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January 26, 2006

Comments

Well, Hilzoy....I'm really not sure I agree - despite your strong caveat - with the "adolescence metaphor".

It could be, quite simply, that the Palestinians are between a rock and a hard place and they're deciding to let the rock have a turn.

As for the West...if we believe in democracy, then it's best to simply accept the result and carry on.

Abu Aardvark had a good post today. Among his many points:

"It is an article of faith among virtually all Arabs and Muslims that in 1992 the United States and Europe green lighted the Algerian military coup after the Islamist FIS stood on the brink of electoral victory. This has been taken for a decade and a half as the definitive evidence that the American and European commitment to democracy was a hypocritical farce: democracy only if our allies won."

I gave my initial opinion on the Hamas victory here, if anyone is interested.

Gary, if you have tenative optimism towards this, that makes me feel much better. The law of averages makes me hope that the IP situation deserves at least one good roll of the dice.

And OT, but this
to stow away on a ship bound for South America (as I once tried to do. I didn't get very far.)

Tell us more, tell us more!

"Abu Aardvark had a good post today. Among his many points:"

[scratches head]

Um, did you read Hilzoy's post, where she already linked to that and quoted what you quoted?

[scratches head again, and clicks "preview"]

Mea culpa.

Apologies.

"Gary, if you have tenative optimism towards this, that makes me feel much better."

That's long-term optimism.

In the meantime, it's entirely possible there will be at least temporary (but perhaps lasting many months, or even a couple of years) re-occupations, many military strikes, possibly even a war, and god knows what. I certainly hope not, and I'm not predicting that, either, but it's certainly possible.

What I'm worried about is the synergy with Iran.

It's certainly upended the table. It will be quite relevant and interesting to see how Eqypt reacts. Hamas is, in essence, the same people as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and elsewhere (which produced Ayman al-Zawahiri) and they can't want to encourage them, yet it would also be difficult for the Eqyptians to openly oppose Hamas, as well. (King Abdullah, on the other hand, is apt to be less conflicted, although also, of course, still somewhat limited in how far he might demonstrate a lack of support for Hamas, given the Palestinian majority in Jordan.)

The 1988 Hamas Covenant. Nearly 20 years old now--I don't know how much of this they'd still sign onto.

They really, really, really don't like the Rotary club:

For a long time, the enemies have been planning, skillfully and with precision, for the achievement of what they have attained. They took into consideration the causes affecting the current of events. They strived to amass great and substantive material wealth which they devoted to the realisation of their dream. With their money, they took control of the world media, news agencies, the press, publishing houses, broadcasting stations, and others. With their money they stirred revolutions in various parts of the world with the purpose of achieving their interests and reaping the fruit therein. They were behind the French Revolution, the Communist revolution and most of the revolutions we heard and hear about, here and there. With their money they formed secret societies, such as Freemasons, Rotary Clubs, the Lions and others in different parts of the world for the purpose of sabotaging societies and achieving Zionist interests. With their money they were able to control imperialistic countries and instigate them to colonize many countries in order to enable them to exploit their resources and spread corruption there.

You may speak as much as you want about regional and world wars. They were behind World War I, when they were able to destroy the Islamic Caliphate, making financial gains and controlling resources. They obtained the Balfour Declaration, formed the League of Nations through which they could rule the world. They were behind World War II, through which they made huge financial gains by trading in armaments, and paved the way for the establishment of their state. It was they who instigated the replacement of the League of Nations with the United Nations and the Security Council to enable them to rule the world through them. There is no war going on anywhere, without having their finger in it....

The Zionist invasion is a vicious invasion. It does not refrain from resorting to all methods, using all evil and contemptible ways to achieve its end. It relies greatly in its infiltration and espionage operations on the secret organizations it gave rise to, such as the Freemasons, The Rotary and Lions clubs, and other sabotage groups. All these organizations, whether secret or open, work in the interest of Zionism and according to its instructions. They aim at undermining societies, destroying values, corrupting consciences, deteriorating character and annihilating Islam. It is behind the drug trade and alcoholism in all its kinds so as to facilitate its control and expansion.

And if you thought the current administration was immune to cognitive dissonance--I mean, wow:

The Islamic Resistance Movement does not allow slandering or speaking ill of individuals or groups, for the believer does not indulge in such malpractices. It is necessary to differentiate between this behaviour and the stands taken by certain individuals and groups. Whenever those stands are erroneous, the Islamic Resistance Movement preserves the right to expound the error and to warn against it. It will strive to show the right path and to judge the case in question with objectivity. Wise conduct is indeed the target of the believer who follows it wherever he discerns it.

On a more serious note, Jonathan Edelstein has a lot of interesting stuff to say.

closing blockquotes; sorry.

I guess the point I was trying to make was that trying to frame this as a "adolescent mistake" sort of assumes there was a "mature right answer".

Sorry again.

Wow, that was really long.

Well, you can't have a peace process or a two-state solution without two states. Fatah/Abbas apparently was only a facade of a government, without full legitimacy or support of the people, and unable or unwilling to provide services and order. To me it was never Israel and occupation as the prime cause of Palestinian poverty and disorder. There will never be any possibility of a permanent peace until "Palestine" is a functioning viable state that provides for and protects its people. Fatah/Arafat was always negotiating in bad faith, because they could not deliver anything to anybody, except Swiss bank accounts to the leadership, and the phony appearance of a peace process to those who wanted any hope, even a false one.

Perhaps Hamas can create an independent state, which might seem an obvious precondition for a solution. Even with their committment to terrorism and the destruction of Israel, I think they are an improvement on Fatah. You don't negotiate peace with your allies.
...
On further thought, just scratch the above. It is not gonna work, or survive long enough to work. But Israel/US are not going to be able to destroy this Hamas government, and then expect the Palestinians to say:"You are absolutely right, we want the good government without the tactics and territorial ambitions. Boy, did we mess up."

Having read Gary, I just don't see Hamas abandoning violence. They need it to control the territories and fringe groups, and need it to maintain popularity and legitimacy. And I don't see Israel tolerating violence, or responding in a measured way, although I think that is what might be necessary to reach a peace process. I suspect the Palestinians will soon be without a government or representation. Again.

"Nearly 20 years old now--I don't know how much of this they'd still sign onto."

All the leaders of Hamas I've seen quotes from in the past month have announced that they stand by every word of the covenant.

Now, of course, it's one thing to say it, and another thing to be launching Quassam rockets from Gaza as frequently as they can.

Which, of course, is what they've been doing, save when the PA has been stopping them, which is a fair amount since the Israeli withdrawal.

It's going to be quite a while, I'm afraid, before the leadership and much of the rank-and-file start turning less irredentist.

Although the statements about a willingness to engage in a "long-term truce" (hudna) with Israel is at least a small step in the right direction. It's just a baby-step. We're just going to have to see how things go, but I don't expect piles of good news from Hamas in the next six months or year, really. Small bits and pieces, maybe.

God forbid this should somehow lead to Netanyahu's election. I don't expect that, but I can't exclude it, depending on events. I've been pleased, though, at the maturity Olmert has been showing so far, and that Kadima has been holding together, given its extremely inchoate state when Sharon collapsed.

hilzoy, that was a fantastic post, you really laid out a lot of ways to think about the results of the election. Unfortunately I am totally disheartend about the prospects for any meaningful kind of peaceful settlement, worse than since spring 2002. Will keep my fingers crossed.

DaveC: I was , like you, incredibly disheartened before I read your comment, but now I'm also stunned by the fact that we agree on something. I mean, I guess it had to happen sometime, but...

Cool.

"Unfortunately I am totally disheartend about the prospects for any meaningful kind of peaceful settlement, worse than since spring 2002."

It's always been necessary to take a very long view of Israel/Palestine. Tremendous progress has been made in the last ten and twenty years, in context.

I've been so discouraged for so long that, myself, it's not difficult to maintain equibilbrium. There's been so much worse news in the past. And yet there's been improvement and an upward trend, however erratic and slow, overall.

The dance has always been one step forward, two back, one forward, one back, two forward, one back, two forward, one back, one forward, two back, two forward, and so on. It's a very peculiar dance. Not at all like the Hokey-Pokey, or the hora. (Alas, I don't know any Arab dances.)

Sometimes it's "you put your right foot in, you wave it all around, and you fall on your face."

Incidentally, I think President Bush's comments on this, at least, at his press conference today were very good. (As usual, with my bias, I have trouble watching his various tics and mannerisms, and what strike me as weird snorts, grins, and laughs and what not, but the substance of the words were good, I thought.)

"To me it was never Israel and occupation as the prime cause of Palestinian poverty and disorder. "

Bob, you might want to google phrases like "Palestinian economy" and "Sara Roy" (someone who has studied the Palestinian economy) before you make your decision on what is the main cause of Palestinian poverty. Yes, Fatah's corruption is also a major factor--I'm not prepared to say what the primary one might be.

Good post, hilzoy. I too hope Hamas turns out to be a pragmatic bunch of war criminals now that they're in power--that seems to be the best one can hope for these days.

Another weird way to think about this is to analogize to the remarks made about the peace process when hard-line and quasi-terrorist Israelis came into power -- that in the Middle East, only these types seem to have any legitimacy in actually making peace with the enemy.

I don't know that this parallel works for Hamas, which has a history of being far too violent and extreme. But its worth remembering that such remarks were made when Sharon came into power, with his past history toward Palestinians that while not the flip side of Hamas, is a lot more like it than anything peaceful.

Bottom line -- we are all trying to focus on the 5% of the glass that still has water in it to see if anything good can even be hoped for in this.

Hilzoy,

Fantastic post. There is an opportunity here, if one could tread lightly through a minefield and nothing went wrong. But as Lloyd Christmas might say "So you're saying there's a chance..."

Is the Hamas election another example of how our war in Iraq has spread a wave of democratization across the Middle East?

You know, that democratsunami thing?

If Hamas can make the trains run on time at the local level, I don't see any reason why they couldn't do that nationally. The question becomes, who gains control , the local technocrats, or the more extreme elements?

I'd also add that there's another factor to consider about Hamas' social programs. It could reinforce the notion of Islam is the solution. It appears that the Islamists managed to get things done, where the secularists failed.

So, I know other versions of this idea have been suggested previously, but let me make a suggestion analogous to the one made to Dan Drezner in this post. If I lived in your state, I'd vote for you, though in most districts that'd require a primary challenge against a Democratic opponent (despite going into that level of detail, this comment is meant as a general compliment on the post as opposed to serious advice).

"The Palestinian Authority is a very, very long way from economic self-sufficiency, and if Hamas does not want to lose the next election because it is unable to deliver the most basic services to the Palestinian people, it will probably have to change to some extent."

Do they really have to change, or do they have to kind-of hint that they sort-of thought about change? Or maybe they could change formally without changing anything about how they actually operate. There are lots of governments in the world which seem to be willing to pretend that formal statements equal reality.

I'm not optimistic about this turn of events at all. Even if it is true that the long-term trend is three steps forward and two steps back it is quite possible that this is unreservedly the two steps back.

An interesting question is, what separates the societies that descend into genocidal chaos from those that eventually get over their ethnic problems?

Great post Hilzoy. It does appear to be a case of, cross your fingers, close your eyes, and hope for the best. I, really, really hope that the US does not interfere in the results.

I'm going to really stick myself out on a limb here...

If Hamas is as popular in Palestine as the election indicated, people will listen to them whether they are officially in power or not. Better, in that case, that the world negotiates with the people that the Palestinians actually listen to, than a group that are more benign but everyone ignores.

I would completely agree that it would be better that the Palestinian people did not support Hamas. But since, as it's clear now, they do, Hamas must be dealt with. If Fatah were somehow still in power there, but the palestinian people felt the same way, I would contend this is a worse situation; Israel would have to try and make peace with the Palestinians through a group they ignored.

Very interesting and thoughtful post. Well done.

One point: you say that Hamas could moderate once in power, because other countries will cut off aid if it continues terrorist activities:

"if Hamas does not want to lose the next election because it is unable to deliver the most basic services to the Palestinian people, it will probably have to change to some extent."

But earlier on you say that Hamas won by providing better services than the PA - presumably without access to any of the PA budget.

My questions are:

What are Hamas' 'independent' sources of funding (the estimated $70 million a year mentioned);
Is there any reason to suppose that these are liable to dry up, given that they are, by definition, insensitive to Hamas' terrorist acts;
If not, could not Hamas simply maintain its election-winning levels of services from its own resources if necessary, without needing to draw on the PA budget at all?

$70 million is not a lot when you are talking about providing social services to a population of about 3.6 million. $20 per head per year doesn't buy a lot of soup.
I conclude that either a) the budget is wildly underestimated or b) Hamas' actual 'budget' includes a lot of volunteer labour or c) Hamas' social service network is not as extensive as people believe. Thoughts?

This LATimes article is quite interesting, and the point that Hamas itself was taken by surprise is perhaps a good sign, though the article has a number of points for optimists and pessimists. Not sure what we did to live in such interesting times.

The kinda sorta hinting about change that Sebastian talks about would still be a step forwards, similar to what Sharon did (abandoning some settlements in order to cling that much more tightly to others.) It would represent a betrayal of the most extreme (in the bad sense) elements in the sociey, and that kind of betrayal is a good thing.

Sebastian asked --

"An interesting question is, what separates the societies that descend into genocidal chaos from those that eventually get over their ethnic problems? "

In the case of South Africa, there was an enormous amount of international pressure on the white rulers to come to a just solution. If that hadn't happened, the civil war that was already going on between the Inkatha Party (backed by the apartheid government and moral support from American conservatives) and the ANC street gangs would have probably gotten worse. It also helped having someone like Nelson Mandela (who never renounced violence) at the head of the liberation movement.

"Is the Hamas election another example of how our war in Iraq has spread a wave of democratization across the Middle East?"

Not particularly, but it is partially a result of strong American pressure for democracy; it's more a result of Abbas actually believing in democracy, and many of his people. This is a good thing. I'm assuming, dmbeaster, that you don't support democracy only when you like the result?

While I think this post is at Hilzoy's usual standard of excellence, I would like to present one data point contrary to the whole discussion of the election of Hamas as somehow part of an 'adolescent' stage in Palestinian democracy:

The election of Gerry Adams as MP for West Belfast in 1983 and after. The IRA, as far as I know, wasn't providing the kind of social services Hamas is in Palestine. People who had been part of a democracy for quite a while still voted for him.

"If Hamas can make the trains run on time at the local level, I don't see any reason why they couldn't do that nationally."

There's likely a lot of truth to that, although reform of the PA apparatus isn't something that can be done with the snap of fingers. But it's besides the point. If the trains run on time to enable the Schlieffen Plan, that's bad.

But the good news, and the reason I'm not moping and falling on swords, is that Hamas poses no existential threat to Israel whatever. The very worst that can happen is that we go back to where we were pre-Oslo. Israel faced existential threats in 1967 and 1973 and before that. This isn't anything like that. (This is why Iranian nukes worry me about 1000 times more.)

Sebastian asks: "An interesting question is, what separates the societies that descend into genocidal chaos from those that eventually get over their ethnic problems?"

Sufficient grasp of reality. Always.

Shinobi says: "If Hamas is as popular in Palestine as the election indicated, people will listen to them whether they are officially in power or not. Better, in that case, that the world negotiates with the people that the Palestinians actually listen to, than a group that are more benign but everyone ignores."

This is my point for the long term.

"I, really, really hope that the US does not interfere in the results."

I don't know what Debbie means by this. Certainly we're not obligated to give money to Hamas if we don't think it's a good idea; the Europeans are similarly considering what's best.

One option is to give support directly to the Palestinian people through the (quite flawed) UN mechanisms rather than to the PA; it remains to be determined what might be best. Do remember that Abbas is still in charge of the PLO, as well as the PA, and the PLO has the responsibility for dealing with Israel. It all remains to be seen how it will evolve. Will Abbas stay? For how long? No one knows right now. (He'll certainly stay for a while, but he's the kind of guy who isn't going to stick around once he decides he can no longer accomplish anything.)

"If not, could not Hamas simply maintain its election-winning levels of services from its own resources if necessary, without needing to draw on the PA budget at all?"

No. Or: that would be insufficient. It's one thing to run supplmentary social services, even ones far better than a government, and another to run a full-blown government. The PA gets over a billion in annual support. Constrast that to $70 million.

"People who had been part of a democracy for quite a while still voted for him."

Sure, but the IRA MPs, Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams were elected as a couple of representatives, not as a government.

And Hamas didn't win because of mass Palestinian support for a renewal of a full-blown intifada, but because Fatah was incompetent, remote, and corrupt. And also because of the complicated split election system with proportional representation in each district, plus the national half of the election. (I always try to warn people about the dangers of proportional representation, but I digress.)

As I mentioned in an erlier thread regarding Chavez - if you support democracy, you have to be willing to support the election of people you don't like. If Hamas chooses to act badly, by all means we ought to oppose them, but until they do we ought to respect the integrity of the election process, which by all accounts was fair.

Another point - The connection between social services and terrorism is not incidental. On NPR the other day Hamas was described as an organization with a mission of terrorism and philanthropy, but that's wrong. Terrorists (or guerillas) need the support of the people in order to operate effectively, and the surest way to win that support is to provide concrete improvements in the lives of the people. People who realize that their lives are better because of the presence of Hamas operatives in their midst are much less likely to turn in militants than those for whom the presence of the militants causes nothing but increased danger of Israeli retaliation, with associated collateral damage.

It would be a digression, but what's wrong with proportional representation, Gary? That's a non-rhetorical question, intended to elicit information. I don't have any opinion or much knowledge of the subject. If the Palestinians had some other system, wouldn't Hamas still have won a big victory?

"It would be a digression, but what's wrong with proportional representation, Gary?"

In a nutshell, it tends to lead to extemists getting into office, and then it tends to lead to weak coalitions dependent upon said extremists, which leads to either governments constantly falling, or being paralyzed, or being led to extremist positions.

See the history of Italian democracy and Israeli democracy of the past fifty years for examples.

Democracy is a virtue, but it's not the only virtue. The tyranny of the masses and of the mob are as grave a threat as any other tyranny.

Thus the virtues of separation of powers, and guaranteed rights, restraining pure democracy and mob rule.

I agree that adopting a "wait-and-see" attitude is probably the best course for the US, but I'm pessimistic about the future. Mussolini famously got the trains to run on time and broke the power of the Mafia, but then led his country into disaster. I can't exactly blame the Palestinian people for wanting an alternative to the corrupt and ineffective Fatah. I just wish there had been a better alternative than Hamas.

In analyzing the relationship between terrorism and social services, I think one key fact is overlooked. For many years the Israeli army had (and still has) free rein through the territories and they forbade many above board attempts at providing social services for Palestinians.

I attended a school run by the Brothers of the Christian Schools, a catholic order of monks that ran boys' schools around the world. While there, I spoke with some brothers who had recently attempted to run a school in the occupied territories. Since they had been running other schools in Israel proper, and since they spoke hebrew and arabic fluently, they assumed this would not be difficult. So they began running their school, offering it to anyone willing to come. Nearby Israeli settlers scoffed at the notion and refused to send their children. Both christian and muslim Palastinians were eager to try it and sent their children.

And so they began teaching. However, before they had gotten very far, an Isreali army unit visited them. There were problems, problems with the permits you see, so they had to cease their instruction immediately. This point was emphasized by sweeping large guns in the direction of children studying. And so the brothers dismissed their classes and went back to dealing with permits. But strangely, no matter what they did, they could never quite get all the approvals necessary from the Israeli government. Just when they thought they had the right combination of approvals, another army unit would come to break up their horribly illegal "teaching". I have no doubt that teaching palastinian children how to read and write qualifies as a grave and existential threat to Israel.

Now the funny thing about this is that these brothers operate in far more hostile countries that Israel. They run schools in Israel, and they are well respected internationally. I know people who attended their schools in Cairo and Tokyo, to say nothing of New Jersey.

The brothers I spoke with belived that fundamentally, they were not permitted to run a school for palastinian children because the Israeli government did not want them to become educated. Now, you may disagree with their asessment. At the time, I foolishly trusted the word of men dedicated to teaching the young over the shining moral beacon that was Arial Sharon. I'm sure you all can forgive my moral idiocy.

The point here is that a legal, well respected, above board organization was not permitted to provide social services in the occupied territories. But the need for those services obviously still exists. So who will provide them? Obviously, the only group that can provide them is the group willing to stand up to the Israeli government publicly while privately evading their military. If you outlaw teaching, then the only teachers practicing their craft will be outlaws.

I agree that adopting a "wait-and-see" attitude is probably the best course for the US

And so the rise of Slartibartfastianismismism begins.

Naive question here:
Is there any kind of tax system in the Palestinian territories? Does all (or almost all) of the revenue from from international aid? I also vaguely remember hearing that Israel remands some taxes (via W-2s or something) to the PA.

Seb: I think it's up to the international community to define what counts as 'change'. And I don't think it has to act as one, though it would be best if it did: different countries provide aid, and we can be (and I hope will be) clear about what constitutes "change" as far as our bit is concerned, as can others.

On the other hand, a clear consensus that winks are not enough would be vastly preferable.

My view, on this as on most matters of diplomacy, is: it's very important to be very clear, but also not to be needlessly antagonistic. The goal is to get Hamas to renounce the use of violence against Israel, and to accept its existence as legitimate. To do this, I would think, you need on the one hand to avoid any obfuscation about what this means, but on the other hand to provide them, if at all possible, with a path in which taking this step is as non-humiliating and non-awful as it can possibly be. (Where "as it can possibly be" refers to the fact that there's no getting around the fact that Hamas will, in fact, be making a major change in its position in response to international pressure if it does this. We shouldn't try to change that by e.g. not requiring it. We can, however, try to provide them with face-saving ways to do it, if possible, and we can also refrain from anything that would make the 'bowing to international pressure' part worse. Public grandstanding and table-thumping, for instance.)

Let's not overlook the point made by Shinobi - if Hamas is really the group that Palestinians respect then it is the group with whom it is important to negotiate. There is little sense in making deals with people who can't deliver on their promises.

Implicit here is that one of the advantages of democracy is that it tells others who is really running things. Using an economic analogy, it is like a market, which not only allocates goods but generates information as their relative value.

The goal is to get Hamas to renounce the use of violence against Israel, and to accept its existence as legitimate.

Yes, but I'd rather see deeds than words. Deed inconsistent with the words would be OK, if the deeds are OK. Thus, I'd rather see a lessening of support for violence in practice, than forcing a verbal renunciation that may end up having winks, nods, etc going the other way.

CharleyCarp: I agree. I should probably have made that clearer: by 'renounce' I didn't just mean 'say the words', but really stop it.

The words would be a good first step, and I think that given that Hamas seems to have been observing a 'truce' for around a year (iirc), there's room for taking the words at face value if, and only if, they are accompanied by the continuation of the truce. But not otherwise.

A few links to try and answer Jackmormon's question about taxes.

First, this NYT article about how the US paid to help bolster Fatah (whoops!)

Here's a PDF about "Decentralization and Intergovernmental Finance in the Palestinian Authority"

This CSM article details the budgetary problems of the PA and gives various figures needed for various tasks.

I myself wonder if support from other Arab nations is going to be dependent on holding to a strong anti-Israeli stance, or not, but I don't know how to tease this out from the possibilities

Rereading your comment: so I'm OK with words plus deeds, not OK with words without deeds, but what about deeds without words? There I have some degree of flexibility, I guess, but I think that in practice, given the fact that (as has always been the case) it can be hard to tell the difference between a group really trying but failing to control all its members, and that group claiming to try but winking at its members, 'deeds without words' would have to involve some pretty compelling deeds, plus a pretty clear sense that the ground is being prepared for the words being spoken. And I don't think that this attitude could be maintained indefinitely.

On the other hand, of course I'd prefer Hamas saying bad things but not actually blowing up anyone, or launching any rockets into Israel, to its saying nice things but killing Israelis right and left. I just think that (a) it would be hard, in practice, to know that the first situation obtained, and (b) that words have their own power.

To do this, I would think, you need on the one hand to avoid any obfuscation about what this means, but on the other hand to provide them, if at all possible, with a path in which taking this step is as non-humiliating and non-awful as it can possibly be.

That would be wise. But if I may indulge in a bit of mcmanusism, it's always seemed to me that the humiliation of Arabs is a positive goal of the more neoconnish members of the GOP, not just a side effect that they don't care enough about. It's more important to them than peace. Hopefully the same isn't true of the right in Israel.

i'm sure a hundred other people have made this point already, but...

if democracy is Bush's answer to terrorism, doesn't the advent of democratically-elected terrorists suggest his answer isn't good enough ?

i'm sure a hundred other people have made this point already, but...

if democracy is Bush's answer to terrorism, doesn't the advent of democratically-elected terrorists suggest his answer isn't good enough ?

Not really. It's what folks do afterwards that's important.

"Is there any kind of tax system in the Palestinian territories?"

Taxes are, in fact, collected by the Israeli government and post-Oslo, most of the time turned over to the PA. On occasion when tensions are peaking the Israeli government withholds the funds or threatens to.

"Yes, but I'd rather see deeds than words."

Simply agreeing to join in the elections was a colloboration with and slight acceptance of the Oslo Accords that Hamas had previously refused to engage in, because the PA has no legitimacy outside Oslo; Hamas and all its supporters are acutely aware of this. Forming a government is a much larger step down that road.

Naturally, one can also turn off a road and bound across a field, or turn 180 degrees at any time, of course. (Certainly "the road map" is in, at best, deep deep deep freeze for now.)

"...I myself wonder if support from other Arab nations is going to be dependent on holding to a strong anti-Israeli stance...."

I may be wrong, but I think pretty much only Syria will give more than lip service to that. And, of course, most strongly of all, the non-Arab country of Iran.

What will be interesting is that now the leaders of Hamas actually in Gaza/Palestine really will have an independent power base from the Hamas leaders in Damascus, just as the younger generation of Fatah has long been fighting to gain power from those formerly in Tunisia.

"...it's always seemed to me that the humiliation of Arabs is a positive goal of the more neoconnish members of the GOP,"

Without debating the merits or demerits of their theory, I believe it runs along the lines that Arab culture is shame-based, not guilt-based, and said humiliation is sought for practical effect and result, not as an end in itself. That said, I offer no opinion on the usefulness or anti-usefulness of such thinking.

"if democracy is Bush's answer to terrorism, doesn't the advent of democratically-elected terrorists suggest his answer isn't good enough ?"

Speaking purely myself: does everything have to be about George Bush? Isn't it possible to have a conversation without bringing him in from where he, in this context, is on the fringes?

Personally, I'm a lot more concerned about how this situation affects Palestinians and Israelis than I'm concerned about how it faintly affects G. W. Bush's credibility or person. But that's just me.

also, doesn't electing a government that explicitly calls for the destruction of another country come pretty close to a de facto delcaration of war against that other country ?

"First, this NYT article about how the US paid to help bolster Fatah (whoops!)."

It helps not to forget to paste in the link. :-) (I manage that, and many other ways of screwing up a link all the time. It's these evil little beings who live in my keyboard, you see; you may have cousin gremlins. We hates them, we does. But in a nice, liberal, way.)

Speaking purely myself: does everything have to be about George Bush?

the question wasn't so much about Bush

per se, except as far as he's the most prominent advocate of the Marching Freedom movement - and the one getting credit (wave to Fred Barnes!) for promoting this Bold and Tangy method of dealing with terrorism.

but the proponents of the idea that "democracy will eliminate terrorism" (regardless of who they are) don't seem to have considered that people might democratically vote to support terrorism as official government policy. or if they did, they never added that caveat when running down the list of reasons we should support their actions.

But that's just me.

and this is just me.

Gary: "Speaking purely myself: does everything have to be about George Bush? Isn't it possible to have a conversation without bringing him in from where he, in this context, is on the fringes?"

Much as I would like to blame every negative incident in the world on Bush, there are times that just doesn't work well.

And as you say, in this case, he is at best on the fringes, if in the consciousness of the voting Palestinians at all.

He may or may not have had some influence or impact in the Iranian elections, but not in this case.

However, his reaction to these results will probably have some impact, and the rest of the Middle East may well be looking at how the US reacts, as mentioned in several comments upthread.

Again, you show an example of why you are needed here. Hold our feet to the fire.

"also, doesn't electing a government that explicitly calls for the destruction of another country come pretty close to a de facto delcaration of war against that other country ?"

They've not yet formed a government. They want Fatah in a coalition (only if idiocy strikes Fatah leaders would they be so stupid, and most of them aren't that stupid; corrupt, maybe, but not stupid). A few individual Fatah dissidents may go into the government, and probably some technocrats.

A "100-year hudna" really wouldn't be a bad starting point at all. Were it seriously enforced, it really wouldn't be so significant as to what they're giving lip service to for a decade or two or three; how they actually behaved during that time -- would incitement be eliminated from schools and society over time, would violence be tolerated, and so on, is what really matters most, not that words aren't also critical, of course -- but 100 years is quite a long time to learn to adjust to reality.

It took Fatah and Ariel Sharon a few decades to come to grips with reality, but both did about 75-80% of the way.

"And as you say, in this case, he is at best on the fringes, if in the consciousness of the voting Palestinians at all."

I think we can safely say that the number of Palestinians who thought going to the polls was a good idea thought it was a good idea because George Bush said so is, shall we say, minimal.

You could probably gather all of them in a studio apartment the size of mine own.

I wrote: "Speaking purely myself," which should, of course, have been "speaking purely for myself," but as often occurs, words out.

I already allowed as to how I thought Bush's words on this issue (I'm not commenting here and now on any of the other nonsense that passed his lips) yesterday were good. And I'm all for his calling for democracy, in general. If George Bush happens to say "water is wet," he'd be correct, even if even he spent an six hours before and after that spouting lies and nonsense.

And I'll give him credit for being accurate for declaring that water is wet; whether he has just finished draining a reservoir and sold all the water to Halliburton for ten cents is a distinguishable topic from the merits of the declaration.

Of course, he likely would have done that, and also assured us that his lawyers say it's entirely legal, and Congress mustn't investigate, because that would aid the terrorists, who were plotting to poison the water, and now we are all much safer. Some Democrats, you know, favor poisoned water.

But the water would still be wet.

Words, deeds, declaration of war.

Let's think about our own government. Plenty of folks in and out of government are going around talking about violence as the preferred solution (OK, number 2, after capitulation) to various foreign policy issues the US faces. The president himself calls certain governments "evil," suggesting, at one point, that they are in cahoots -- a veritable "axis."

I'm annoyed by this talk, but so long as we don't invade Iran or NK, I can live with it. I don't think we've declared war on NK, even by re-election of a government that seems to endorse it.

To go a step further, I'd say that i think Russia, Iran, and the PA have just as good a right to talk about 'regime change' -- and even act to effectuate it -- in countries they don't like as does the US. (Or Israel. Or New Zealand.) And just as much right to engage in self-defensive violence. Which is why I think lowering the bar -- albeit under some sort of claim of divine sanction -- was/is such a bad idea.

Much as I would like to blame every negative incident in the world on Bush, there are times that just doesn't work well.

i hope nobody here honestly thinks i was trying to "blame" Bush for Hamas' election success. that had never even crossed my mind until now, and i don't agree with it. i was really thinking about the policy of "democracy stops terorrism".

I'm annoyed by this talk, but so long as we don't invade Iran or NK, I can live with it. I don't think we've declared war on NK, even by re-election of a government that seems to endorse it.

understood.

but, we don't have a history of attacking Iran or NK (though we did have that history with Iraq, and we all know what happened there). Hamas has a long history of actually attacking Israel, and Israel's been none too shy about killing Hamas members when it has the chance. the actions on both sides have been saying "war" for quite a long time

"To go a step further, I'd say that i think Russia, Iran, and the PA have just as good a right to talk about 'regime change' -- and even act to effectuate it -- in countries they don't like as does the US. "

I'm all for hoping that Hamas changes after the elections, but I'm not all for being unaware of what change would entail because that will tend to obscure the change or lack of change.

Hamas is currently and has been for decades a terrorist organization dedicated to the destruction of Israel as an entity. It is not just for 'regime change'.

Hamas election is really a product of the European and American left. Don't think so? Follow the money!

While this is horrible if it wakes them up to the evils of this group then the net effect could be positive.

"...but, we don't have a history of attacking Iran or NK...."

Um, I think you'll find they each have a quite different view of that.

For the latter, something about some guy named "MacArthur" and the Yalu River, and the present leader's sacred-god daddy.

For the former, something about overthrowing a fellow named (with various spelling) "Mossedq" and being responsible for Shah Reza Pahlavi and SAVAK and a nest of spies, and then some unpleasantness with helicopters in 1980, and then some blame for some Saddam fellow or other. Just for starters. Lots of smaller stuff for each, as well.

Hamas has a long history of actually attacking Israel, and Israel's been none too shy about killing Hamas members when it has the chance. the actions on both sides have been saying "war" for quite a long time.
With all due attention to be focuses on Israeli violence, you're engaging in some unjustified and easy moral equivalency here.

Israeli policy, for all its fits and starts, has since Oslo been for a Palestinian state, and negotiations with a democratic, free, non-violent, Palestinian government and any Palestinian who signs up for that. Hamas policy is hardly a mirror image of that (Fatah's, on the other hand, is).

Hamas policy is that Israel is to be destroyed. The nicest they get is to talk about a possible truce, possibly even for up to "100 years," although so far that's nothing more than a phrase a handful of people have suggested in casual conversation that might be something that could be considered, maybe.

Not mirror images. To be sure, Israel has eagerly killed Hamas leaders when possible, and been a tad casual about whether or not a bunch of bystanders happen to get blown up, too. Hamas, on the other hand, is thrilled to simply kill any Israeli man, woman, child, civilian, baby, they can get to, as their goal. All part of killing every Jew in the land of Palestine so it's properly cleansed.

Not mirror images.

Thought-provoking and lucid, thanks.

I get why people would balk at the "adolescence" metaphor, but I think you've framed it clearly enough that it isn't insulting.

The developmental model works even better if you consider that there is no point at which either the individual or the society ever stops maturing. And, too, regression happens. A lot.

I have to say that I also think that the United States itself is struggling with its own developmental crisis. At the moment, not very well, either.

re NK: For the latter, something about some guy named "MacArthur" and the Yalu River, and the present leader's sacred-god daddy.

err... really? are you actually saying events that happened 50+ years ago between NK and the US are at all similar and have the same relevance and import today as do things that have happened in I/P in the last 12 months ?

With all due attention to be focuses on Israeli violence, you're engaging in some unjustified and easy moral equivalency here.

wow. only in your imagination.

Hamas policy is hardly a mirror image of that

i can only assume your imagination has gone and created a cleek who actually wrote anything suggesting one was a "mirror image" of the other.

To be sure, Israel has eagerly killed Hamas leaders when possible

my "none to shy" means i'm playing moral equivalency but your "eager" doesn't ?

you're totally off-base here. completely off the rails.

I don't think it has been mentioned yet, or at least clearly enough, that the Hamas call for the destruction of Israel comes in the context of an Islamic commandment for Islamic control of the holy sites. The impression given is that Hamas just doesn't like Jews, or that this is a territorial dispute analogous to Northern Ireland. Such is not the case, although both might be in play. There is a regional religious context here.

I have read that Abdullah of SA hints ambiguously at the possibility of compromise, based on an interpretation of "control", but I won't believe him until I and Gary can freely wander around Mecca.

Gary, I agree about the too-easy moral equivalency, and I think you even granted more than necessary when you said, "To be sure, Israel has eagerly killed Hamas leaders when possible, and been a tad casual about whether or not a bunch of bystanders happen to get blown up, too."

Since there are, in the real world, no such things as smart bombs, surgical strikes, or James Bond, the decision to assasinate Hamas leaders is a decision to create collateral civilian casualties. But Hamas posed such a threat that only a pure pacifist could object to the decision to strike back at it. I don't think it's "casual" to refuse to spend one's days ruing the unavoidable consequences of necessary actions of war.

What Israel has generally done, however, is to target Hamas rather than simply release a "shock and awe" type campaign in Hamas stronghold regions. This decision has cost them in lives, as when Israel cleaned Hamas out of Jenin house-by-house (the most dangerous form of attack there is) rather than by saturation bombing. This sort of decision is not taking collateral civilian casualties "casually," but rather doing everything reasonably possible to minimize them, consistent with getting any military good out of the attacks at all.

So, no, I don't think that Israel has been casual about the deaths. That term suggests that others in like circumstances have tried harder to reduce civilian casualties -- and I have never heard of any army, anywhere, ever, that has done so in a long-term antiterrorist campaign.

Hilzoy, great post. I would love to see you debate the authors of an op-ed in today's NYT, who opined that the U.S. should respect democracy by engaging fully with Hamas and continuing to fund the PA. I don't quite understand their logic (perhaps because there isn't any) -- the U.S. can respect democracy, while despising the outcome of a particular election. As you said, we should not try to overthrow Hamas, but we are surely not required to approve or aid it just because they won the election.

A sad day.

"err... really? are you actually saying events that happened 50+ years ago between NK and the US are at all similar and have the same relevance and import today as do things that have happened in I/P in the last 12 months ?"

No, I'm saying that you would find few North Koreans who would agree with the statement "we don't have a history of attacking [...] N[orth K[orea].

...my "none to shy" means i'm playing moral equivalency but your "eager" doesn't ?
Perhaps I need to repeat in different words the difference between aiming to kill the leaders of a military organization (if we grant them that), and being willing to, and perhaps overly callous about, accept[ing] the deaths of some innocents nearby while striving to minimize that, and aiming deliberately to kill civilians whose only crime is their existence.

Were Israel to act as Hamas desires to act and advocates, they would indeed sweep in and simply kill or expell all Palestinians from the historic Eretz Yisroel. Thankfully, only a crazed fringe favors that.

Saying "Hamas has a long history of actually attacking Israel, and Israel's been none too shy about killing Hamas members when it has the chance" in parallel construction is... well, maybe you're not familiar with what the grammar of a parallel construction says in English grammar. I'm perfectly willing to believe you meant no such thing.

"you're totally off-base here. completely off the rails."

I try to chart my own road, yes.

Bob: "...although both might be in play."

Both are in play, yes.

Gary, if you think that the Hamas leaders are serious about wanting to commit genocide it's a little hard to understand your guarded optimism. People who want to commit genocide probably aren't the pragmatic albeit murderous sorts who'd negotiate 100 year truces. But I could be wrong--in fact, now that I think about it I suspect that there are more than a few people on both sides who'd cheerfully wipe the others out if they could get away with it. And maybe negotiate a truce if they couldn't.

Now that the dreaded term "moral equivalence" has been let out of its cage, we can all take this as a signal to start swapping atrocity stories. My position on the subject is outlined better than I could do it by Henry Siegman in the current New York Review of Books, under the guise of a review of the movie "Munich". Actually, he's attacking the people (David Brooks and Leon Wieseltier) who said the movie was guilty of moral equivalence. Siegman's point is that over the decades, both sides have deliberately massacred civilians and for similar reasons. Unfortunately the article isn't online.

As for recent history, trilobite, you should consider googling what Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and B'Tselem have to say about Israeli human rights practices in recent years. Here's a website from AI about Jenin and other events in 2002---

http://web.amnesty.org/library/Index/ENGMDE151542002

"Gary, if you think that the Hamas leaders are serious about wanting to commit genocide it's a little hard to understand your guarded optimism."

There is a huge difference between a dream, and a completely grudging willingness to be willing to accept being forced to accept reality (seeming redundancy intentional). I'd recommend asking Ariel Sharon, were that possible. But you could ask Olmert, or any former Likud member of Kadima.

In his heart, I'm sure Netanyahu would prefer expulsion, but even he, while unwilling to accept a Palestinian State, doesn't, so far as I know, think expulsion is a realistic alternative or possibility. (The Kach types are another story.)

And to repeat again: my "optimism" is for some years, possibly a decade or so, down the road. Not for next month, or particularly for next year. We'll know more by 2010.

I tend to take a long view of things. And I've lived through 47 years years of Israeli history (albeit without much consciousness of my first 9; it didn't particularly cross my sphere of consciousness until June, 1967, when I was 9 going on 10).

My main point was that Hamas and its supporters were going to have to be dealt with -- one way or another -- sooner rather than later, anyway. And it's actually easier to deal with them when they're forced to deal with responsiblity, rather than while they're relatively free to be irresponsible with no other constrainsts than the Israeli Defence Forces.

"But I could be wrong--in fact, now that I think about it I suspect that there are more than a few people on both sides who'd cheerfully wipe the others out if they could get away with it. And maybe negotiate a truce if they couldn't."

Quite so.

A couple of comments on issues peripheral to the central ones. I know much less about Palestine than many other posters here, so I'll stick to the broader generalizations and analogies, without in any way specifying that they apply in a meaningful way to the current I/P situation. (As one of my professors used to say, "I bring no knowledge to this question - only wisdom.")

1) On "adolescence." I didn't use the exact same metaphor as Hilzoy, but have been arguing for many years that powerlessness can corrupt as much power, especially in a colonial situation. When ultimate authority is always beyond your grasp, it is easy to slip into advocating unrealistic "solutions" to problems, confident that they will never have to be implemented. E.g., part of the fumbling that has occurred in the Philippines over the past 30-odd years, IMHO, is due to an underlying implicit assumption, rooted in nearly 400 years of colonialism, than someone outside (e.g., the United States) is ultimately responsible for what happens to the country, rather than the RP government.

It takes time - sometimes more, sometimes less - to recognize one's own responsibility for one's fate, and then act responsibly. Thailand, which had never been colonized, recovered (economically) much faster from the closing of American bases than the Philippines did; at least part of this, I think, is because they took it for granted it was up to _them_ to find a solution to problems.

Where Hamas fits on this scale I have, as indicated above, no idea.

2) On deeds without words. This is a commonplace in certain kinds of foreign relationships, especially those involving territorial claims. Back in the 1960s the Philippines claimed Sabah and opposed the formation of Malaysia, which was in the process of incorporating it. For a few years there were actually schemes to invade or subvert the disputed territory, though all were abortive, thank goodness.

It has now been more than 30 years since the Philippines has in any meaningful way done (or threatened to do) anything about this issue. They get along fine with Malaysia most of the time, and from the viewpoint of historians (like myself) this is a closed issue. But I believe that they have never formally renounced the claim.

Similar patterns may be seen in a number of other claims involving China, Japan, Russia, Vietnam, and other countries bordering the oceans of eastern Asia. About 15 years I was one of the co-editors of a book on territorial claims in the South China Sea, which came out at a time when we - and many others - were apprehensive that this might become the next flashpoint for a regional war. Yet in the event, next to nothing has happened, which in the larger sense is an excellent thing (though not so great for book sales). Yet AFAIK none of the countries involved has formally renounced the claims they once made, or even - though I'm less sure of this - formally renounced the use of force to "resolve" them if necessary. Ultra-nationalist constituencies at home, we assume, make such renunciations politically unpalatable.

IF this analogy applies - and I re-emphasize that I have little knowledge here - one might hope for a Hamas that co-exists with Israel in practice, while refusing ever to give up its rhetorical opposition to "Zionist-occupied Palestine." Demanding that they must say that Israel has a right to exist before anyone treats with them might, in such a scenario, prove counterproductive.

As always, YMMV.

... well, maybe you're not familiar with what the grammar of a parallel construction says in English grammar

feel free to quote the rule that says any such construction necessarily implies moral equivalency.

"About 15 years I was one of the co-editors of a book on territorial claims in the South China Sea, which came out at a time when we - and many others - were apprehensive that this might become the next flashpoint for a regional war."

This continues, however, to my purely amateur eye, to be something to continue to keep a close eye on for at least the next couple of decades. Pressures to make good on these claims due to possibilies of oil and natural gas claims will only increase, not decrease, it seems to me.

Feel free to tell me I'm full of it and don't know what I'm talking about.

"IF this analogy applies - and I re-emphasize that I have little knowledge here - one might hope for a Hamas that co-exists with Israel in practice, while refusing ever to give up its rhetorical opposition to 'Zionist-occupied Palestine.' Demanding that they must say that Israel has a right to exist before anyone treats with them might, in such a scenario, prove counterproductive."

This is how I very much tend to lean. Although it also does put some boundaries on how far Israel can be expected to go, as well, unfortunately. Rhetoric does count for something, particularly insofar as it keeps false hope alive, and most particularly insofar as it is used to indoctrinate children. But also simply insofar as it frightens people on the other side. Threats are, after all, threatening. And gestures have to be met with parallel gestures for matters to ever advance.

But my long-term hope is that that that sort of rhetoric can eventually, someday, ease, as it did to varying degrees for much of Fatah, over the decades.

On the downside, one can rarely underestimate the doggedness of a religious point of view. On both sides there will always be some irredentists. (Of course, in dreamland, someday both Jews and Palestinians will be able to live anywhere in the land, in either country, even if voting rights would be the very absolute last possible last step; but simple freedom to buy land and live where one chooses in peace would be the fulfillment of a great dream for both peoples.

I'm highly doubtful I'll live to see that. But dreams are important, too.

cleek: "feel free to quote the rule that says any such construction necessarily implies moral equivalency."

It would be besides any point to address such a silly; I already said that I was perfectly willing to believe you meant no such thing; do you have a problem with that?

already said that I was perfectly willing to believe you meant no such thing; do you have a problem with that?

i have a problem with the fact that you didn't seem to mean it.

nonetheless, enough.

"First, this NYT article about how the US paid to help bolster Fatah (whoops!)."

It helps not to forget to paste in the link

I didn't mean it to be but the whoops was self-referential, I guess.

The link is here

back to reading what y'all wrote while I was asleep.

"On the downside, one can rarely underestimate the doggedness of a religious point of view."

I do this all the time too. Probably meant "overestimate".

I am not Gary's evil twin.

Ahh, and now I see I contributed to the 'this is all about George Bush' meme and a decline in the value (to my eyes) of the thread. Sorry about that, it was just the first link that came up for Palestinian Authority and budget (or some such other combination) and I thought it would be a bit less than serious way to start. I didn't mean to start a fight, but I just thought it bizarre that so many people complain that Fatah was corrupt and an obstacle to peace, but 'we' (since most of us here are Americans) are still willing to boost up the subsidies when we think it serves our interests. I'm not suggesting that we not have paid this, it just demonstrates to me the problems of tying helping people to political outcomes. Also, I am primarily interested in how the US responds to this because that is the only government who I can even dimly imagine affecting. (Japan suggested that they act as a negotiator in the Iran nuclear mess, which was ignored completely, and if they can't be taken seriously in dealing with a country with which they have some huge contracts with, they are going to be completely irrelevant to the IP situation, I think)

just to play devil's advocate a little:

there is an important distinction between the platform of a political party and the position of a government formed by that political party.

frex, compare what Bush has said and done with the official Republican party platform adopted at the last convention.

so count me firmly in the wait-and-see camp. If the next government of the PA takes actions consistent with the Hamas platform regarding Israel, then a legitimate case can be made that the PA has declared war on Israel and the Israelis can conduct themselves accordingly.

but to say that the election of a Hamas slate of candidates of itself means that the PA is now at war with Israel (which i've read in various places, but can't remember where) is just stupid. The official Hamas platform is no more binding on the next PA govt than the Republican party platform is binding on the current US one.

dr ngo: the adolescence thing was more about the learning curve, and less about the corruptions of powerlessness. That said, I completely agree with you. -- I first started really thinking about this when taking a course on Enlightenment moral and political theory, in which, as often happens when you plunge into the literature of a very different period, I was struck by all sorts of topics that were extensively discussed then, and quite neglected now.

One of them was the psychology of courtiers, especially courtiers in the courts of Louis XIV and XV, who had very little power. And once I had focussed on it, it seemed to be relevant everywhere. The battered women's shelter I was working at was taken over by a horrible authoritarian executive director: lo! Montesquieu's Persian Letters suddenly began to seem very apt. I got a job at a college that had shed a President who allowed the faculty no power at all: there it was, the psychology of courtiers, in the middle of our faculty meetings. Etc.

One can never read enough Enlightenment moral and political theory, imho. It is relevant to everything. And it is utterly unlike its reputation: skeptical, playful, mordantly funny, wonderful to read. And lucky me got to be introduced to it by Judith Shklar, who was a wonderful teacher, though she could be a dragon if she decided you were an idiot.

There was one poor guy in particular whom she just vivisected in class. He was going on and on (and on) about some tedious interpretation of some writer, which turned on that writer's having talked about the wisdom of royal edicts. And I looked at Judith Shklar, for no reason, and watched her eyes get narrower and narrower as he blathered on, and she coiled to strike. When at last he was done, she looked at him and said:

Edicts, Toby? The wisdom of edicts? Have you ever heard of (and here came a long list of edicts that the writer might have had in mind, all of which were completely stupid). And after listing them all (Have you heard of this edict, Toby? No? Have you heard of that edict? No? Etc.), she glared at him and said: Clearly, Toby, edicts are not your strong suit. Let's try another topic. Have you ever heard of SARCASM???

Silence.

It was scary.

A decade later I heard that same Toby interviewed on NPR, talking about a book he'd written on what was wrong with America and its academic liberals, and all I could think was: well, if Judith Shklar had torn me apart like that, I might be out for revenge too.

I should also note that it's easy for me to spout off about Israel since I don't live there. I tend to limit any serious "recommendations" as to what Israel should do, accordingly, if anyone were to seriously engage me about them, and obviously I speak to Palestinian issues from my (secular) Jewish perspective. I thought I should toss that in, just for the record. People in other lands have to come to their own conclusions about what it's wise to live with, naturally.

(Although did you know that it's been revealed, for the umpteenth time in my life, that I am not really Jewish? [Scroll down past the Iranian parts of the post to get to the other part.] Every so often in my life I get that sort of thing from some ultra-Orthodox nitwit; fortunately for my respect for Orthodoxy and religiosity in general, I've always known some sane and non-idiot Orthodox [Hasids, even; lived with a few, even]. But I do find it pretty hilarious, along with the irritation.)

"i have a problem with the fact that you didn't seem to mean it."

Could I borrow your mind-reading cap when you're not using it? It would be really handy.

Oh, wait. Never mind. It's broken.

How grand it is to live in a universe where one can write the uncomplicated sentence: "I'm perfectly willing to believe you meant no such thing."

And have it surrounded by invisible auras -- or something -- that apparently -- somehow -- indicate that I don't, in fact, mean what I plainly and flatly said.

"Probably meant 'overestimate'."

Correctamundo! Bob wins the kewpie doll! Don't spend it all in one place.

My fingers: they're evil, I tell you! Evil!

Very disobedient.

Gary:

"Is the Hamas election another example of how our war in Iraq has spread a wave of democratization across the Middle East?"

Not particularly, but it is partially a result of strong American pressure for democracy; it's more a result of Abbas actually believing in democracy, and many of his people. This is a good thing. I'm assuming, dmbeaster, that you don't support democracy only when you like the result?

I am making fun of the ardent Bushies who prop up a bogus Iraq policy by pointing to every democratic moment in the Middle East as proof of the alleged brilliance of the Bush Iraq policy. If elections in Lebanon are part of the benefits, then so should Hamas being elected.

I have previously written that elections in and of themselves don't necessarily mean a whole lot in reforming a region. Afghanistan is sinking fast despite elections. Its hollow for the Bushies to get all excited about an election in and of itself; many others have made the point in connection with the Hamas vote. My favorite historical example is German history from 1918 to 1933 -- a new democracy and elections that led to Nazism anyway.

I'm not as alarmist about Hamas' victory as hilzoy and others are. Fatah deserved to lose: it was corrupt and ineffectual. I do believe that's why Hamas won, not because Palestinians are "re-embracing terrorism." (When did they stop embracing terrorism?)

Either Hamas will be able to deliver its promises to provide more honest, more efficient government, or it won't. If it does succeed, I don't see how that's a bad thing. If it doesn't, I don't see how it can make things much worse than the status quo ante.

There's a tendency for radical organizations, once they decide to enter a normative political process, to become less radical over time. They're busy actually governing, for one. For another, success in governing invests them in the process - enough, hopefully, that they start resenting the fire-eaters who want to keep sabotaging what is now their government.

It'll be interesting to see what happens when Hamas' efforts to 'actually govern' collide with their own hotheads who just want to keep blowing things and people up.

"(When did they stop embracing terrorism?)"

Well, since the majority accepted the Oslo Accords, and the recent "calm," of couse.

These days it's more of a quick handshake and a wave, then an embrace. Eventually, the bitter accusations, and the storming out of the house, with some pleading from terrorism not to be abandoned after all I've done for you, honey!

HTH.

"...then an embrace."

"...than an embrace."

Gary: this is a somewhat tangential point, but Jonathan Edelstein's post on the election results suggests that Hamas would have won even more decisively under a plain first-past-the-post system. They took only a slim plurality of the proportional-representation seats but won big in the district seats. So the hypothesis that proportional rep. helps elect extremists doesn't seem well supported by this election.

Of course it's possible that with a districts-only system the election campaign would have been fought very differently, people would have felt differently about the impact of protest votes, etc. So it's not an open-and-shut case against the "PR -> extremism" hypothesis either.

"So the hypothesis that proportional rep. helps elect extremists doesn't seem well supported by this election."

Y'know, I never said or suggested any such thing. I made a passing remark about p.r. in general. I was then asked what I meant, in general, and I politely and briefly answered. Possibly I shouldn't have. Apparently it really really is necessary to constantly, endlessly, every single time, point out what I don't mean every time I make a passing aside.

Any other connection anyone is making about proportional representation, and this election, including the one above, is purely a product of their own creative imagination.

All I said was this:

(I always try to warn people about the dangers of proportional representation, but I digress.)
If you can find anything there about the Palestinian election, get back to me.

I really really hate this dynamic where people hallucinate implications and read them into words that plainly and obviously have nothing whatever to do with said hallucinations.

And before anyone bridles and quotes the earlier part, I also said this:

And Hamas didn't win because of mass Palestinian support for a renewal of a full-blown intifada, but because Fatah was incompetent, remote, and corrupt. And also because of the complicated split election system with proportional representation in each district, plus the national half of the election.
But, again, if you can find any claim by me in there that therefore proportional representation had a bad effect in this election, I'd have to call that a highly creative interpretation. Let alone would anyone be able to legitimately get from it to any claim that I somehow asserted that "the hypothesis that proportional rep. helps elect extremists [was] supported by this election."

I'm sorry if this is a cranky response, but as I said, I'm endlessly weary of these sorts of strangely careless readings. That is not, of course, your fault, Nicholas Weininger, and I apologize that you happened to be next in line when I fired off on this dynamic again.

Gary, usually when people are discussing topic X where policy Y or anti-Y played a role, and someone says policy Y is bad because it causes result Z, and X happens to be a Z, it's natural to think that person was talking about X when mentioning Y, unless that person specifies that this is not meant to reflect on the particular case at hand which in fact is a counterexample to the general principle. (Hopefully the references make sense.)

In other words, I suspect I would have made the same mistake.

"(Hopefully the references make sense.)"

Yes.

"In other words, I suspect I would have made the same mistake."

I shall renew my efforts to explain what I don't mean, and I Will Work Harder.

I wonder what proportion of Americans knows what a knacker is. I don't know the American equivalent, if there is one, or what a glue-factory worker is called...

One of my favorite Britishisms is the commonality there of using the word "scheme" to simply neutrally mean "plan."

So you endlessly read every day in Britain, in signs or newspapers or whatever, about this or that government or corporate "scheme."

Whereas in America, different connotation. Snidely Whiplash.

I'm a bit knackered, myself, just now.

I must, in no uncertain terms, disagree:

http://www.tacitus.org/story/2006/1/27/1660/58604

Hope you're right, Bernard. Anyway, good post.

one very basic point in all this is that it seems that the Palestinians had only two choices: Fatah or Hamas. Scylla meet Charybdis. They chose what they saw as better representing their interests. It would behoove us to find out why they felt Hamas was better. Right now all we have is speculation.

Could I borrow your mind-reading cap when you're not using it? It would be really handy.

oh fer fnck's sake. when you admit to maybe misinterpreting someone, but then wrap that admission in a sarcastic critique of that person's knowledge of English grammar, you're going to have to accept that people might just think you're being a bit disingenuous.

And have it surrounded by invisible auras -- or something -- that apparently -- somehow -- indicate that I don't, in fact, mean what I plainly and flatly said.

and then you have the gall pretend you didn't do that?

my. god. what an insufferable ass.

Second Francis on the comparison to the Republican Party platform. How many people voting for Bush wanted to enact that entire platform?

Abortion is a better analogy. Everyone knows that Hamas opposes Israel's existence and that the Republicans oppose legal abortion. And yet many vote Republican in serene confidence that legal abortion is here to stay.

Let's hope many Hamas voters had the same attitude.

If Hamas tries to stay radical, it will split or be displaced. Israel is here to stay, & most Palestinians know it; I'd bet a plurality favor it, whether or not they'd admit it to a pollster. (They would prefer Little Syria? Iraq 2.0? I think not.)

cleek, posting rules. People are allowed to be annoying, but not uncivil. Maybe the former point should be amended, but that's above my pay grade.

cleek, posting rules

i throw myself on the mercy of the kitten

Anderson,

"...and that the Republicans oppose legal abortion. And yet many vote Republican in serene confidence that legal abortion is here to stay."

Ayuh. I certainly don't lose any sleep over it, and my take on abortion is pretty much the same as Steven Levitt's. (Or rather, my analysis of it.)

But in the end, I suppose, it doesn't matter. If they voted for Hamas thinking that they wouldn't get radical policies, and they don't, all is well. If they voted for Hamas expecting radicalism and they don't get it, Hamas will be replaced in short order, lather, rinse, repeat. And if they want radicalism and they get it, well, I believe in feedback loops....

"The goal is to get Hamas to renounce the use of violence against Israel, and to accept its existence as legitimate."

Unfortunately reality speaks...


"Militants from Fatah and Hamas capped a tense and emotional day with violent clashes on Friday, while a Hamas leader said the group had no intention of recognizing Israel's right to exist or changing its charter, which calls for Israel's destruction"

You don't expect things to change in a day, BillW. It may not change for the better, but if it does, I wasn't expecting it to happen immediately.

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