Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Let's hear it from those moderate Palestinians

A while back, I speculated on how many Palestinians who voted for Hamas in the recent elections were playing a voting game.

An article from the Telegraph had quoted a young Palestinian voter as experiencing post-election regret:

Like many others, a young Fatah activist wished yesterday he could go back in time and replay the Palestinian elections all over again.

"I voted Hamas so that my own Fatah Party would be shocked and change its ways," he said, giving his name only as Mohamed, in the Palmeira cafe in Gaza City. "I thought Hamas would come second.

"But this is a game that went too far. Nobody thought Hamas would win - even them. I know lots of people who voted Hamas, who regret it now. If I could vote again, I would vote for Fatah."


At the time I wrote, "I wonder how large a group he represents."

I still wonder. And I still haven't read anything that would allow me to answer the question with anything approaching authority.

But I have read two more articles that would indicate--if the Palestinians they feature are at all representative of the majority--that the Mohamed quoted above may in fact be extremely typical of Palestinian voters, and not just in his name. An awful lot of them--at least the ones who seem to find their way to journalists to be interviewed, agree with him on the reasons they cast their precious votes for Hamas.

Case in point: an article that appeared one week ago in the Boston Globe, entitled "They voted for Hamas but were surprised by its victory."

Here are some excerpts:

Muayad Abu Ghazaleh, 36, is the ultimate Palestinian swing voter. A lifelong backer of Yasser Arafat's Fatah party, he grew so disgusted with its cronyism and corruption that in parliamentary elections on Jan. 25 he cast his ballot for Hamas, never suspecting the militant group would actually win.

What he wants from Hamas now, he said, is good government, plus something that the group's charter says it can never deliver -- a peace deal with Israel.

Swing voters such as Abu Ghazaleh -- who doesn't share Hamas's vision of Islamic rule and unending war with Israel -- handed Hamas its surprise victory in Palestinian parliamentary elections. Now those voters are confronting the confusing reality of the day after.

Many say they voted with specific and sometimes contradictory hopes -- for a government that won't let Israel push it around but will ultimately make peace -- that they now have to square with Hamas's uncompromising record. While these voters say they believe Hamas will turn more pragmatic as it moves from violent outsider to governing party, Hamas leaders so far have not given any indication that they plan to abandon their more fiery tenets.


Whether or not Hamas will abandon these "fiery tenets" is a question I've answered here (and my answer is "probably not"). But the intentions and hopes of the Palestinian voters who actually cast their lots with Hamas are another thing.

The Globe article is, unfortunately, quite mum on how its author, Anne Barnard, selected her pro-Hamas but relatively reasonable-sounding Palesinian voter interviewees. It's even more silent on whether we should consider them to be representative of anything more than the particular point of view the writer wishes to promote. And I haven't seen any polls on the matter.

So it may be a case of quote selection by Ms. Barnard. Or it may be a real phenomenon: that the Palestinian support for Hamas itself is much less than the vote would indicate, and that a huge number of voters were voting as a protest against the corruption of Fatah, never expecting that Hamas would actually win a majority, much less the solid majority it now owns.

According to the article, many of these voters have the (somewhat delusional, IMHO) hope that Hamas--perceived by them as a sort of "strong horse"--might actually be able to get results if they could ever be convinced to enter into negotiations with the Israelis. How they might thus be persuaded is left rather vague--and rightly so, since, as the article points out, there is absolutely no sign that this might be the case.

But that doesn't stop some--such as the following Hamas voter--from hoping:

''We want peace," he said. ''I have children. I want to live. I don't want the Israel Army to come in here. The extremists [in Hamas] are very few. I love Jews and Israel, I just don't like their politicians."

The article makes the excellent point that, even if it were theoretically open to moderation, Hamas now is riding high, and therefore has little to no incentive to listen to such voters.

Some voters realize this, including a man named Zakaria, who actually ended up as campaign manager for a Hamas-backed candidate. Now he is experiencing a sort of "buyer's remorse;" he sounds rather worried:

Ameed Zakaria, a lifelong Fatah member who dresses in the uniform of Palestinian secular nationalists -- leather jacket, jeans, no beard -- broke from the party to manage the campaign of a Hamas-backed independent candidate. He wanted Hamas to win a solid opposition bloc; the competition, he felt, would shock Fatah into reforming corruption, while the burdens of office would make Hamas more pragmatic.

''I want Hamas to get into the heart of the event, rather than shouting from the sidelines," he said. ''They will have to admit reality. It's not good for Hamas to keep saying, 'We want Palestine from the river to the sea' " -- its demand for a Palestinian state that would not only include the West Bank and Gaza but also replace Israel on the map.

But when Hamas won outright, taking five of the six district seats in Nablus, Zakaria began to fear for the secular order -- and for the prospects for a pragmatic deal with Israel.

''They use religion for political purposes," he said last week.


As I wrote earlier, it's always dangerous to vote for someone in whom you don't believe, thinking it will register only as a protest. If enough people do the same thing, you may find that you've actually voted the bums in. To the voters, it probably seemed impossible that Hamas could win, and that therefore a vote for Hamas would be a relatively harmless protest. A miscalculation, and perhaps a fatal one.

The following is the only indication I could find in the article of how many of these protest votes there might have been:

Yasser Mansour, who ran Hamas's Nablus campaign and won a parliament seat, now spends much of his time offering reassurances. Nearly half of Palestinians are independents without strong loyalties to Hamas or Fatah, he said. ''These are the people who gave us the victory."

So, it's those swing voters again. If Mansour is correct, there may be a great many of them among the Palestinians. And one can't really say they had much of a choice, either: Fatah hatred and proven corruption vs. Hamas ultra-hatred and promises (most likely empty) of ending corruption.

If we can trust the article, there doesn't seem to be a groundswell of popular support for an Islamic state among the Palestinians. Note the article's conclusion, from brokerage manager Numaan Khosrawi, who voted for a secular party:

"But if [Hamas members] start trying to control Palestinians' lifestyles," he added, "it will be their grave."

I'm afraid this is bluster; Hamas would have even less hesitation than Fatah did about killing off the opposition. But it seems, at least, that there may be more internal opposition than originally thought. And that--if we can believe the sincerity of the people quoted--does offer some hope that there is more than a small chink in the seemingly monolithic Palestinian support for those who would like nothing better than to blow all Israelis to kingdom come.

I offer as a companion piece this article from the NY Sun. It gives more background on the vote for Hamas. The article features interviews with two Palestinian expatriates, Khaled Abu Toameh and Nonie Darwish--the former was a Palestinian reporter, and the latter grew up in Gaza City as the daughter of a man who was head of Egypt's fedayeen.

Here's what they have to say:

Mr. Abu Toameh's views are shaped by what he has seen as a reporter - not so different from what the Palestinian Arabs who voted for Hamas have seen. He sees former Arafat officials like Jibril Rajoub and Mohammed Dahlan - "icons of corruption, warlords" - depicted by some Western Arabists as a "younger generation, reformists."

"The Palestinians don't buy it," Mr. Abu Toameh said. Mr. Dahlan, with no official government position, moves around Gaza in a 12-car convoy with 70 bodyguards. "People look at him and say, 'This is all the CIA money.' I think Mohammed Dahlan is one of the main reasons why people in Gaza voted for Hamas."

Much of what Mr. Abu Toameh and Ms. Darwish have to say is unconventional. "A lot of times we hear, 'Is America going to pressure Israel for peace?'" Ms. Darwish said. "I don't hear the media asking, 'When are the Arabs going to pressure the Palestinians for peace?'"

Mr. Abu Toameh said American policy in advance of the Palestinian elections can be summed up as "If you don't vote for the same thieves who have been stealing your money for ten years, we are going to punish you."

He said that the linkage between Gaza and the West Bank is more in the minds of Western diplomats and even Israelis than in the culture of the Palestinians. The West Bank feels more Jordanian, Gaza more Egyptian. They are "two separate entities," Mr. Abu Toameh said...

Both Ms. Darwish and Mr. Abu Toameh emphasized the limits to free speech and freedom of the press in the Middle East. "If I speak in the Arab world, I will be shot," Ms.Darwish said. Mr. Abu Toameh notes that an independent free press does not exist in the West Bank or Gaza. "They burn it down. They beat you up," he says. "The media there is controlled by the PLO."


So we cannot discount the existence of those "moderate Moslems," those "moderate Arabs," and those especially elusive "moderate Palestinians." But with their voices quite understandably muted, we have no way of knowing how many there actually are.

24 Comments:

At 3:52 PM, February 15, 2006, Blogger Ymarsakar said...

The Palis do sound like people living under a 40 year totalitarnian central planning state. I.E.Russia.

They got tired of it. But that doesn't mean they deserve peace, or know how to achieve it, or know how to get rid of the people obstructing peace. It's a long way from Wishes to Engineering a solution.

And that--if we can believe the sincerity of the people quoted--does offer some hope that there is more than a small chink in the seemingly monolithic Palestinian support for those who would like nothing better than to blow all Israelis to kingdom come.

Of course there is a chink. You can't change human nature, even with brainwashing and propaganda. People's primary concerns are their family, their life, their pride, and their children. You can warp it, you can strain it, you can even make a perversion out of it through honor killings, but you cannot change human nature.

Israel did the best thing they could have done going behind a wall. Not an American solution but Israel ain't America. What works for them may not work for me. By allowing the Palestinians to focus on themselves and what not, it has provided a means for their human nature to snap back into place. By removing the Israeli occupation, it gives the Palestinians a chance to look to the future, their family's future. A false hope, but one that might have brought Hamas into play.

Still, wise Americans realized a long time ago you shouldn't vote for someone you don't want to win. The Democrats tried that with Kerry, didn't exactly work. Kerry was "Presidential", he was the anti-Bush with a war record. Wow, but did anyone actually wanted Kerry to win? Nope.

Mr. Abu Toameh said American policy in advance of the Palestinian elections can be summed up as "If you don't vote for the same thieves who have been stealing your money for ten years, we are going to punish you."

It isn't that America doesn't like the vote, we actually DO like it. Cause it gives us a good pretex to cut off our aid. The Danish already feel the hypocrisy, they've already said that it might be a good idea to take Danish aid out cause Danish things obviously offend Muslims.

The thing is, what happens when this gen of Palestinians die out? Are the next generation, loyal fans of Osama Bin Laden, going to be more moderate or less?

 
At 4:08 PM, February 15, 2006, Anonymous hgwells said...

More and more I doubt whether Moderate Muslims exist in a more substantive sense than "Muslims who are not actively trying to destroy the West or Israel."

It seems to me that a truly moderate Muslim, comparable to a moderate Christian, would actually be radical reformer like Irshad Manji.

 
At 4:08 PM, February 15, 2006, Anonymous erasmus said...

Well, OK, who knows?
Often those interviewed tell reporters exactly what reporters want to hear. These quotes usually appear as red flags in the story. Here:
"I love Jews and Israel."

I'm not sure you'd get many people in Columbus, Ohio, who'd say THAT. Maybe they'd want Israel and the Palestinians to live in peace, and that they have Jewish friends who are "good people."

Perhaps the interview was conducted on Valentine's Day.

 
At 5:11 PM, February 15, 2006, Blogger ExPreacherMan said...

Good article -- good points.

A history lesson for conservatives:

Do we vote for a Perot as a protest vote and get a Clinton in the White House on only 47% of the vote?

Something to think about. Think before you vote!

 
At 6:06 PM, February 15, 2006, Blogger Tom Grey said...

One of the biggest failings of the MSM is that of NOT covering the murders of Palestinian journos, especially those who try to exercise free speech.

On aid, it would be great, for the Palestinians, too, if aid stopped going to the Pali gov't -- and instead went to individual businesspeople. Like with lots of loans to start shops for making & selling shoes, and bread, and milk, and clothes.

You know, civilization.

(Such a model with the PA might be usable in other corrupt countries, too. Like Egypt.)

 
At 6:39 PM, February 15, 2006, Blogger Ymarsakar said...

There's no way to actually stop the gov from stealing the funds afterwards by gun point. If you could send American or Jewish troops there to protect the shop keepers however.... then it would work.

 
At 7:01 PM, February 15, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder if there is a Marion Barry component here? We can throw our votes to an outrageous candidate, stick it to the Man, and have him bail us out later anyway. It certainly worked for DC.

 
At 9:41 PM, February 15, 2006, Anonymous hgwells said...

neo - I find these questions interesting and important:

* Who are they moderate Muslims?
* How many of them are there?
* How we might encourage them?

I'd enjoy hearing your take on them and reading the subsequent discussion.

 
At 10:42 PM, February 15, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Considering that Hamas raided the buildings where the votes were being counted and made off with over 30% of the total ballots cast in Gaza and the West Bank combined, it's pretty likely that many Palestinians may have been more moderate than the election would indicate.
Not that it stopped Jimmy the Dhimmi from rubber-stamping the election. How can anyone take anything he says, or even anything he endorses, seriously?

... Whoa. My verification word this time was "fludd." Better call Master Chief!

 
At 12:15 AM, February 16, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Re: Perot. I've not thought about that for some time so this is a fuzzy recollection. I remember being mad at Perot and I think it was because he was doing very, very well (looking to be a winner), then quit the race and reentered shortly thereafter thus destroying his campaign.

I think he got scared that he was going to actually win and sabotaged his own prospects intentionally. Whether things would have been better had he won is an unknown, though it seems highly unlikely.

Perhaps, had Hamas realized they would win, they'd have sabotaged their campaign as well, but their unanticipated win may end up being the best thing that happened in the history of the conflict -- it does put the cards on the table instead of lurking up the sleeves. Time will tell.

 
At 1:15 AM, February 16, 2006, Blogger Ymarsakar said...

Not that it stopped Jimmy the Dhimmi from rubber-stamping the election. How can anyone take anything he says, or even anything he endorses, seriously?

Cause he is useful. A lot more useful alive and talking than dead and silent, to some people that is. Not us.

it does put the cards on the table instead of lurking up the sleeves. Time will tell.

I just saw that republican senator criticizing and pressing Secretary Rice about how terrruble Hamas being elected was. I don't know what we pay these people on the foreign issue committe for, but it ain't brains.

I also had the unfortunate opportunity to watch Barbara Boxer go off her rant like usual, which was 70% rant and 30% question. No, scratch that, 10% question and 90% rant.

 
At 1:40 AM, February 16, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Islam has overplayed it's hand with 9/11, then Iran, and now the Hamas landslide. If they're not careful, they will reap a whirlwind.

The polls at
www.outpost911.com
shows by wide majority that they anticipate a terrorist WMD within 5 years and that the appropriate response is utter elimination of the Middle East(while excluding Israel). Precision Nukes?.

 
At 2:08 AM, February 16, 2006, Blogger Robert Schwartz said...


Tom Friedman wrote Wednesday[NYTimes $elect]
:

"It's obvious that the ruling Fatah Party and its allies, led by the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, ran an incomprehensibly stupid campaign. There was no discipline, so in many districts Fatah and its secular-nationalist allies ran four candidates, while Hamas always ran only one. So Fatah votes got divided, and Hamas ones didn't.

"The result, the pollster Khalil Shikaki said, is that "Hamas won only 44 percent of the popular vote, but got 56 percent of the seats. Fatah and its allies won 56 percent of the popular vote, but only 43 percent of the seats."

Lends support for the theory that Hamas does not have a blank check.

 
At 4:14 AM, February 16, 2006, Anonymous strcpy said...

"Lends support for the theory that Hamas does not have a blank check."

There is an assumption here that Hamas will act like a western political party - which there is every indication it will not.

With the lead they have they are pretty much unstoppable before the next election (and, if they so choose, could most likely legally stop it from occuring).

Never make the mistake that someone who is willing to violently kill and entire race, send thier kids out as suicide bombs, and do the other things Hamas has done is going to act anything remotely like a republican, democrat, tory, liberal, or whatever your parties are called in the west. They have, by definition, alerady set up a totally different cost-benefit and moral structure to rule themselfs.

Heck, you can hardly even move between similar cultures in one country, let alone one so different from ours.

 
At 4:55 AM, February 16, 2006, Blogger Steve M said...

"Israel did the best thing they could have done going behind a wall. Not an American solution but Israel ain't America." - ymarsakar

A little off topic here but isn't there a wall between the US and Mexico?

 
At 10:26 AM, February 16, 2006, Blogger LetMeSpellItOutForYou said...

This situation reminds me of the movie Putney Swope, in which the board of an advertising firm votes in its token black member, who proceeds to fire all the rest and staff the firm with black militants.

 
At 11:25 AM, February 16, 2006, Blogger Promethea said...

It doesn't matter what Palestinians say to reporters. Remember "taqiyyah." We are kufrs, so lying is perfectly acceptable. Words mean nothing, except for threats.

I've stopped expecting much of anything from "Palestine" and "Palestinians." Think of a small country ruled by the Crips and the Bloods. Or maybe the Mafia. That's what we're looking at. A manaical Belize or insane Hong Kong.

The violence will continue. Whether large-scale or small-scale--that's what the Israeli Army will decide after events play themselves out.

I'm no longer hopeful of seeing any decent "Palestinian" state emerge during my lifetime.

 
At 11:34 AM, February 16, 2006, Blogger Ymarsakar said...

I think the wall doesn't cover a lot of territory at all. It wouldn't work anyways, there are too much territory to cover. Wouldn't stop the tunnels either.

Besides, the wall only covers like minimal percentages of the border in addition to the fact that there are no suicide bombers coming across as of yet, even with the Mexican military shooting at our boys.

If Mexico was sending suicide bombers, instead of rapists, paramilitary dudes, drug lords, and immigrants they jack and steal from, then our response would not be to build a wall and retreat behind it.

We'd be sending armed expeditions into Mexico, taking over the drug cartel controlled towns, and setting up a little "Iraqi style cordon" with concrete and checkpoints. After fighting terroists in Iraq, a bunch of "powerful and ruthless drug lords" would be rabbits to the tiger.

 
At 11:56 AM, February 16, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If moderate Palestinians exist, but have no voice and no influence (whatever the reason) how do they affect our conception of what to do?

I suppose that the belief that there are many innocent, peace-loving Palestinians who only scream death to--you pick the Satan of the day--because the get paid for it would cause us to think twice about wiping the entire population out altogether. But we aren't going to do that, anyway.
If they can't do something about their own fate, they'll be in the position that the German and Japanese civilians were in WW II, and the North Korean civilians were in the Korean War. Helpless victims unable to influence their own fate while a war rolls over them. Well, come to think of it, the Palestinians are victims--to the extent they are innocent of Jew-hate and so forth--of a slow-motion war right now.
Well, they'd better do something PDQ or somebody else will.
Being wondered about from afar isn't the same as being important.

 
At 12:09 PM, February 16, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"We'd be sending armed expeditions into Mexico, taking over the drug cartel controlled towns, and setting up a little "Iraqi style cordon" with concrete and checkpoints."

Whoa... that sounds exactly like what Israel did with its settlements and checkpoints!

 
At 2:57 PM, February 16, 2006, Anonymous Richard Aubrey said...

Anon. Ref Israel, you're right. But we would make some progress while the liberals and the media got going on sympathy for the poor, oppressed drug cartels. It would take some time, but believe it would happen. Believe it.

 
At 7:14 PM, February 16, 2006, Blogger Ymarsakar said...

Whoa... that sounds exactly like what Israel did with its settlements and checkpoints!

To most people who don't look past the surface, it would sound like it. All you have to do is to read Palestinian Princess and compare her day to the day of an American fighting in Iraq, via a Mil Blog.

Come back with an analysis once you have, the similarities are not nearly as numerous as the differences.

 
At 11:31 AM, February 17, 2006, Blogger benning said...

Cut off aid now. Will the Danes, or any European enabler of Palestinian terror, cut off the flow of money?

I'll believe it when I see it.

 
At 7:24 PM, February 17, 2006, Blogger PatCA said...

Be careful what you wish for, Palis...

A protest vote, eh? Ask the people who voted for Nader how well that turned out.


This is actually good for them. Now the world has a moment, before the traditional dissembling begins, to take a stand for the people, not the kleptocracy, of Palestine.

 

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