Hamas violence in Gaza justifies harsh PNA response
By Ray Hanania
Too many apologists for the Hamas terrorist organization have tried to assert that the Islamicist organization is a product of Democracy that is seeking to democratically represent the Palestinian people and salvage them from years of Israeli oppression. They argue that because the group won one election, it therefore is the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. But the truth is Hamas is not a Democracy at all, but a religious dictatorship. It used the last elections to destroy secular Palestinian society and replace it with a fundamentalist bastardization of Islam.
Since its existence, Hamas has only known violence. And while it claims to champion the struggle for the liberation of Palestine, it’s vision of a “Hamas Palestine” is a religiously oppressive dictatorship where Mullahs and religious fanatics bestow favors on their disciples while denying equal rights to secular Muslims, and to non-Muslims especially Christians and Jews.
This week at a memorial commeorating the three year anniversary of the death of Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, Hamas gunmen opened fire on their Fatah rivals in the Gaza Strip.
The commemoration was not organized by Hamas, which does not view Arafat as a revolutionary hero. Hamas would never play a role in recognizing Arafat’s contributions to the Palestinian cause. The commemoration was organized by those loyal to Fatah and secular Palestinian nationalism.
Hamas always opposed Arafat’s policies of negotiating with Israel, even though Arafat had a mandate from the Palestinians to pursue those negotiations. Hamas used violence and suicide bombings as a strategy to block all of Arafat’s dealings with Israel and undermine the peace accords. In fact, while Israel may have been stingy in compromise, the real cause of the collapse of the peace process was Hamas violence.
Hamas has never been about “Palestine.” The organization is driven by a religious mafia similar, fuled by a fanaticism that drives al-Qaeda.
It is difficult to criticize Hamas in the Arab World, however, because the Arab World is really a part of the larger Islamic World. Despite the revulsion of violence, many Muslims will not speak out against fellow Muslims, a commeraderie that is common in many societies and religions, especially those under national siege.
There is a fundamental distinction between Islamicists and secular Arabs that cannot be ignored.
For secular Arabs, liberating Palestine and establishing a Palestinian state represents the end result of their goals. Secular Palestinians like those represented by the Fatah organization that Arafat established in the late 1960s, believe that the ultimate goal is to establish a secular, non-sectarian nation that can beacon for the return of Palestinians from throughout the diaspora.
Secular Palestinians can compromise, weighing national survival against the principles, rules of law and justice of their cause.
But for Islamicists like Hamas, al-Qaeda and other such religious terrorist organizations, Palestine is little more than a stepping stone towards a larger religious goal. Hamas wants to dominate the Arab World, the Islamic World and eventually the entire world with their religious fanaticism.
Islamicists cannot compromise because religious faith does not permit compromise. The only alternative to defeat is suicide and self-destruction, and that is exactly where Hamas was leading Palestinians when its coup earlier this year failed.
Just as there is a reluctance among many Muslims to criticize their own, many Palestinians empathize, having suffered equally with the the Islamicists for years under a brutal Israeli military oppression.
But if Palestinians will ever realize their dream of statehood, nationhood and the in-gathering of the Palestinian diaspora, they must clean their own house. They must destroy the Hamas cancer before its extremists commit an even greater act of violence that goes beyond the conflict with Israel.
The greatest threat facing Palestinians is that Hamas will one-day broaden its unjustified violence from targeting Israeli and secular Palestinian rivals to instead commit an act of violence so horrendous on the scale of the terrorism by al-Qaeda on Sept. 11, 2001 that it will destroy all hope for Palestinian independence.
The Palestinian government must take the difficult but necessary step to destroy the Hamas organizational structure. They must arrest those Hamas leaders who reject secular Democratic principles and renounce violence.
If the Palestinian National Authority government of President Mahmoud Abbas is to survive, it must impose its will.
The Hamas extremists always point to Arafat and his corruption, but the truth is Hamas is no more transparent than Arafat. Arafat was not Democratic. But Arafat also was not the leader of a recognized state. He was the president of a revolution in transition.
It’s not what Arafat did, however, but what he sought to do that is the spirit of the Palestinian revolution.
His goal was a secular, Democratic state. And had he achieved a negotiated peace with Israel, even a Palestinian mini-state would have more international power and influence than the justice of the Palestinian cause from 60 years ago. Palestine would have evolved, through natural political processes, into a Democratic government.
Palestinian statehood is not what Hamas seeks, but that a decisive crackdown on Hamas can restore.
(Ray Hanania is an award winning Palestinian columnist and author. Copyright Arab Writers Group Syndicate, http://www.ArabWritersGroup.com).