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28-01-06, 22:31
Hamas' triumph is a real opportunity

By Rami G. Khouri
Daily Star staff
Saturday, January 28, 2006


It has been particularly fascinating for me to be in the United States this week to watch the reactions to the dramatic victory by the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas in Wednesday's parliamentary elections. Media and official comments both indicate that the historic nature of what has just happened in Palestine is unlikely to be grasped in the U.S. or many other parts of the Western world, because Hamas and the rest of the Middle East continue to be judged by the litmus test of their acquiescence to Israeli security demands.

This is a tragic shame, because Hamas' victory - coming after similar Islamist triumphs in Egypt, Lebanon and Iraq - also offers a potential political opportunity, if only sober minds would prevail on all sides. I say a "potential" opportunity because Hamas' ascent to power remains riddled with many unknowns and deep concerns among many people in the Middle East and other parts of the world. Hamas is not certain to succeed as the party in power.

Three key points seem important about Hamas' victory. The first is that the election campaign was not a referendum on making war or peace with Israel. Hamas did not win because it promised to wipe out Israel. It won because it held out the promise of redressing some of the terrible imbalances and chaotic distortions that have come to define Palestinian domestic society in the past few years. These include corruption and incompetence in the Palestinian Authority governance system, lawlessness at the local level, and a humiliating inability to protect Palestinian communities' basic day-to-day ability to function because of the sustained onslaught of Israeli occupation policies. Hamas won because Palestinians think it can do a better job than Fatah in bringing order and self-respect to the business of daily life.

The second important aspect of the election result is that Hamas will now experience the responsibility and accountability that come with incumbency. As a democratically elected governing authority, whether on its own or in coalition with Fatah and other groups, Hamas will have to act in a manner that broadly reflects the views of the majority of the Palestinian citizenry. That majority has clearly and consistently expressed a desire to negotiate a fair, permanent peace with Israel and coexist in peace with the Jewish state, rather than to wipe it off the face of the earth.

The third important point about Hamas' victory is that it represents a brand of political leadership legitimacy that has been rare in the modern Arab world. Hamas' massive victory is significant in itself, but it also represents a historic, peaceful transfer of power from what has effectively been a one-party state run by Fatah to an opposition that came to power through democratic elections.
http://www.dailystar.com.lb

There are important differences between the causes of Hamas' victory and its possible consequences. These must be sorted out if this striking democratic victory is to lead to positive outcomes for Palestinians, Israelis, and the rest of the region and the world.

What is clear here in the U.S. is that the Hysteria Brigades are already on the march, as they are in Israel. Hamas is judged almost solely on the basis of whether it will disarm and recognize Israel's right to exist - to the extraordinary exclusion of the fact that Hamas only armed in the first place to resist the Israeli occupation. It would be a terrible tragedy and a huge missed opportunity if Israel, the U.S., and the rest of the world compound the mistakes they have made that gave rise to Hamas in the first place. The main mistake is to see Hamas militancy against Israel without simultaneously seeing the Israeli policies of occupation, assassination, colonization, and other acts of aggression against the Palestinians. Above all else, the birth and now the political triumph of Hamas reflect a sustained Palestinian response to the American-backed Israeli government policies of colonial disdain for Palestinian national rights. Israel and the U.S. for decades have refused to acknowledge that Hamas (as well as Hizbullah in Lebanon) was born as a reaction to Israeli occupation and abuse of Arab rights and national integrity. Hamas' policies must be viewed in the context of the struggle between Israelis and Palestinians.

Unilaterally demanding that Hamas disarm its resistance wing or unilaterally acknowledge Israel's existence will go nowhere if such a call is not matched by parallel Israeli steps to stop assassinating Palestinians and colonizing their land. The urgent priority now is for third-party mediators to craft a process that identifies the legitimate rights and aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians, and that outlines diplomatic steps to achieve these rights and aspirations.


Rami G. Khouri writes a regular commentary for THE DAILY STAR.

Hamas' triumph is a real opportunity

By Rami G. Khouri
Daily Star staff
Saturday, January 28, 2006


It has been particularly fascinating for me to be in the United States this week to watch the reactions to the dramatic victory by the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas in Wednesday's parliamentary elections. Media and official comments both indicate that the historic nature of what has just happened in Palestine is unlikely to be grasped in the U.S. or many other parts of the Western world, because Hamas and the rest of the Middle East continue to be judged by the litmus test of their acquiescence to Israeli security demands.

This is a tragic shame, because Hamas' victory - coming after similar Islamist triumphs in Egypt, Lebanon and Iraq - also offers a potential political opportunity, if only sober minds would prevail on all sides. I say a "potential" opportunity because Hamas' ascent to power remains riddled with many unknowns and deep concerns among many people in the Middle East and other parts of the world. Hamas is not certain to succeed as the party in power.

Three key points seem important about Hamas' victory. The first is that the election campaign was not a referendum on making war or peace with Israel. Hamas did not win because it promised to wipe out Israel. It won because it held out the promise of redressing some of the terrible imbalances and chaotic distortions that have come to define Palestinian domestic society in the past few years. These include corruption and incompetence in the Palestinian Authority governance system, lawlessness at the local level, and a humiliating inability to protect Palestinian communities' basic day-to-day ability to function because of the sustained onslaught of Israeli occupation policies. Hamas won because Palestinians think it can do a better job than Fatah in bringing order and self-respect to the business of daily life.

The second important aspect of the election result is that Hamas will now experience the responsibility and accountability that come with incumbency. As a democratically elected governing authority, whether on its own or in coalition with Fatah and other groups, Hamas will have to act in a manner that broadly reflects the views of the majority of the Palestinian citizenry. That majority has clearly and consistently expressed a desire to negotiate a fair, permanent peace with Israel and coexist in peace with the Jewish state, rather than to wipe it off the face of the earth.

The third important point about Hamas' victory is that it represents a brand of political leadership legitimacy that has been rare in the modern Arab world. Hamas' massive victory is significant in itself, but it also represents a historic, peaceful transfer of power from what has effectively been a one-party state run by Fatah to an opposition that came to power through democratic elections.
http://www.dailystar.com.lb

There are important differences between the causes of Hamas' victory and its possible consequences. These must be sorted out if this striking democratic victory is to lead to positive outcomes for Palestinians, Israelis, and the rest of the region and the world.

What is clear here in the U.S. is that the Hysteria Brigades are already on the march, as they are in Israel. Hamas is judged almost solely on the basis of whether it will disarm and recognize Israel's right to exist - to the extraordinary exclusion of the fact that Hamas only armed in the first place to resist the Israeli occupation. It would be a terrible tragedy and a huge missed opportunity if Israel, the U.S., and the rest of the world compound the mistakes they have made that gave rise to Hamas in the first place. The main mistake is to see Hamas militancy against Israel without simultaneously seeing the Israeli policies of occupation, assassination, colonization, and other acts of aggression against the Palestinians. Above all else, the birth and now the political triumph of Hamas reflect a sustained Palestinian response to the American-backed Israeli government policies of colonial disdain for Palestinian national rights. Israel and the U.S. for decades have refused to acknowledge that Hamas (as well as Hizbullah in Lebanon) was born as a reaction to Israeli occupation and abuse of Arab rights and national integrity. Hamas' policies must be viewed in the context of the struggle between Israelis and Palestinians.

Unilaterally demanding that Hamas disarm its resistance wing or unilaterally acknowledge Israel's existence will go nowhere if such a call is not matched by parallel Israeli steps to stop assassinating Palestinians and colonizing their land. The urgent priority now is for third-party mediators to craft a process that identifies the legitimate rights and aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians, and that outlines diplomatic steps to achieve these rights and aspirations.


Rami G. Khouri writes a regular commentary for THE DAILY STAR.

http://www.dailystar.com.lb/article.asp?edition_id=10&categ_id=5&article_id=21769