January 28, 2006

Resistance groups never begin as long-range planners but as reactionaries: in the sense that they spring up out of resisting reaction to something not wanted. (Otherwise they simply never come into existence.) Over time -- and only where there is some significant degree of public support -- they morph into something that needs to look a little further ahead, forced to look not only at what should not be but also at how it should change and into what.

Of course there was an initial reluctance to allow Hamas to run! Those with their eyes open had always known that under the current circumstances and given half a chance, Hamas, one of the more solidly gelled religio-political groups in terms of medium- to long-term structural policy, would have to win.

The Palestinian people had been looking for some time for solid, effective leadership -- and whatever else, Hamas has shown itself willing to act (and thus strong), and has also been clear thus far of the inertia, stagnation, and just general corruption associated with a post-Arafat Fatah. (Ironically, the original PLO Arafat who had once made an appearance in the United Nations assembly had the same combination of strength and "clean-ness" of action, and thus had appealed to exactly the same societal need. Yet the wish for strong, clean leadership is far from unique to Palestinians.) I don't think I have ever before seen post-election protesting condemning a party -- Fatah -- for having been so corrupt and ineffectual that it had to be voted out of power: a kind of "You idiots! did you have to force me to vote against you?"

(Ironically, this pattern does echo the two-days-earlier Canadian election just a little. Hardly anyone who voted for the formerly governing Liberal party voted for it because they liked what it represented ... more because it represented the lesser, or more mitigating, of the possible evils: cartoons showing voting with clothespins on one's nose were rampant. I suspect "conservative" in Canada does not mean what it means in the United States -- for many reasons, but perhaps in no small part because it does have that "breath of fresh air" sense about it: grassroots, not large-scale corporate porkbarrel -- if only because they have not yet had the chance! -- but then again, "conservative" in the United States does not mean what it used to mean either.)

Now, like the Irish Republican Army (IRA) / Sinn Féin outgrowth, Hamas finds itself firmly invested in the future of the people it claims to represent. This direct investment of a political group into the future of the people it claims to represent is actually the path out of terrorism and into responsible government ... if the world at large will give it a chance to act on behalf of the people who did choose it democratically. As I noted and further detailed in a comment last December, I see the continued existence of Israel very much as a given in any least-violent solution for long-term peace. On the surface this would seem to be a sticking point: and yet Hamas carries still within it the remnants of an alternate world vision that could allows for such continued co-existence, were it but to be given the benefit of the doubt. Deal with Hamas at face value, and Hamas will be forced toward a path of peaceful compromise. Refuse to deal with Hamas, and all that will be demonstrated is that Hamas is right to pursue a military oppositional path, using whatever weapons are available -- for the democratic ideal itself will have been undermined, and the people's voice shown to be irrelevant.

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