Think This Would’ve Happened Without Elections?


Israel and Hamas agreed to a truce last week.  Hamas, whose 1988 covenant states:

“The Zionist invasion is a vicious invasion. It does not refrain from resorting to all methods, using all evil and contemptible ways to achieve its end. It relies greatly in its infiltration and espionage operations on the secret organizations it gave rise to, such as the Freemasons, The Rotary and Lions clubs, and other sabotage groups. All these organizations, whether secret or open, work in the interest of Zionism and according to its instructions. They aim at undermining societies, destroying values, corrupting consciences, deteriorating character and annihilating Islam. It is behind the drug trade and alcoholism in all its kinds so as to facilitate its control and expansion.”

Also, in case you were thinking that maybe Hamas leaves a little common sense leeway for peaceful coexistence:

“Leaving the circle of struggle with Zionism is high treason, and cursed be he who does that.”

I point this out for the benefit of those people who were so quick to point to the electoral legitimization of Hamas as America’s Folly.  A sentiment summed up by this clip from The Daily Show, which essentially says “See what happens when you force democracy on a place that isn’t stable?  See what happens?  Now Hamas, a terrorist group, is in charge of Palestine.  Way to go.”

Well, now there’s a truce.  A tenuous truce, one that probably won’t hold, sure.  But consider this:  as long as Hamas operated outside the aegis of the accepted regional political process, this conflict would have been intractable.  Hamas would have been able to pursue, in focused and single-minded fashion, its stated goal of the total reclamation of Palestine and the destruction of Israel.  And Israel would have had few options, none good – negotiate with the notoriously weak and corrupt Fatah, who exercised little control over Hamas, launch phyrric incursions into Palestinian territory, or try and get some sort of regional or international consensus together in order to pressure Hamas.  None of those had much help of effecting a long-term solution, because the present international system still hasn’t really figured out a way for an established state actor to deal both peaceably and effectively with a non-state actor determined to conduct affairs in opposition to the interests of the aggrieved conventional state.

But with elected authority, Hamas also takes on responsibility.  Sure, they still have popular support for their anti-Israel stance, but they can’t stop there anymore.  They have to get the damn roads in decent shape.  They have to administer the schools.  They have to keep the lights on in their constituency’s houses.  They have to provide hospitals and daily necessities – and those daily necessities can’t be sucked into an inflationary whirlpool, either.  Pre-election Hamas just had to fight.  Post-election Hamas had to govern.  In other words, with elections, presto…Hamas is a conventional established state actor.  Vulnerable to any number of the retaliatory strategies practiced by states for centuries.

Like sanctions.  After Israel announced them in February of 2006, there was the predictable chest-beatingby Hamas and its supporters, the gist being “what does not kill us makes us stronger,” and some of the limp-wristed liberal press who just can’t stand to see big bad Israel come down on those adorable rock-tossers said the sanctions would just make the situation worse by inspiring a fresh round of Palestinian solidarity and nationalism. 

Well maybe it did, but when you’re dealing with blackouts and you can’t buy food, solidarity tends to dissolve: “Hey Mr. Mayor – death to the Zionists and everything, but how about some goddam potable water around here?”  And so Hamas, who swore 20 years ago to harden their hearts forever, to refuse to negotiate, to acknowledge Israel even has a right to exist, has agreed to a truce.  Certainly not the end, but shit…Palestine hasn’t even had a beginning until now. 

So to all the smug, grinning assholes who were so quick to point out yet another quixotic American misstep on the “road map” to Middle East peace when Hamas was elected, just remember – elections brought Hamas out of the rocket factories disguised as libraries and to the negotiating table.  If it was up to you people, they’d still be launching mortars, and Israel would still be negotiating for nothing with no one.


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