Prague Twin

Friday, February 03, 2006

The Palestinian Question

You would have to be living under a rock not to know that Hamas won the Palestinian elections.

It is being taken in stride for the most part by the media. Significant, but not overwhelmingly so. But this election presents us with a whole new set of opportunities to examine where we are as a people.

Hamas won the election mostly on credibility issues. It is largely ignored that 90% of Hamas' budget goes directly into social programs: schools, hospitals, orphanages... . Indeed, few countries can claim such a dedication to their constituency. Meanwhile, Fatah has repeatedly failed to deliver on their promises. Essentially, this is how Hamas won the election: as a result of their credibility and proven dedication to the Palestinian people.

But now as they are cast into the world of politics, it seems they are headed for a steep learning curve. Their rhetoric will not get them far in the halls of the UN. It will not get them an invitation to the White House. Someone needs to take them aside and tell them "look, believe what you want, we know, but just tone down the dialog."

All kidding aside, it seems they probably won't change their charter as it would indicate weakness. The do have a militant stance, and it seems unlikely that they would renounce that before they are granted statehood. It was George W Bush who called for a Palestinian state, and new leadership. They seemed to miss the part about electing leaders "not compromised by terror", but they heard the the "throw the bums out" loud and clear.

So now that Hamas has been elected, will they use the opportunity to forward the aspirations of those elements in Palestine that favor the two state solution, or will they retreat into a militant "destroy Israel" stance? I think (I hope) a lot depends on what they are given to work with. For now, the decision to at least delay any punitive action is a good one.

Any punitive economic action should be limited to retaliatory ones from this day forward.

Diplomacy must be given a chance.


I remember being about 9 years old, and there were some younger kids teasing. Now, up until then, I hadn't been the biggest kid very often. I was tired of being picked on, and I certainly wasn't in the mood to be taking crap from some second graders.

So I go over and tell them to take it back, and they say "No". One kid is particularly defiant, so I punch him in the stomach, and tell him to take it back, but he won't. He would rather take a beating than say "Ok, I take it back."

I realized at that moment, something about people. That even in the face of something more powerful, most will fight back with what they have. This basic principle is the essence of resistance: fighting an enemy despite the odds. It begins with pride, and it ends with self-determination.


It looks as though the Palestinian people are on their way to statehood. Bush's endorsement of a two-state system is a historic juncture for them. It remains to be seen if Hamas can be brought into the mainstream (at least on a middle east standard). The real question is if the world community will try. It would be a huge mistake to cut off (minimal) humanitarian aid based on their rhetoric. They have been largely peaceful for a year (credibility). That should be built on. Negotiations should be invited. Rules of engagement should be defined (from both sides). They should be given a chance to enter politics.

And if Hamas doesn't take advantage of it, shame on them.

If we don't give them a chance, shame on us.


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