Monday, January 12, 2009

Was Hamas democratically elected?

AlJazeera English has recently broadcast a discussion Sir David between a Hamas spokesperson and a former Israeli ambassador to the United States, about the current situation in Gaza. The ambassador makes a good rebuttal to the claim that Hamas was democratically elected. In Iraq and Kosovo, parties had to disarm before running in elections. Hamas (and Hezbollah as well) did not disarm before running in elections and still maintain their armed forces. Can you imagine the Democrats and Republicans each with an armed militia? Instead of filibusters they would have skirmishes. It's chaotic and a democratic society can't operate this way.

When I watch these AlJazeera videos there are many times that I want the moderator or an Israeli spokespersons to ask the Arabs certain question or tell the audience to think about something. For once, my thoughts were answered. The Israeli ambassador told the audience to look at Hamas' charter online.

In, the second part of the program (Frost Over the World), Sir David has a Palestinian and a Jew familiar with Israeli politics in the studio, on the same sofa. I think Israelis and Palestinians need more discussion around coffee tables. Here are a few notes:

1. The Palestinian said that a Hamas official told him that Hamas' infrastructure hadn't been dented. I was thinking, "Is he crazy? This is the kind of delusional thinking that brought the Palestinians nowhere."

2. The Palestinian said that Arafat accepted the two state solution. "Oh really?"

3. The Palestinian is correct that Israel's settlement policy harms the peace process. But I think that Israel is having an internal discussion on what kind of state it wants to be. The Palestinians have to start thinking about what sort of state they want to have in the future. I don't think that this internal discussion is premature because it will help Israel, mediators, and the international community garner support for their respective peace camps if the Palestinians express that they want a secular and peaceful state. Unfortunately, the Palestinians overwhelmingly "voted" for a radical Islamist and antisemitic organization. This told all Jewish Israelis that Hamas and this new "face" of the Palestinian cause isn't about peace and improving the lives of Palestinians (just as Hitler did by involving Germany in a war), but is about the destruction of the Jews.

4. The British Jew is being very polite. I think that being face-to-face with one's counterpart softens us up, helps communication and the peace process. Maybe it's because he's British and not Israeli. Israelis aren't afraid to say what they think even if it harms someone's feelings.

I wish the Brit told the Palestinian, "What did you expect when your people elected an antisemitic terrorist group right next to a Jewish state?"

5. The Palestinian says that he can't accept Israel because they stole his land (i.e., 1948). He says he can accept a 15-year "hudna" (which means "cease-fire" but can also mean "calm"). Most observers see a hudna as just a time-out, in which for Hamas will rearm; such a cease fire would never last.

6. The Palestinian says that he can drop the gun but can't "abandon the dream". The problem is that the Palestinians still haven't found a way to follow the dream without arms. I wanted to ask him, "Okay, you dropped the gun. Now what? Tell me how you and the rest of the Palestinian peace camp will move forward so the Israeli peace camp can talk to you and support you."

7. The Palestinian also says that the first step must be Israel recognizing Palestinian "victimhood" caused by the creation of the State of Israel. I think Israeli historians such as Benny Morris and also Israelis in the media have recognized this tragedy, but Israel as a nation is unwilling to just pull back and compensate Palestinians, because it doesn't believe they will really drop the gun and pick up the hammer to build up their new state. Israel's withdrawl from Gaza and Hamas' rise is an example of that.

8. "When you shout at someone and say that there is no dispute, there is obviously a dispute" is the response the British Jew makes to the Palestinians' statement on the Palestinian narrative of 1948.

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