The SITUATION: Election of Hamas

The SITUATION: Election of Hamas

There are many things – both for good and for bad– that one would never have predicted during the last 14 years – since just before Rabin led Labor and Meretz to power in the spring of ’92. For example: that there would be a peace process with Arafat, that the first horrendous terrorist event of this period would be committed by a Jew (Baruch Goldstein at the mosque in Hebron), that Rabin would be assassinated by a Jew, that the peace process would be utterly betrayed by Arafat, that Sharon would be elected PM and four years later battle his own constituency in the militant settler movement to dismantle settlements, and that a peace-oriented leader would be elected to replace Arafat and then Hamas would be elected the other day. From one moment to the next, who really knows what to think?

I was as much surprised as anybody else with the Hamas election victory. But if Hamas forms a “government” – in the parliamentary sense of a cabinet – with Abbas remaining as president, this actually increases the possibility that the Palestinian Authority could move against Islamic Jihad (as well as renegade cells of the Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades). Hamas has not been the source of any or most violence since the current “lull” began in 2005 – a respite from the Intifada that is perhaps the one significant achievement of the Abbas presidency. The fact that Hamas is so disciplined may make it more possible for the PA to disarm the other terrorist groups; it would test Abbas’s strategy to coopt Hamas into positions of responsibility.

By | 2006-01-27T16:14:00-05:00 January 27th, 2006|Blog|6 Comments


  1. Jonah Seaman January 28, 2006 at 4:57 am - Reply

    First off, I feel it neccesary to refute the assertion that Arafat “betrayed” Israel. (See linked articles: and

    If one wishes to go into the subject of betrayal one could easily ask why Meretz joined in the general chorus of “We Have No Partner” and facilitated the breakdown of talks between Israelis and Palestinians. For the first three years of the Intifada, one looked in vain for Meretz–or Labor–to speak up for peace. It was left to smaller, more “radical” peace groups like Taayush, Anarchists Against the Wall, Gush Shalom, Women in Black, etc. to engage the Palestinians in peace. Groups I should add, Meretz USA castigated as “anti-Israeli”

    As for Meretz and Labor in Israel..of all the worst things the Israeli Right has done to the Palestinians, most of them were brainchilds of the Israeli Left.

    Settlement Blocs? Thank Yossi Beilin for that idea. He thought that by having large blocs near the border that Israel could abandon more isolated settlments deeper in Palestinian territory. Didn’t work out that way, and now the blocs cut into the West Bank like wedges, posed to divide it into multiple cantons.

    The Wall? Thank the Israeli left. They had wanted it along the Green Line, but still supported when the wall was built…mostly in Palestinian territory causing massive hardship and cantonization.

    Unilateralism? Once again, Thank the Israeli Left. Perhaps they thought they could use this as a way to get around the blocked negotations. Instead, Sharon used it as a way to set the borders where he wanted them to be. His sucessors are not going to withdraw to anything close to the Green Line, but leave the Palestinians in cantons. But the Israeli Left supports unlitareralism anyway.

    So who betrayed who again?

    It’s publications such as these that help me understand why many Palestinians who had been strong supporters of Oslo and other peace agreements now feel that their hopes can only be achieved through armed struggle, like Marwan Barghouti (imprisoned General-Secretary of Fatah in the West Bank and Tanzim chief) and Zacharia Zubeidi (head of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade in Jenin). Both men had, and still have, Jewish friends and believe that peace was possible under Oslo. Barghouti was popular among Israeli leaders, including several on the Right. Zubeidi’s home was used as a theater by Israelis and Zacharia grew up with Jewish children at his home. Then peace failed, herein lies Zubeidi’s turn to militancy:

    “The disappointment and anger he feels toward the Israeli peaceniks are incomparably greater than his anger at Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. He mentions this over and over. Sharon is a military man and so he doesn’t expect anything different from him. Not so with the Israeli peace camp. Not one of them called him after his mother was killed by an IDF sniper’s bullet over a year ago, while she was standing by the window of her home, and no one came when his brother was killed a few hours later. The house was also demolished—and no one came.

    “You took our house and our mother and you killed our brother,” Zebeida says angrily as soon as he sits down. “We gave you everything and what did we get in return? A bullet in my mother’s chest. We opened our home—and you demolished it. Every week, 20-30 Israelis would come to do theatre there. We fed them. And afterward, not one of them picked up the phone.”

    The Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades may reach peace with Israel, he says, but he won’t personally. He won’t forgive the killing of his mother and brother and the razing of his house.” (‘Wanted Man’ by Gideon Levy, Haaretz)

    Zubeidi can’t be a brother, or a son to his mother anymore. He can’t be a father for his son, Hamoudi or his second child on the way. Instead he becomes a Palestinian legend and hero, comparable in their eyes to Mordechai Anielewicz.

    Barghouti and Zubeidi are Palestinians spurned by the Zionist Left. They believed in peace and in the “Left”. Both failed the Palestinians, not the other way around. When peace talks faltered, the Left blindly dovetailed Barak’s “We Have No Partner Myth” and the myth of having “turned over every stone for peace.” Some of them, the wiser among them, realized they’d been tricked but it was too little too late. Simply put, the Palestinians expected more from the Israeli Left, and frankly, so did I.

    These sort of excuses about what Arafat did or didn’t do tries to cover up and explain away this base act of foolishness and betrayal by blaming everyone but themselves. The revelation that Ehud Barak’s “Generous Offer” was anything but is dismissed as left-wing myth, the equal and opposite of the right-wing myth of the “Generous Offer”. Hinting that the truth lays somewhere between these two versions, which is a not so subtle attempt to shift that blame back on Arafat. There is no logic to this argument. There’s a line from a novel I read that applies to this situation:

    “It’s called the gray fallacy. One person says white, another says black, and outside observers assume gray is the truth. The assumption of gray is sloppy, lazy thinking. The fact that one person takes a position that is diametrically opposed to the truth does not then skew reality so the truth is no longer the truth. The truth is still the truth.”

    All this does is provide an excuse for people like the pseudo-progressives to avoid taking a stand and so in the interest of “objectivity” damn both parties, regardless of who is actually at fault, denying justice by equating the wronged party and the party committing the wrong.

    Meretz USA, trapped between its leftist rhetoric and need to prove its patriotic credentials, comes of as a lukewarm party intent on shoving the blame onto everyone else but themselves. It’s either the fault of the Israeli Right, the Palestinian miliants, or people more stridently–or more consistently–leftist than themselves, but it’s never Meretz’s fault, of course.

    I shall end with a message from Dr. Martin Luther King Junior’s Letter from Birmingham Jail.

    I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action;” who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a “more convenient season.”

    Shallow understanding from people of goodwill is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

  2. Ralph Seliger January 28, 2006 at 11:47 pm - Reply

    I thank Jonah Seaman for his challenging posts. There’s a lot of passion but little compassion in his attitude toward our friends in Meretz-Israel. It’s amazing how much animus exists among the far left for the moderate left.

    Allow me to correct Mr. Seaman’s mistaken assertions: Meretz differed sharply with Barak’s loud protestations that after Camp David, there was no Palestinian partner for peace. But Meretz also was aware that Arafat had undercut the peace process (fatally as it turned out) by not quickly curtailing the violence that became the new Intifada– and even worse, inciting violence with his hate-filled rhetoric on “jihad” and “shaheeds,” and worse still, his funding of terrorist attacks by Fatah’s own fighters in the Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades.

    I have explained how the settlement blocs concept was pioneered by Yossi Alpher and can play a positive role in negotiations as suggested by Taba and Geneva. The fence/wall was meant by the Israeli left to be a purely defensive barrier along the Green Line, not a mechanism for seizing land.

    Now, if certain individuals on the Israeli left did not respond supportively toward the Palestinian gentleman when his mother fell victim to an Israeli bullet, that’s not good, but such a behavioral lapse is a lack of manners, not a political position.

    With regard to Mr. Seaman’s response to my earlier post on the need for Abbas to stage his “Altalena”: While it’s true that Abbas does not command a “state” like Ben-Gurion did in 1948, he heads a governing authority with a large security apparatus (perhaps too large)that has enjoyed wide international recognition.

    Palestinian Authority security forces are not an underground– in the way that the Hagana, Irgun and Lehi were prior to Israel’s declaration of independence. And Israel’s occupation was waning in the Palestinian territories until the IDF reacted to the relentless attacks on Israeli civilians from October 2000 until last year’s truce. But I opposed Sharon’s assaults on PA forces and facilities in response to Hamas or Islamic Jihad atrocities as counter- productive, to say the least.

  3. Jonah Seaman January 29, 2006 at 2:10 am - Reply

    I feel obliged to point out that the “animus” Mr. Seliger wrote of is a two-way street. One of the reasons I’m so critical of Meretz USA (and other Left Zionist groups) is that they spend as much time (possibly even more) on ad hominem attacks on those further to the left of them, be they Zionist, non-Zionist, Post-Zionist, Anti-Zionist, etc.

    It puts me in the mind of Cold War liberals who were so afraid of being tarred with the brush of “Communist” that they pursued the witch-hunting, red baiting hysteria with even more zeal than the Right.

    Far too much of the articles in papers like “Israel Horizon” is dedicated to castigating and maligning other Left groups, misrepresenting their arguments in what appears to be a bald attempt to prove the Zionist or patriotic credentials of Meretz USA and like groups.

    If half as much effort had been put into genuine anti-Occupation activities as the attacks on the Left, then there wouldn’t be any such widespread calls for sanctions, boycotts, or divestments from Israel.

    One of the reasons why such calls are widespread (my own politics shun the ‘pressure politics’ inherent in such moves) is that the Israeli Left, or at least the Zionist left, does not seem to be acting to oppose the Occupation. As my early post stated, among the worst punishments inflicted on the Palestinians were twisted ideas stolen from the Left, but still supported by them anyway.

    For years I kept hearing the phrase “Only the Right Can Make Peace,” (which was succeeded only by “Anyone But Bush” as the all-time stupidiest political phrase in the last fifty-years.) The inactivity of the Israeli Left was excused by the curious idea that it was now the responsibility of the Right to make peace. Now that it seems that some Paletinians say the same about Hamas, I note that no one says the same thing about them, but I digress.

    It basically comes down to the same curious quirk in Israeli politics. It seems that the most well off segment of society (mostly Ashkenazim) vote for the Left while the poorer segments (Sephardi, Russians, etc.) vote for the Right. As much as I respect what Yael Dayan or Zehava Gal-On do (or did) in the Knesset, there is no corresponding movement in the streets. Meretz is predicting a poor place in the elections and that is one of the reasons why. It is left to “far-left” groups and Internationals–people who come from other countries!–to go to the Occupied Territories to defend the Palestinians against soldiers and settlers.

    If you’re wondering why people favor boycotts and the like, remember this: It’s foreigners, anarchists, and far-leftists (as you’d call them) who get beaten and tear-gassed by the IDF at Bi’lin while the “moderate Left”…writes articles about how a boycott doesn’t help the left and prasises the dreck Alan Dershowitz spews.

    One of the biggest mistakes made after Oslo was that the peace camp packed up and left the whole issue of making peace to politicians and other “respectable” institutions. They dropped the ball. Nowadays, the Left isn’t going to hold its breath and hope the Israeli government does the right thing. That means keeping up pressure and protesting, calling Israel on human rights violations and war crimes, regardless of whether it looks like the government of Israel is “moving” towards peace or not.

    If you do not wish to help people not as Zionist as you fine, but that is not cause to hinder them either!

  4. Ralph Seliger January 29, 2006 at 5:01 pm - Reply

    I try to be factual in my comments and not ad hominem. I do not believe that Mr. Seaman has addressed my arguments on a factual level.

    I have tried to show that Meretz and others of the Zionist peace camp have emphasized the need to treat Mr. Abbas as a peace partner, and even during Arafat’s time, created the Geneva peace initiative to push for negotiations. Mr. Seaman is correct, however, that much of my energy has been consumed (unfortunately) in refuting unfair charges against our camp and disproportionately anti-Israel claims made by the far left.

  5. Jonah Seaman January 29, 2006 at 8:35 pm - Reply

    The very position called for here indicates that it is the Palestinians who have no partner. At least not yet.

    Looking at this blog I see demand after demand made on the PA, Abbas, etc. with nothing sincere offered by Israel.

    One now sees the same thing with Hamas win in the elections. Israel insists that the Hamas covenant be abolished and formally renounce terror. Fair enough. But those can not be preconditions for talks. Those are the results of peace, not the conditions.

    “In the 70s and 80s, the Israeli government declared that it would never ever negotiate with the PLO. They are terrorists. They have a charter that calls for the destruction of Israel. Arafat is a monster, a second Hitler. So, never, never, never —

    In the end, after much bloodshed, Israel and the PLO recognized each other and the Oslo agreement was signed.

    Now we are hearing the same tune again. Terrorists. Murderers. The Hamas charter calls for the destruction of Israel. We shall never never never negotiate with them…

    -Deja Vu! by Uri Avnery.

    Must we go through this same song and dance, again?

    What do you suppose would occur if a Palestinian government announced that it would not talk with any Israeli government that included Likud (which does not recognize a Palestinian state and Herut, I believe, still stakes a claim that the Kingdom of Jordan is rightfully part of Israel!) until all Israeli parties formally agree to a viable, contiguous Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem?

    Asking for Hamas to formally renounce terror and recognize Israel ahead of talks means effectively that Israel gets what it wants before negotiations even begin and the Palestinians get nothing for laying down what is effectively their only card left to play: recognition of Israel. Indeed, the PLO recognized Israel and it didn’t do the Palestinians a lot of good. It wasn’t until after 2000 that Israel really agreed to a Palestinian state.

    That is not the act of a partner. That is a diktat, a recipe for disaster as Camp David illustrated so well. It is arrogant and foolish to place demands on the people you want to make peace with before talks even begin. This is not a dance for one to pick and choose one’s partner.

    Peace is not made between friends. If it were, there would be no war to begin with. It is made through partners who were enemies. Meretz and the Left staged rallies in support of Sharon’s withdrawl from Gaza saying that Sharon is DeGaulle and only he and the Right can make peace. Perhaps it is Hamas who will bring peace, if certain groups do not try to jinx it by attempting to force the issue before talks even begin.

  6. Ralph Seliger January 30, 2006 at 4:41 am - Reply

    Again, Mr. Seaman insists on attacking the Israeli left in the name of being progressive. Meretz was profoundly critical of Sharon’s unilateralism; it supported disengagement only because it was better than the alternative– i.e., to remain in Gaza.

    Meretz advocates negotiations without preconditions. Hamas, however, is against negotiations by definition. And Hamas’s victory is at least in part the result of Sharon’s lack of support for Abbas’s moderation.

    The need for the Palestinians to move against their own violent extremists is not because Israelis demand this, but because 1) a true peace means an end to violence and 2) the Palestinians can only achieve true self- determination within an atmosphere of peace. This isn’t about Meretz making unreasonable demands of the Palestinians; it’s common sense.

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