The Silver Lining News from Palestine...

(pics via

I had a mini debate with two readers about whether Hitler was elected to power in a democratic election. He was. In the July 1932 Parliamentary elections, the Nazi party led by Hitler gave the Nazis 13,745,000 votes, 37% of the total, granting them 230 seats in the Reichstag, becoming the largest in Germany. President Hidenburg was reluctant to nominate him as chancellor but did that eventually in January 1933 (President Abbas could do the same thing in Palestine and nominate a non-Hamas figure as PM. But unless Hamas agrees to that it won't be a very, well, democratic decision). In March 5, 1933, the last free elections were held in Germany, and Germans gave Hitler 44 per cent of the total vote, 17, 277,180. In any case, all of this reminded me how the German communists reacted to the Nazi victory. Believe it or not, they actually welcomed it. They declared that the new Nazi-dominated government was the “dying gasp of moribund capitalism” and that Hitler's government would create the conditions for a “revolutionary upturn” and accelerate the momentum toward a “proletarian revolution."
So... it's kind of interesting to monitor the reaction to the Hamas victory and the way officials and pundits are finding a "silver lining" in all of that (See my earlier post for the president's response). It reminds me of an aunt of mine who when you gave her some bad news, that you lost your job or your house was destroyed in fire, would always respond: "It's all for the best, dear." For believers there is the God Works in Mysterious Ways... And for Marxists and neocons it's -- how should I put it? -- dialectical thinking runing amok.
For a great "silver lining" see Efraim Karsh on TNR Online on "WHY HAMAS'S VICTORY ISN'T SUCH A BAD THING." Because...perhaps you'll read it and explain it to me. My deconstruction is: It's good that we had a democratic election in Palestine because it demonstrated the Palestinians are really not very democratic...
I usually benefit from reading Juan Cole on the Mideast (btw, he was once bashed by Karsh in the NR). And I agree with much of what he had to say on the election on But I have two contras which apply to other stuff coming out mostly from the left. First, I think that he tends to exaggerate the impact that the U.S. had and could have on all of this. We are talking here about an outcome that reflects long-term social-demographic and political trends reflected in other developments in other parts of the Arab and Moslem worlds, including in Turkey. And I'm a bit uncomfortable with the comparison between Hamas and Likud and not because I like the Likud. I don't. But the Likud, and even the Herut party before that it merged in the Likud, was a secular nationalist party and not a messianic religious movement. Some of its allies in the settler movement could be defined as such (and btw, Vladimir Jabotinsky, the founding father of the movement that had given birth to Herut was a European anti-clerical figure). The historical analogy that should be made is between the PLO and Likud, both of which have renounced their commitment to Greater Palestine/Israel. The point is that very much like in the case of the Jewish settlers, I cannot see how Hamas would give up its messianic agenda.
Here are two final observations:
1. I know that runs so much contrary to what almost everyone to the left and right believes but is it possible that perhaps the United States will not be able in the short- and mid-term to counter these developments in Israel/Palestine? The West was very successful in "taming" the Islamists in Turkey by using economic and diplomatic pressure and eventually to co-opt them (they now support EU membership). But the political conditions in Turkey were very different then they are in Palestine today.
2. I'm opposed to the Bush administration's democratic crusade not because I'm against democracy. I think the best way the U.S. can help to spread it is by serving as a model to the world (Patriot Act and Abu Gharib don't fit into it) and through trade and other forms of engagement. In many cases, the spread of democracy and free elections don't advance U.S. interests. For example, did you hear about Hugo Chavez and Evo Morales? At the same time, Franco and Salazar were two important partners in the Cold War and -- by refraining to enter in WWII -- in the victory over the Nazis.
For more about this topic read on the pitfalls of the Democratic Crusade you'll have to wait for coming article in the American Conservative.


Was Sharon democratically elected?
Peter said…
Dr. Hadar,

First of all, I am glad to learn (via Jim Henley) that you have a blog. I've been reading your commentary for a while, and I always find it stimulating, even though I often disagree with it.

In regards to your comment about the lack of impact US policy had on Palestinian elections, I think you're partially off. To the extent that Palestinian voting was based on domestic political issues, whether it be a desire for a greater role for Islam or dissatisfaction with Fatah's corruption (personally, I believe it's the latter), then I agree, Bush could not have made much of a difference whatever he did.

However, to the extent that the Palestinian elections were driven by anger over Israeli policies, then I don't see it as hubristic to discusss the United States' role. It's become clear to Palestinians that Abu Mazen's concilatory approach towards Israel has been totally ineffective in protecting Palestinian rights. At the same time, in the wake of Palestinian outrage towards American & Israeli policies, Hamas is viewed by many Palestinians as the only force willing to stand up to Israel (I stress that I am not whitewashing Hamas' atrocities, just summarizing what I believe are Palestinian views).

The relevance of the United States is that it provides a massive amount of economic, military, and political support to Israel. It's not ridiculous to believe that Israel would take a very different strategy towards the Palestinians in the absence of that support, or if the US conditioned that support on Israel's compliance with international law.

Look forward to reading your blog in the future.
Thanks for your kind comments. I agree to most of your points. And please read my book: Sandstorm: Policy Failure in the Middle East (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005). See links on the right.
Gothamimage said…
Dr. Hadar - Always interesting. Isn't this sad situation unique though. It seems that various comparisons fall short, except to make an eye catching point. Isn't possible that Rice was not so surpised, but thinks this bad result is one that will eventually discredit itself, in the proper way (at a later ballot box), other than by machinations or negotiations that don't last as long and cause further problems? That would be a best case out of a set of bad cases.

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