Shocked By America's Blindness
Rami G. Khouri is editor at large of the Beirut-based Daily Star newspaper, published throughout the Middle East with the International Herald Tribune.
I nearly fell out of my car window Monday morning while traveling around several of the fine universities in
Good grief, Condoleezza, this is not about having or not having a good enough pulse. It's about the consequences of the last decade of Israeli and American policies toward the Palestinians in general, and the Islamist resistance movements in particular. This is not a time to persist in simplistic, counterproductive policies that will only further strengthen the forces of military resistance against the Israeli occupation, and wider Arab-Islamic political resistance against America 's blatantly pro-Israeli position.
To add a new dose of American perplexity and wonderment now to several existing layers of mistaken policies on Arab-Israeli peacemaking will be of no help to anyone. If
Though the Hamas victory was surprising in its magnitude, it was no surprise otherwise, because it was the sixth consecutive strong showing by Islamist groups running in political elections in the Middle East in the past year.
One after the other since last spring, we have witnessed the Hamas victory in municipal elections, Hezbollah's strong showing in the Lebanese parliamentary election, the Iranian presidential victory of populist hard-line neo-Khomeinist Mahmoud Ahmadinajad, the Muslim Brotherhood's big wins in the Egyptian parliamentary elections, the Shi'a-dominated Islamists' victory in the Iraqi parliamentary election and now Hamas' triumph in Palestine.
If the United States government, with all its capacity to collect and interpret information, did not see Hamas doing very well in the Palestinian election in the wake of these other Islamist victories, then it is either willfully blind or totally incompetent—and neither possibility is a very comforting thought.
The domestic and war-and-peace-making implications of the Hamas victory would appear to be rather clear. It was elected to throw out the incompetent, increasingly corrupt and aloof Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority, and to try and restore a sense of order and decency in Palestinian governance and life. Its victory patently was not a popular Palestinian mandate to establish an Islamic state, revive the Caliphate, apply Islamic law or wipe out Israel. The hysterical spin-doctoring and obfuscation coming out of some circles in Washington and Israel to this effect are just that: hysterical scare-mongering.
The fact is, we do not know how Hamas will use its newfound political power. It is, perhaps, the most legitimate political leadership in the Arab world, because it is the only one to be voted in through a free and fair election monitored by the international community. Whether it will be an effective leadership, or a humane, fair and tolerant one, remains to be seen. It will have to make some important decisions in the coming weeks about how to apply its power, keeping in mind the desires of its constituency—the Palestinian people living in the West Bank, Gaza and Arab East Jerusalem—to live a normal life, not a life of perpetual war, occupation or resistance.
The most interesting thing about the Hamas victory is its legitimacy, as the consequence of a free, fair and pluralistic democratic election. This raises a massive new challenge to the American leadership, which is why Condoleezza Rice and her colleagues in government should be overcoming their perplexity and replacing it with some strong doses of realism and rationality.
The choice facing the
The right thing to do now is to explore how to take advantage of the fact that we have a legitimate, democratically elected Palestinian leadership. The last two times this happened in recent years—the presidential elections of Yassar Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas—Israel and the United States responded by giving primary attention to Israeli demands, thus only weakening and delegitimizing the Palestinian leadership. That policy has been a colossal failure, and has resulted in part in spurring the string of Islamist victories throughout the region.
Copyright ©2006 Rami G. Khouri / Agence Global