Thursday, January 26, 2006

The Hamas Victory

The big news out of the Middle East today is Hamas's stunning victory in the Palestinian elections. Although the Muslim Brotherhood is in no way a terrorist organization, this election perhaps resembles Egypt's Parliamentary contests in showing people fed up with corrupt autocracies turning to Islamists as the credible opposition force. The victory in Iran of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad over Hashemi Rafsanjani probably falls along the same lines, though he was obviously helped by the failure of the Khatami-style reformists. In that sense, I agree with Lisa and Imshin that this was a victory for democracy.

Of course the problem is that Hamas is really not a nice group of people, and they tend to get involved in some rather nasty activities at times. Israel has already announced their refusal to work with the new government, and Mahmoud Abbas has suggested reviving the PLO as a new basis of negotations. I'm not sure the latter idea will lead anywhere, as Fatah obviously lacks the confidence of the Palestinian people, while Israel has been set on a unilateral course for some time now. I also think that Mark Goldberg is right that Hamas may be moderated by the need for development assistance, which foreign powers may not be willing to give to a terrorist organization. So in the long run, this may not alter the overall course of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The effects it might have on Palestinian political development are, of course, another issue altogether, one on which I don't have much on which to base an opinion. It is perhaps ironic, however, that exactly one year ago today I wrote this. The concluding sentiment, by the way, is one I still stand by.


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