There’s much concern and some surprise the last few days that Hamas is likely to do very well in the upcoming Palestinian Authority elections. The surprise certainly isn’t warranted and the concern may not be.
Ultimately in the West Bank and Gaza Strip effective opposition to the corrupt, heavily armed terrorist organization Fatah at the polls is only going to come from an organization with sufficient arms of its own. Fatah may allow “moderate” parties enough rope to hang themselves at the polls, but their gunmen will brook no serious opposition. Since Fatah is corrupt and its governance incompetent, and the Palestinian people know it, it should come as no surprise that they turn to an organization that has a reputation for not tolerating corruption and for effectively providing social services. Hamas has been the de facto Palestinian government in many areas since the PLO was still living in Tunis. That Hamas invokes religion while Fatah is “secular” shouldn’t really be much comfort. Stalin and Mao were secular leaders; Abraham Lincoln and John Adams were deeply religious.
So, is it a calamity for Israel, the US or the Palestinians if Hamas does well? Probably not.
Thirty-one of the 528 candidates, including Marwan Barghouti, who heads the Fatah list, are serving time in Israeli prisons, the CEC said. Barghouti is serving five life sentences for his role in five terrorist killings.
Fatah is a corrupt terrorist organization that pays lip service to the idea of peace with Israel while failing to deliver any real economic or political hope to the Palestinian people. Hamas is a terrorist organization opposed to corruption that pays lip service to the idea of war with Israel while actually delivering economic and political hope to the Palestinian people. During the second intifada, Hamas and Fatah’s Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades are running neck and neck in numbers of suicide bombings. Al Aqsa has been responsible for many of the most deadly attacks including the January 5, 2003 bombing at the Southern Tel Aviv central bus station where 22 were killed. When it comes to terrorism the two organizations are morally equivalent. Saying in English that they oppose terrorism while begging for more in Arabic may actually make Fatah a little worse.
When it comes to peace with Israel, the difference between the two organizations is microscopic in the short run. In the longer run, the best chance for peace may come from the more unlikely source. It’s well known which group the US “prefers” so a win by Hamas that is allowed to stand proves that we (the US and Israel) are serious about this democracy thing. George Bush has articulated a bold plan for the Middle East and the rest of the world. That plan involves spreading democracy and freedom and the prosperity that go with them so that the next generation won’t be as inclined to envy, hatred and violence as this one. Simply allowing the Palestinians to rubber stamp the corrupt, terrorist Fatah organization isn’t real democracy, isn’t real freedom and certainly won’t bring Palestinians anything approaching real prosperity. Unless we’re willing to engineer an alternative, we may have to take what God and the Mossad have provided.
One thing is for certain, as the Christian Science Monitor puts it:
No wonder, then, that Palestinian voters are in a quandary. They deserve respect for making a difficult decision, and gratitude for using the ballot box to settle differences.