June 16, 2007

Fatahland & Hamastan -- a roundup

By Noah Pollak

Herewith a completely disorganized roundup of reporting and commentary about the past few days’ events in Gaza.

Charles Levinson reports from inside Gaza on life in the new Hamastan. He went to observe the vigorous looting of Mohammad Dahlan’s seaside villa. “The boy digging up the tree paused and turned to us. ‘He lives like a king, and we have nothing to eat,’ he said, before returning to his work.”

The Jerusalem Post’s Palestinian affairs reporter Khaled Abu Toameh — he has been required reading throughout the conflict — has an interesting analysis of the recent history of Hamas-Fatah relations, in pursuit of an answer to his question: “Why did the Gaza Strip fall so easily and quickly into the hands of Hamas?”

Matthew Levitt predicts that “Hamas will look north to Lebanon’s Hezbollah (Party of God) for a working model of a militant Islamist group that balances its political, charitable, and violent activities.” He directs readers to a section of his excellent 2006 book on Hamas. This is a shrewd comparison, and one that Martin Kramer made in a different context two years ago:

[Hamas and Hezbollah] have a strong sense of entitlement, and a record of rejecting offers of political inclusion that do not privilege them. The cost of bringing these movements in is high — they place heavy demands on the system, because they insist on retaining their mini-state privileges.
The most significant of those privileges is stockpiles of weapons. Both Lebanon and the Palestinians have been through dark chapters of warlordism, which they are trying to put behind them. Hezbollah and Hamas are the main obstacles to the turning of this page.
They say they will never give up their guns. They insist on stockpiling a vast array of weaponry, most of which cannot threaten Israel, but all of which undermines the fragile authority of the Lebanese state and the Palestinian Authority. In Beirut, Hezbollah still mounts paramilitary displays, and in Gaza and the West Bank, no demonstration is complete without the public display of weaponry. Yesterday, 10,000 Hamas militia militants paraded through Gaza with assault rifles, rockets, and anti-tank missiles. This is not like the gun culture of America, which is focused on the individual's right to bear arms. This is militia competition, so familiar from other failed states where warlords compete by shows of armed strength.

And speaking of Martin, don’t miss his commentary on Rashid Khalidi, the Edward Said Professor at Columbia University, who yesterday on National Public Radio declared that the Hamas takeover “is a direct, logical, inevitable result of American, Israeli, and European policy…They almost willed this result.” Kramer thunders back:

At bottom, Khalidi is no different from the general run of blame-throwing Palestinian hacks. One of the (many) reasons Palestinians have marched themselves down so many dead ends is the abject failure of their intellectuals, who've been so busy speaking “truth to power” that they've forgotten to speak it to their own people. Khalidi is no exception, and as someone who's fed Palestinian mythology for decades, he's just as thoroughly implicated in the mess as any masked gunman.

The Wall Street Journal’s editorial takes a dash through the past forty years’ history of Palestinian terrorism and the West’s multifaceted capitulation to it, and concludes:

The deeper lesson here is that a society that has spent the last decade celebrating suicide bombing would inevitably become a victim of its own nihilistic impulses. This is not the result of Mr. Bush's call for democratic responsibility; it is the bitter fruit of the decades of dictatorship and terrorism as statecraft that Yasser Arafat instilled among Palestinians.

Shmuel Rosner provides an excellent analysis in Ha'aretz, aptly titled “An Overpowering Reality,” about the differing political and strategic concerns in the American and Israeli camps.

What will they discuss? The Hamas victory bolsters Israel's unstated policy of dividing the Palestinian Authority into two states - Gaza and the West Bank. Israel cannot say this out loud in front of the Americans, who are committed to a single Palestinian state, so Olmert will have to speak in code. He will suggest that Bush strengthen international support for the peace process. This would involve deploying an international force in Gaza, implementing an engineering solution to block arms smuggling in Rafah, pressuring the Egyptians to do more against the smugglers, and encouraging the Saudis to stop being embarrassed by the collapse of the Palestinian unity agreement cooked up in Mecca.

Writing in the Jerusalem Post, Harris Schoenberg, the president of UN Reform Advocates, asks whether it is time for UN peacekeepers in Gaza. After recounting a shameful history of failure, corruption, and collaboration, he replies: “it is [not] clear why Israel would consider agreeing to a peacekeeping operation in Gaza, given the peacekeepers' record of malfeasance and cooperation with Israel's enemies.”

No Middle East crisis is complete without awful media coverage, and so Melanie Phillips is outraged at how the BBC has been grotesquely twisting its reporting on Gaza in order to blame the crisis on Israel. Allow me to take this opportunity to concur and add that Great Britain has become the most anti-Israel country in Europe, and the BBC has been merrily pushing the nation down this nihilistic road for quite some time with its daily injections of what can legitimately be called propaganda. The BBC has successfully turned itself into a revolting cesspool of bigotry against Israel and tendentious excuse-making for Islamic terrorists; it is a national embarrassment of a high order. Phillips links to a counterbalancing piece by Con Coughlin in the Telegraph.

And finally, on a happier note, just a few miles north of Gaza, Google opened its first office in Tel Aviv, to join its two other R&D centers in Israel. “Palestine” and Israel are heading in separate directions, and fast.

Posted by Noah Pollak at June 16, 2007 2:08 PM
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