I know a lot of people don’t like Hamas, both Arabs and non-Arabs, both Palestinians and non-Palestinians, and both Muslims and non-Muslims. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and I most certainly respect that. But I’ve read some comments in the past 24 hours that are at best faulty and at worst, absurd.
One of the major arguements or rather fears is that Hamas will turn Palestine into an ultra-conservative Muslim state (state as in state of mind). In my opinion this is doubtful. Let us keep in mind that Hamas did and does have the power to dominate Palestine with violence, today it’s been voted in democratically. This isn’t exactly Afghans voting in the Taliban. Palestinians know what they’re getting.
The second arguement seems to be that Palestinians have made a mistake and don’t know what their getting. Well I cannot say this isn’t true in the sense that what one votes for today can change drastically tomorrow. But then again who am I or anyone else for that matter to say Palestinians voted right or wrong? Most of the news people get on Hamas comes from the media and not on the ground. Palestinians do in fact benefit directly from Hamas socially and politically. Hamas has supported Palestinians with food, medical aid, and education. And when no official authority in Palestine reacts to Israeli aggression, Hamas offers a form of localized social justice when it stands up to Israel. Like it or not, disagree with it or not, it doesn’t negate the fact that this is true.
The third arguement centers around the U.S., Israel, and the future of negotiations.
In this arguement it’s been said that Israel and the U.S. will refuse to negotiate with Hamas as they identify it as a terrorist organization. This is true, and already Israel has declared it won’t deal with Hamas.
Suprise, Suprise! So we are assuming that had Hamas not won the elections, Israel and the U.S. would rush to the negotiation tables with Palestine. Yeah, I don’t think that’s going to happen. Where has the U.S. and Israel been in the past 5 years? When were the last negotiations? In the Clinton era? For the past 5 years the Bush administration has refused to negotiate with Arafat who was once deemed a partner in peace (he even won a nobel for it) back in the 90’s. The U.S. turned away from the conflict completely and allowed Israel to continue with building the wall, surrounding Arafat’s compound, Jenin, land grabs, illegal settlement building et cetera et cetera.
When did the world even acknowledge Arafat or the PLO as a legitimate negotiator for the Palestinian cause? They were all labeled as terrorists over the past half century only until recently in the context of this conflict.
In the end, Hamas has come to represent everything every other political group in Palestine is not: resistance. And this is what it boils down to. It’s easy to talk about negotiations and 2 state solutions but in practice it’s very difficult to actually sit down and implement. In this conflict when Palestinians come to negotiate for a certain piece of land by the time they get to the tables they find settlements have been built and the land has been taken. Negotiate that.
We as outsiders consistantly make the mistake of framing Palestine as an actual state with citizens. In the process we forget this is a people and a land that is being occupied. Like it or not, disagree with it or not, it doesn’t negate the fact that this is true. Reality dictates as such. And for every action there needs to be some form of reaction; Hamas has come to define that reaction.
The election result is not entirely surprising, however, and has been foreshadowed by recent events. Take for example the city of Qalqilya in the north of the West Bank. Hemmed in by Israeli settlements and now completely surrounded by a concrete wall, the city’s fifty thousand residents are prisoners in a Israeli-controlled giant ghetto. For years Qalqilya’s city council was controlled by Fatah but after the completion of the wall, voters in last years’ municipal elections awarded every single city council seat to Hamas. The Qalqilya effect has now spread across the occcupied territories, with Hamas reportedly winning virtually all of the seats elected on a geographic basis. Thus Hamas’ success is as much an expression of the determination of Palestinians to resist Israel’s efforts to force their surrender as it is a rejection of Fatah. It reduces the conflict to its most fundamental elements: there is occupation, and there is resistance.