It’s Hard to be a Liberal in Palestine

The focus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has led people to ignore the fact that Hamas’s domestic policy is not much more humanistic than its foreign policy. Under Hamas rule, the government has started committing summary executions of political critics, including one sheikh who criticized the party too much.

[Link] Assailants gunned down a Muslim preacher known for his anti-Hamas views on Friday, witnesses said, moments after he exited a mosque where he delivered a sermon criticizing the Islamic group’s role in a wave of Palestinian violence.

The slaying came as thousands of mourners marched through Gaza City carrying the bodies of seven Fatah men killed in a standoff with Hamas. Thursday’s gunfight was the bloodiest single battle in weeks of factional fighting, and Fatah said it was suspending talks with Hamas until the assailants are brought to justice.

There was no claim of responsibility for Friday’s shooting of Adel Nasar, a mosque preacher who was shot as he got into a car in the Mughazi refugee camp in central Gaza, according to witnesses.

But Fatah accused Hamas. “Sheik Nasar was killed after he came out of the mosque where he criticized Hamas after the crime committed by some of its gunmen yesterday,” the group said in a statement.

As I keep saying, in the real world, governments don’t get to choose their allies, aid recipients, or benefactors. On the one hand, it means cutting off aid to Hamas will only serve to radicalize it more. On the other, it means that Israelis, Europeans, and Americans who’re interested in peace have to support Fatah here, despite its spotty track record when it comes to, well, anything.

Fortunately, Hamas’s rule is not popular. A poll from last month reveals that Palestinians support holding early elections by a large majority, and would vote for Fatah by a 6-point plurality. Hamas won mostly because of its stated commitment to change the corrupt ways of the government and fight poverty; but as early as May, another poll registered deep dissatisfaction and worsening economic conditions.

Unfortunately, terrorist organizations rarely accept electoral defeats. Hamas might, because of its legitimate rise to power, but even so, it’s likely to continue killing people it doesn’t like. People who don’t have any compunctions about extralegal killings when in power rarely have compunctions about extralegal killings when out of power.

Still, the important thing about this civil war is that it is stripping Hamas of the moderates’ support. It will gain them back in a second if Fatah is ever seen as the party of Israeli stooges, but as long as there is a significant contingent of a wholly Palestinian left, Fatah could rise again. It likely won’t do anything to reduce poverty and corruption, to say nothing of start to fight the occupation in ways that won’t make the entire world hate it. But it will probably not kill off people whose sole crime is speaking out against the regime, which I suppose is a start.

3 Responses to It’s Hard to be a Liberal in Palestine

  1. SLC says:

    As usuial, Mr. Levy only tells half the story. The fact is that the various Fatah gangs haven’t been shy about bumping off Hamas officials (those who have not yet been bumped off by the IDF/Mossad/Shinbet). Unfortunately, there aren’t any good guys here. Only tha bad and slightly less bad. In the Gaza Strip, what we see is the law of the jungle, kill or be killed, every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost. What the Governments of Israel, Jordan, Egypt, US, EU have to do is let the crazies in the Gaza strip fight it out and try to prevent the spread of the chaos to the West Bank.

  2. Alon Levy says:

    Hey, I’m with you there on Fatah. The party of Arafat is hardly a good vehicle for peace. It’s just better than the alternative. It’s like how I sang Celebration to myself when Webb overtook Allen; it’s not that the Democrats are any good, but that the Republicans are even worse.

  3. There are no good guys in Palestine because of the essential nature of the place. It’s a gangster state, where the most powerful mob wins; Somalia in the Arab peninsula. Liberalism is not going to thrive in such an environment ipso facto. That is why Bush’s unwavering faith in his “global democratic revolution” is especially ridiculous, and it surprises me that so few are willing to question his basic premise. The fall of communism in eastern Europe made us a bit too overconfident in the universality of liberalism and the inherent value of democracy promotion.

    As a side note, when I first saw this thread title I immediately thought of the urban catch-phrase “It’s gettin’ hahd out here for a pimp.” I might have played on that, but there is such a thing as being too cute.

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