The Washington Post‘s January 22 lead editorial, “Palestinians’ risky elections,” ignores some important historical truths in its apparent willlingness to accept Hamas. The editorial concludes that the Bush administration
must hope that Hamas eventually will embrace democracy as the sole means of advancing its agenda, rather than as a mere tool to prevent its own disarmament or any Palestinian concessions to Israel, and that it will feel obliged to moderate its tactics and agenda while serving in government. Whether or not that happens, a Palestinian Authority backed by Hamas may be able to restore a semblance of order to Gaza. In the dismal present circumstances, that would be a step forward.
In other words, if Hamas remains dedicated to Israel’s destruction and to the imposition of an Islamic state over all the land west of the Jordan River, its participation in the Palestinian Authority government would nevertheless be considered a “step forward” so long as it “restore[s] a semblance of order to Gaza” This was also the argument made for rule by Mussolini and his Italian Fascists – they may have been thugs but they brought order and “made the trains run on time”. More recently, it was an argument for allowing Hezbollah to participate in Lebanese politics. But rather than lead to Hezbollah’s domestication as a political party, its members in parliament help the terrorist group resist compliance with U.N. Security Council Resolution 1583 that calls for, among other things, disarmament of all extra-governmental armed groups in Lebanon.
Another Post theory – that terrorists can be domesticated by including them in politics – already has failed with the Palestinian Arabs. Dealing with the Palestine Liberation Organization (and its largest faction, Fatah) diplomatically was supposed to induce it to soft-pedal terrorism and emphasize governing. After the 1993 Oslo accords and establishment of Palestinian self-rule in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the PLO began doing business also as the Palestinian Authority, and Fatah dominated the PA. Though now portrayed by the news media almost exclusively as a political “party,” Fatah (literally, the Movement for the Liberation of Palestine – “Palestine” including Israel) continues anti-Israel attacks through affiliated “armed wings.” These include the Tanzim and al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. Fatah’s politico-terrorist nature is epitomized by the fact that Marwan Barghouti, its West Bank leader of the “al Aqsa intifada,” topped the movement’s candidate slate in the January 25 Palestinian legislative elections. Barghouti is serving a life sentence in an Israeli prison for involvement in the murders of five people as part of the intifada.
The Post editorial avoids the fact that “the dismal present circumstances” resulted in no small part from Hamas’ actions. Hamas blames Fatah for the failure of the Oslo negotiations with Israel, when these collapsed in part due to Hamas’ own terrorist attacks. Hamas incitement contributed to the radicalization of many Palestinian Arabs. Meanwhile, the organization has attempted to suppress some secular aspects of Palestinian society, and continues anti-Israel terrorism, on its own or with “plausible deniability” through the “Popular Resistance Committees” and cooperation with other terrorist groups.
In addition, “Palestinians’ Risky Elections”:
* Says that “economic activity [in the Gaza Strip] is choked by the continuing violence and Israeli border controls.” The “and” in this sentence is misleading because it suggests these are equivalent causes. They are not . Israeli border controls, pre- and post-Gaza Strip disengagement, exist in response to “the continuing violence.” The editorial asserts that “the Palestinian territories are approaching a state of anarchy.” If so, Israeli border controls are a necessity – especially when that anarchy includes reported infiltration by al Qaeda agents, increased weapons smuggling, and the return of long-exiled Palestinian terrorists (on all of which the editorial is silent);
* Never mentions that participation in Palestinian elections by groups advocating violence and inciting hatred was banned in the Oslo peace process. The provision was written with Hamas in mind, according to Yossi Beilin, one of the authors; and
* Declares that “Hamas’ prospective [electoral] success has less to do with its fundamentalist platform – which it has substantially moderated for the sake of the campaign – than with voters’ disgust with the ruling Fatah movement.” Here’s one of many examples of Hamas’ “substantially moderated” campaign platform, from a January 17 advertisement on PA Television: “We do not recognize the Israeli enemy, nor his right to be our neighbor, nor to stay [on the land], nor his ownership of any inch of land. Therefore, we do not see [Israel] as an ally, not in policy, not in security, not in economy and not in any form of cooperation ….” More likely, Hamas’ electoral success has to do both with voters’ disgust with Fatah’s corruption and inefficiency and the former’s insistence that its “armed resistance” – terrorism – drove Israel out of the Strip and will do likewise in the West Bank and Israel proper.