they will almost certainly fail to impress their own people with their administrative abilities.

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fwiw, hamas (unlike some other maniacal outliers) already has extensive experience in organized relief in the territories, so it might be less of an adjustment for them than some others. and their reputation for cleanliness has survived that. but i do agree that, often times, the best thing that can happen to a revolutionary group is to be put into power -- it's often a tremendous moderating force.

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