Friday, January 27, 2006
Three brief observations on the Hamas shocker
Sorry, but I was a little busy "doing Hamas," that is providing newsbites, for a few broadcasting outlets. I even had to interrupt my pilates exercise to give a three-minute interview to radio station CJOB-AM in Winnipeg, Canada... And I'm working on a long analytical piece for the American Conservative on the topic as it relates to the Bush Administration's crusade to "democratize" the Middle East. The three recent mostly free elections in the region gave us a nutty president in Iran, his radical Shiite pals in Iraq, and now Hamas... Since you've been following the news from the Holy Land and reading what all the "usual suspects" -- always wrong! -- have to say about the subject, let me just make three brief and contrarian observations:
1. Why did the media, pollsters, etc. failed to predict the Hamas victory? Two main reasons: First, they relied on unreliable Palestinian pollsters like Dr. Khalil Shikaki director of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research who receive their funding from western sources and have an interest in providing their clients with the good news they want to hear (not to mention the fact that they aren't very professional). The other reason is that western officials and pundits just have a mental problem accepting the idea that religion remains such a powerful force in the politics of nations. I read that these guys realy "shocked" at the Davos meeting upon hearing the news.
2. Is it the End of the World? There wasn't any "peace process" taking place since the start of the second intifadah. So it's not like we're going to bring an end to something that hasn't been happening. The Bushies and the media are going to spin the news by suggesting that perhaps we could co-opt the Hamas, that they would tend to adopt a more accomodative approach after coming to power, that there is the "good Hamas" (Hamas figures who can convese in English on CNN and use the internet...) as opposed to the "bad Hamas" (those who cannot do that) and so on. That's a lot of b-s. These guys believe in what they say and say what they believe in. They live in an entirely different universe from the one you and I live in and don't share our dreams and values. Sure, we can reach some ad-hoc deals with them but please don't start with all the wishful thinking (and add a question mark if you do that). Yes, in Turkey we have an Islamic Democratic (a la a European Christian Democratic) party that seems to be reasonable (we hope). But that happened after a century of revolution and nation creating. It's not going to happen in Palestine in a few months or weeks.
3. So what will happen? The media misses the point again by focusing on Israeli and Western reactions. I'm more interested in following how the ousted Fatah guys are going to react. Remember these are very corrupt individuals who make our own Abramoff look like Mother Theresa. They basically steal money the Palestinians receive from the U.S. and EU and put it in their bank accounts. And they have a lot of guns. So do you really think that they are going to become the "loyal opposition" in the Palestinian "parliament." Like the ex-Baathists in Iraq they are pissed off and I won't be surprised that they'll start shooting very soon. Civil war? Perhaps.
What we need in Washington is a serious debate on whether the Democratic Crusade is advancing U.S. national interests, especially in the Middle East.