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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Who's to blame?

The Washington Post has a feature on their web site called "Post Global" which describes itself as "a conversation on global issues with David Ignatius and Fareed Zakaria." I've posted enough comments on WaPo op-eds that they put me on their list, so I get the questions as soon as they come out. Here's the latest one:
Hamas has taken Gaza, and Abbas has kicked them out of the Palestinian government. Who's to blame for lack of progress towards a Palestinian state?
There are four panelists. Here's the first one (it's so long that I cannot put the rest in the same post):
Sami Moubayed, a Syrian political analyst, journalist, and author:

To be fair to Hamas, however, we must acknowledge two realities. One is that they were voted into power through truly democratic elections and were the overwhelming choice of the Palestinians. Why? Not because they promised liberation but because they were Islamists who vowed to end corruption, promised better security, more jobs, along with administrative, social, and political reforms. They promised social justice based on an Islamic agenda. They have failed in every single one of those domains, leaving behind a starving, war-torn Palestine with a dislocated economy.

They are not to blame for that, since it was the international community, headed by the United States, that refused to give Hamas a chance in power. I wrote for this website last year saying that this was one of the biggest mistakes ever made by Israel and the Americans. When the Hamas leaders were voted into power, they were dying to be recognized as statesmen rather than guerilla warriors. They made several important gestures towards Israel and the Americans -- crying “Uncle” without actually saying it, but decision-makers in Washington, DC refused to listen. Hamas was on the verge of raising “an olive branch and a freedom fighter’s gun” -- not out of conviction, as Arafat had done in 1974, but rather, out of helplessness and desire to run a state. That would have been the only way to disarm Hamas.

The world has been debating this issue for some time. Clearly, the U.S. couldn’t do it and nor could the UN, Israel, or Arafat. The only way to prevent Hamas from being a state-within-a-state was to let Hamas become the state. By accepting the duties of power, and sharing responsibility and accountability before the international community, Hamas could not -- even if it wished -- continue its military war against Israel. They would have to make a choice: either freedom fighters or statesmen. In 2006, Hamas was willing to chose the “statesmen” option. A Hamas in power, courted and respected by the international community, would be a Hamas that could not send bombs into Israel. A Palestinian liberation movement with no Hamas and no Arafat would become increasingly ineffective militarily, something frowned upon by the Arabs but much welcomed in the Western world. That is why I was very much opposed to bringing Hamas to power in 2006. A Hamas that is out of power, however, would resort to doing what it does best: waging war against Israel. Others would argue that any resistance movement that abandons resistance and enters the world of politics gets ruined and literaly falls from the rank of “untouchable.” This was the case with Hezbollah in South Lebanon. Who would have imagined Hezbollah being criticized in such a manner by different parties in Lebanon prior to their entry into the political system after the liberation of the South in 2000? Compare the standing of Hezbollah among different parties in 2000 to its standing today. The same applies to Hamas before 2006 and the Hamas of 2007.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice seemingly landed from another planet when she declared that she supports the “moderates” in Palestine, represented by Abu Mazen (also known as Mahmoud Abbas). What moderates? Doesn’t Rice realize that “moderation” is dead in the Arab World and that Gaza has “fallen” to the Islamists? Doesn’t she realize that the symbol of moderation, Abu Mazen, is completely irrelevant? When Hamas was willing to become moderate, the Americans literarily strangled it to death and turned it into the radical creature that controls Gaza today. Abu Mazen is fit to rule a country like Switzerland, but not Palestine. He doesn’t resemble his people. He doesn’t talk like them, think like them, or act like them. He disrespects the militants -- even those of Fatah in the 1980s -- and considers himself too refined to deal with them, preferring the company of European ambassadors and intellectual conversation over a good drink in an air-conditioned saloon. That is disrespectful to a nation where every family has lost a son in war with Israel.


Arafat himself was killed -- I insist on the word killed -- by somebody who did not want him to continue leading the Palestinians. This was the biggest curse to hit the Palestinians since the wars of 1948 and 1967. Ahmad Yassin, a moderate voice in Hamas, was silenced with an Israeli missile in 2004 and so was his successor Abdul-Aziz al-Rantisi. Potential leaders like Marwan al-Barghouti languish in an Israeli jail. When compared to any of these figures, Abbas, Haniyya, and even Salam Fayyad come across as colorless figures. That is the situation within the Palestinian Territories. They lack inspiring, able, and wise figures who can offer good leadership and a walk the delicate balance between being a freedom fighter and being a statesman.

They need another Yasser Arafat; another Abu Ammar. If he does not exist, then they must create him. When Arafat wanted calm in the Occupied Territories in 1999, to prove his goodwill to incoming Prime Minister Ehud Barak, the Hamas-led violence stopped automatically -- almost by remote control -- and not a single incident was recorded in the West Bank and Gaza. When Arafat wanted confrontation, we got the second Intifada in 2000. Until we get that kind of leader, who can impose his will on everybody and everything, the circus will continue in Palestine and produce more Mahmoud Abbasses, and more Ismail Haniyehs.
This guy blames everybody and is irrational and hate filled. But he does make a couple of good points. First, note that if Moubayed is correct, the 'Palestinians' actually want the Islamist agenda. Until now, everything I had read had claimed that they were forced into it because it was the only alternative to the corruption of Fatah.

Second, his claim that Hamas was dying to be recognized for their political acumen makes about as much sense as the man who beats his wife because he wants to show her how much he loves her. Both have very strange ways of expressing their feelings. If Hamas really wanted to be recognized as politicians and diplomats, all they had to do was say "we recognize Israel." They didn't even have to back it up with anything. But unlike Yasser Arafat in 1988 (who said it but didn't back it up), Hamas could not even mouth the words.

Third, he's right about there being no 'moderates' in 'Palestine' and about Abu Mazen being irrelevant. Too bad that the US and Israel cannot bring themselves to admit that. But he's wrong about Hamas wanting to be moderate. And Abu Mazen doesn't 'disrespect' the militants terrorists. He fears them.

Fourth, he perpetuates the myth that Arafat was murdered. Arafat died of AIDS because he couldn't keep his pants on when he should have. Particularly around boys, men and goats. Sounds nasty but it's the truth. And that's why we had all the secrecy around Arafat dying. That and the billions of dollars he controlled.

And that's my fifth and final point on this one. Moubayed says that another Yasser Arafat is needed. There will never be one. Yasser Arafat made sure of that by dividing and conquering the 'Palestinians' in a way that will cause civil war among them for generations to come. Blame it on Arafat - it's as much his fault as anyone else's.


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