Saturday, January 28, 2006

Landslide victory for Hamas

Democracy is not a panacea. In many parts of the world, it is better described as a poison:
The surprisingly strong victory of militant group Hamas in Palestinian legislative elections leaves the Palestinian Authority in the hands of a radical Islamist leadership deemed terrorists by Israel, the U.S. and Europe, further complicating the already tortuous Middle East peace process.
The exit polls that predicted Fatah would retain its majority were way off. Hamas now controls 76 of the 132 seats (58%). Fatah was cut down to only 43, although Abbas, a Fatah member, will remain the leader of the Palestinian Authority. Abbas has been outmuscled, unable to deliver on his promise to have Hamas disarm. That task has just been made exponentially more difficult.

Peace between these two disparate cultures has always struck me as a pipe dream. That view certainly meshes with Hamas' view of its Jewish neighbor with whom it will have to 'negotiate':
Other than confirming their refusal to acknowledge Israel's right to exist, they have yet to indicate the approach their government will take in foreign policy.
What's the chance that they'll be willing to agree to a dual-state compromise when one side refuses to grant the other one the right to exist? My guess is somewhere between zero and negative infinity. Newsmax shrewdly points out some highlights to Hamas' oath:
The Hamas "Martyr's Oath":

"Our struggle against the Jews is very great and very serious...The Movement is but one squadron that should be supported by more and more squadrons from this vast Arab and Islamic world, until the enemy is vanquished and Allah's victory is realized...

"The Prophet, Allah bless him and grant him salvation, has said: 'The Day of Judgment will not come about until Muslims fight the Jews. When the Jew will hide behind stones and trees, the stones and trees will say O Muslims, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him...'

"There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors.

"The day The Palestinian Liberation Organization adopts Islam as its way of life, we will become its soldiers, and fuel for its fire that will burn the enemies...

"The Zionist invasion is a vicious invasion... 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.

"We should not forget to remind every Muslim that when the Jews conquered the Holy City in 1967, they stood on the threshold of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and proclaimed that 'Mohammed is dead, and his descendants are all women.'

"Israel, Judaism and Jews challenge Islam and the Muslim people. 'May the cowards never sleep.'"
We are better served by keeping democracy out of the hands of many countries. There are prerequisites for the political system to function in a way that's beneficial to human progression and security: A largely homogeneic culture and ethnicity, a PPP of at least $3,000 and preferrably over $6,000 (the West Bank and Gaza Strip combined have a depressing $1,100), at least a moderate average IQ (the correlation between democratic government and IQ has been found to be .54), and perhaps most importantly but most difficult to quantify, a culture that encourages debate, compromise, acceptance of defeat, dispute resolution through non-violent means, and nationalism rather than nepotism (none of which characterize Islamic society). The Palestinians fail dismally in all of these categories. Looking at the situation through this prism, it's not surprising that an illiberal terrorist organization has come to power in the Palestinian territory.

Thankfully the doctrine of spreading liberty, the azoth to all the world's woes, has not so inebriated the neocons that they celebrate this latest democratic triumph:
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said of the victory: "Hamas has a clear responsibility to understand that with democracy goes a rejection of violence."...

The Bush administration has sketched out how Hamas must change to be seen as legitimate: renounce terror, accept Israel's right to exist, endorse an eventual two-state solution, and lay down its arms.
The neocons are contradicting their belief that liberalism naturally follows the democratic process. Theoretically, the election results should be celebrated because the process worked (the election has been certified as fair by all international observers). But quixotic as the Bush administration may be, they retain enough pragmatism to realize that this successful process is antithetical to a successful outcome. Will it start to sink in that democracy in other areas of the Islamic world threaten the global economy and international security?

The Muslim Brotherhood controls around a fifth of the seats in Egypt. Prior to the US push for democracy, Mubarak's unpopular secular and pro-American government squelched the popular Islamic group. Now, as political freedoms increase in Egypt, the fiercely anti-Western Brotherhood is surging:
The Muslim Brotherhood was largely banned from Egyptian public life after taking
credit for a string of terrorist attacks inside Egypt. It was only allowed back after diplomatic pressure from the U.S., which sends Egypt billions of dollars in foreign aid each year.

The elections there last year were widely seen as corrupt and unfair -- Egyptian security forces arrested opposition candidates and beat their supporters -- but candidates linked to the Muslim Brotherhood nevertheless won a fifth of the seats in parliament.

Many outside observers say the party would almost certainly have won an outright majority in a truly free election.
Similarly Hezbollah is the leading opposition force in Lebanon. And in Iraq, the Shia majority, which has largely refused to compromise with their former antagonists, the minority Sunnis, is theocratic and likely to form amiable ties with hardliners in Iran.

Hamas might moderate once in power, assuming the EU and US wisely wield the economic stick over the Palestinian territory. The Palestinians are almost completely reliant on foreign aid (GDP is only $1.8 billion, while the territory receives an estimated $2 billion a year in aid) that if cut could lead to a backlash against the new Hamas government and force them to yield to Western demands. But that will only foment popular resentment against the new government (much like it did with Fatah) and lead to another extremist group taking power. It's a vicious circle.

If there is a silver lining here, it is that Israel may be prodded into hastening the construction of its enormously successful security fence, pulling out of undefendable settlements in the West Bank, and closing itself off to the Palestinian Authority with the excuse that it cannot possibly deal with a government that does not even recognize its right to exist:
Acting Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert yesterday convened his top security officials to discuss the results. Late in the day, his office issued a statement saying: "The State of Israel will not negotiate with a Palestinian administration if its members include an armed terrorist organization that calls for the destruction of the State of Israel. In any case, Israel will continue to fight terrorism with a heavy hand, everywhere."
Oh, and it might be a seminal moment in America's realization that pro-US, pro-market dictatorships that repress radical elements in ways the West won't stomach are better than popularly elected, anti-Western terrorist organizations. Instead of pouring money down the sewer hole that is the Middle East, we should throw that money into alternative energy resource (and domestic fossil fuel production like drilling in ANWR) and drastically restrict immigration from the Middle East and illegal immigration in general with the construction of fortifications on the borders.



faq said...

So much for compromise. Fatah apparently will not take part in the new government - and judging by the street protests they might just tear it down!

crush41 said...

Ah don't be so pessimistic. So they're not to the Magna Carta stage yet. Eventually the idea of shared power will seep into the Islamic body politic. Sure, it might take another few centuries, but if SENS research progresses fast enough, we might be around to see it nonetheless!

In seriousness, the violent protests and the Fatah faithful's calls for its leaders to step down reveals the absolutist mentality of the Palestinian street. Tolerance and compromise are distinctly Western virtues it would seem.