Friday, July 06, 2007

The Case for (Engaging With) Hamas

With the aid of a serving of Fred Halliday, Paul from the Fundy Post takes a jab at those engaging in the 'Jihadism of Fools': radical leftists who see organisations like Hamas and Hezbollah as allies in their war on imperialism. Now, personally, I've always thought that there are far fewer leftist fools for jihad than Halliday makes out, but they're there: Paul finds us a local example on UNITYblog. Having a peek around I found another:

Socialist Worker-New Zealand believes that key elements of the global political context include...
  • The weakening of the US state's ability to assert its will by military force as a result of the heroic resistance of Iraqi people to the imperialist occupation of their country.
hhhhmmmmm...nothing more heroic than ethnically cleansing Shia neighbourhoods, I guess.

Such are the dangers of Manichean world views: hold them too long and eventually your skull will split, and your brain fall out.

Having said all that I still agree (mostly) with Alastair Crooke: the West's failure to engage with Hamas has a been a shocking mistake.

It's a mistake for three reasons:

1. Hamas. Were. Elected. And if, like me, you think that democracy is a jolly good idea, you need to support, not undermine, it - even when it produces results you don't like*. To do otherwise, as has happened in Palestine, simply exposes you as fraud. And makes democracy appear little more than another tool for US control of the region. Which is unlikely to increase its chances of spreading across the Middle East.

2. Hamas may make crazed statements but, in their actions, there lies an element of pragmatism. Include them in the political process and there's every chance that this will grow as there becomes too much to loose by discarding it. Exclude them and you loose your leverage. They're never going to be lovable but they my become live-wtihable.

3. As Johann Hari (a man whose anti-theism makes Paul Literick's atheism seem like wimpy agnostic hand-wringing) points out: undermine Hamas and what do you get? Islamic Jihad. Now they'll be easy to deal with...


*Up to a point - obviously being democratically elected does not give license to
commit terrorism or human rights abuses. But it seemed like Hamas were willing to hold truce on these.


Paul said...

Yes, at a governmental level, the West should engage with Hamas. As you say, they were elected. Even if they had lost the election, they would still be a significant force in the region. In the West we talk a lot about democracy but we object to people democratically making choices of which we disapprove [at this point in my argument, somebody could use an example which would confirm Godwin's law and also be valid; this democracy business isn't easy].

My problem is with support. The SWO and other groups in the West, which claim to have at heart the interests of the people of Palestine or Iraq, support organisations which commit abominable acts of violence. The victims of this violence are usually members of "the working class." Unfortunately, a lot of far left folk cannot see far past their well-thumbed copies of Das Kapital. They do not realise that politics and economics in the Middle East are tribal, familial, matters. Bakeries in Baghdad are targets for attack, because bakers are usually Shiite, although they serve Sunni neighbourhoods. Politics in both Iraq and Palestine are a mess, partly because of the western involvement and partly because of local reasons. It offends me that the like of the SWO roll in with their perfectly-formed dogma, to pronounce on what is just. Perhaps they might like to consider that the Israelis on the bus that is destroyed by a Hamas suicide-bomber are working class as well. Even if they were petit-bourgeois, as no doubt are the Baghdad bakers, they are humans.

Neal said...

Two points:

1. There is a vast difference between an election and a democracy. The Palestinian Arabs have had two elections. After the first election, the governing authority effectively prevented further elections until the West forced a new election, only to have an election victory for the Palestinian Arab version of the Muslim Brotherhood. That group is not dedicated to democracy but to seizing control and Islamizing society for purposes of carrying on a Jihad against, first, the Israelis and, if successful, the region (in order to set up a transnational imperial state organized about the Caliphate idea) and, lastly, if successful, to continue the Jihad against the West, in continuance of the pattern taken up before the Ottoman Empire declined.

2. Mr. Crooke is not an expert on the Middle East or, for that matter, even a distinguished amateur. His reputation pertains to Northern Ireland, an area with a very different kind of dispute. He does not speak Arabic and has limited knowledge of the region about which he is now be quoted.

Terence said...

Thanks Paul - I think we are basically in agreement. As for the example that would lead to invoking Goodwin's law. Yes that was one of the points I was thinking about when I added my footnote. Having said this, ultimately, IIRC, the Nazis had to at least partially seize and strongarm their way into power, so one could argue that they weren't truly democratically elected. But nevertheless the broader point holds: being democratically elected doesn't provide one with unrestricted power. So the moment, Hamas crossed the line into actions I think it would have been fair enough to start pressuring them and maybe even cease to engage.

Terence said...

hello Neal,

Nice to hear from you again. And I hope all is well on your side of the world.

I'll ignore your ad hom. on Alastair Crooke: who he is does not matter so much as whether what he says is right.

As for you substantive point: maybe hardline Hamas ideologues want to set up a caliphate, maybe they don't. The point is, it will never happen, meanwhile the pragmatic wing of the party has indicated through its actions, if not rhetoric, that it would settle for a two state solution. Such a solution is the best chance, at present, for peace in the region. This is why I think we should engage. If we do not, not only do we weaken the pragmatists ,but we leave everyone with nothing to loose. If a two state solution is off the cards then why not entertain dreams of a caliphate?

You are quite right on one thing though - there is a significant difference between elections and democracy: your own country provides evidence of this.