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Hamas Victory: Following the Trend

28 January 2006

By Yisrael Ne’eman

There is the old adage that “Every people gets the leadership they deserve.” The Palestinians followed Yasir Arafat for 35 years, had Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) for a year (if he was really there) and now elected the Hamas to a landslide victory over the Fatah led PLO in polling for the Palestinian Authority (PA) legislature. The radical Islamic Hamas took 76 seats while the secular Fatah received 43 in the 132 member parliament. The other 13 seats were split among smaller lists and independents. Several points need to be made in the aftermath.

* Initial public opinion surveys and exit polls showed a Fatah victory, the latter by a slim margin. So what went wrong? In non-democratic societies poll takers are identified with the establishment, which in this case is the same Fatah controlled PA. When the populace is afraid of the power elite (including pollsters) they will tell them what they think they want them to hear and/or outright lie as a way of damaging the establishment’s credibility. The ultimate is to surprise the power elite with a revolt, as happened in Wednesday’s Palestinian elections.

• The reason for the massive Fatah defeat is found in Palestinian domestic issues. Fatah corruption robbed the population blind, especially under Arafat’s despotic rule where the low estimate is that he and his financial advisor Mohammed Rashid stole hundreds of millions of dollars. Secondly, armed bands brought about anarchy and fear. The average Palestinian demanded law, order and honesty, even at the expense of an Islamist government.

• The Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and northern Samaria is being blamed by Israeli politicians (as usual, there is an election here also) for the Hamas victory. Likud PM candidate Benyamin Netanyahu accuses the Kadima led government of fleeing Gaza and receiving nothing in return, thereby convincing the Palestinians that Hamas terrorism paid off. Is the Likud leader trying to tell us that had Israel remained in Gaza, Fatah would have won? On the Left there are those led by Meretz’s Yossi Beilin who continue chattering that Israel should have negotiated with Abu Mazen’s impotent government for a bi-lateral accord. Can Dr. Beilin enlighten us as to who was supposed to enforce the Palestinian side of the agreement which certainly would have included disarming the Hamas and ending the anarchy?

• The Americans, Europeans and others (including us at On Target) believed it best to let Hamas run in democratic elections and win if that be the will of the Palestinians. Many Israelis, led by Foreign Minister Tzippi Livni wanted to ban the Hamas from the election campaign because of their terrorist status and sworn obligation to destroy Israel. Today many express the opinion of Ma’ariv editor Amnon Dankner that the mask of moderation has been ripped off the face of the Palestinian populace. They are not followers of Abu Mazen’s two-state solution but rather want Israel’s extermination. Dankner & Co. are half correct. Over the past several years Palestinians support terrorism against Israel while contradicting themselves by advocating a long term hudna (Islamic cease-fire). Interpretation: Palestinians want an unending period of calm to rebuild their lives while truly dreaming of some day destroying Israel.

• Not allowing an open election with Hamas participation would only repress the problem of corruption, chaos and an unwanted secular regime propped up by the West. Later it would explode. Iran, Sudan and Algeria are good examples of such uprisings in the past.

• The EU donated over $600 million to the PA this year. The West demands that Hamas halt terrorism and recognize Israel’s right to exist, otherwise the monies could be cut or so many believe. Supposedly the Hamas is confronted with “Ideology vs. Pragmatism.” Let’s not forget the Iranians or the extremist Arab/Moslem elements (the Saudi Wahhabist movement and El Qaeda) who would gladly step in with funding.

• As Ben-Dror Yemini in Friday’s Ma’ariv explains – the Hamas victory is part of a much greater trend in the Arab/Moslem world where Islamists are challenging all the regimes possible, including Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Iraq (“moderate” Islamists have taken power for the time being). Non-Arab countries such as Pakistan, Turkey and Indonesia face similar challenges. But the issue is much deeper and broader: The post WWII failure of secular socialist/communist revolutionary nationalism as exemplified by the Ba’ath in Iraq and Syria or Nasserism in Egypt has led to a soul searching and return to Islam. The gap between rich and poor was never breached and the promise of equality through “the people’s revolution” brought nothing more than endemic corruption and increasing oppression. At least a belief in Allah could lead to rewards in the next world.

To sum up, Islam will gain strength either through the ballot box, evolutionary political pressure and threat of violence or revolutionary overthrow of existing regimes in most nations throughout the Moslem world. Multiple socio-economic dysfunctions in the Arab/Moslem world coupled with issues of secular/religious identity are the defining baseline of crisis and change for over a billion people world wide.

No doubt for the Palestinians the relationship with the Jewish State has had a major impact on their history. However in the January 25 elections domestic issues similar to the rest of the Arab/Moslem world were the overriding factors in determining the outcome of the vote.