February 17, 2006

The Hamas Conundrum

No one in Washington DC officialdom appeared to predict the political earthquake that occurred in the West Bank and Gaza now several weeks back. The conventional wisdom was that Hamas was going to put in a good show, maybe creeping into the mid-40s% (which they actually did, but more on why that analysis missed the point below), but that the Fatah old guard would carry the day. But the CW was wrong, of course, as we all now know. There are a bunch of reasons for this: 1) with Arafat gone, a charismatic figurehead at the helm of Fatah no longer existed (President Mahmoud Abbas or PM Qureia, whatever their strengths, could not be accused of enjoying a surfeit of charisma); 2) frustration with the endemic corruption that infected the Palestinian territories under Fatah's tutelage; 3) a groundswell of support for Hamas, much like Hezbollah's growth in popularity in Lebanon after Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon in '82, resulting from a sense that Hamas' tactics had gotten Israel out of Gaza; 4) the fact that Fatah ran a very poor campaign indeed--often fielding too many candidates per district, dividing their vote so as to allow the Hamas candidate to prevail--giving the Islamist party more seats in the Parliament despite it getting the lesser share of the popular vote in such district; and 5) finally, and perhaps most worrisomely, the possibility that something of a seismic shift has occurred, that a persistent Islamization of the Territories is afoot in the face of continued occupation, endemic corruption, and chronic poverty (which I personally don't believe, more below).

But, here we are. Now what? Let me say this: I do not think, if George Bush is going to walk the walk (and not just talk the talk) re: democracy promotion, that he can now, however discreetly, attempt to destabilize the Hamas government he helped bring into power by pushing for new elections in short order. You asked for an election, you got an election, and the other guys won. (And, frankly, your diplomats on the ground should have given you a much better read about what might happen, so that policymakers were at least making decisions on the merits of having the elections armed with as many data points as possible. But, again, that's water under the bridge).

What's clear is that we consider Hamas a terrorist group, and aren't going to cozy up to them just because they won an election, of course. That said, we've already offered them a concession, of sorts, by saying that if they renounce violence, and recognize Israel and other such things they're not about to do (like recognize all interim peace deals)--that suddenly they'd be viewed as a partner, ie. their nefarious past would be forgiven. We're also saying, I think, that some deal will be cut with the EU to allow some to be decided quantum of humanitarian aide to flow to the West Bank and Gaza, although I'm not sure what, if any, US contribution will be involved. I suspect the EU will step up with more cash, to make up for any U.S. shortfalls, and I would be somewhat surprised if U.S. sourced dollars didn't still get to the Territories via the UN and the like. In other words, we are going to make life tough on Hamas, as we should and as pressure tactic but, I hope, not so hard so as to look inhumane, or hell-bent on regime change (so as to look nakedly hypocritical in terms of democracy promotion), or in a manner that may lead to significant instability with unpredictable results.

It also bears recalling, Fatah did get a majority of the popular vote, and they remain a major player. Helping ease them back into power, in gradual fashion, makes some sense as a policy orientation of sorts. This is particularly so as I am not one of those who believes this Hamas victory has rolled the clock back decades and decades. Put differently, that we are now back to right of return issues and irredentist claims writ large--so that there is no two state solution because the Palestinian people have all become radical fundamentalists. So no, I don't think the era of Fatah is decidely over. But, this said, that doesn't mean it's time to focus all of Washington's policymaking energy and efforts on figuring out how to topple the Hamas government, as this could backfire and, again, it makes something of a mockery of our democracy promotion strategy. (Note too, and even within Hamas, there are relative moderates, as this Haaretz piece about the new Palestinian PM evidences, indeed I'd suspect you will see Islamic Jihad and even parts of Fatah-affiliated al-Asqa brigades trying to outflank a Hamas government on the 'resistance' prong, at least at various junctures when Hamas is taking a more conciliatory tone as and if the responsibilities of governance moderates its behavior).

Little noticed too, of course, is the fact that, all things being equal, Hamas can likely actually control the suicide bombers better than Fatah's security services ever could (save Islamic Jihad's). So Israel, paradoxically, has an interlocuter that can better enforce understandings and deals, perhaps. In my view, given all the above, the way forward should now be to broach low-intensity confidence building discussions, via Euro and Egyptian proxies, between the Israelis and the Hamas goverment (with the US in the background but, of course, playing a critical role). The main goal should be to ensure there is no catastrophic detioration in relations, that relatively stable conditions are maintained into the Israeli elections (a Kadima victory would be far preferable to a Likud one), and that the U.S. balances putting real pressure on Hamas against not rendering overly self-serving and hypocritical its democracy promotion strategy (such as causing a humanitarian crisis via too draconian aid cut-offs). A tough balance, all told.

Still, at the end of the day, do I support the decision taken to have the elections go ahead? Yes, I think. We are, via elections in Lebanon, in Palestine, in Egypt and, of course, in Iraq--providing people a taste of democratic freedom. The obvious issue, however, is that Islamists are gaining in power more often than not. So this is not a moment for chest-thumping simplicities about freedom being on the march, but carefully calibrated democratization initiatives undertaken soberly and with a deep understanding of the local, case-by-case dynamics at play. Frankly, I don't have massive confidence in this Administration pulling off this very difficult balancing act particularly well, but at least Don Rumsfeld has been cut out of Foggy Bottom policy-making, one where his cluelessness was painful to witness back in the hifalutin' days of '02 when he thought he was Secretary of State too, so there are shreds of optimism.

P.S. A shout out to Joseph Britt, who was very helpful in helping me form some of my views above--though in no way does this mean that he shares them!

Posted by Gregory at February 17, 2006 05:12 AM | TrackBack (0)
Comments

Still, it also bears recalling, Fatah did get a majority of the popular vote, ....

Why do you believe this?

Posted by: J Thomas at February 17, 2006 02:40 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

A couple of thoughts generated by this piece:

Just as in the Iranian elections, where hundreds of candidates were purged before the balloting, I think its important to remember this was not a reflection of the total spectrum of Palestinian opinion. Had a Gandhi or Martin Luther King, Jr. ever tried to rise up in the Palestinian territories he would have been stabbed for "collaborating" before he had a dozen followers.

Some Hamas spokesmen have called for a "long term truce" if funding is not cut off -- I think this is a euphemism we could live with, especially if the Israelis think it's worth pursueing. Too many times we try to substitute our will for those closest to the situation, i.e. we are more interested in human rights for North Koreans than the South Koreans. If the Israelis think chaos is preferable to trying to work with these people than I think we should pull the plug on our aid, if they want a chance to work with these people we should assist them.

Posted by: wks at February 17, 2006 03:56 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

He does pretty much share them, or at least that's what I hear.

He has more concern about Hamas than about the Bush administration on this question. Hamas will need to do basically everything that is being demanded of it with respect to terrorism, or Israeli opinion will make any kind of peace process impossible. It seems that both the Israelis and the Bush administration understand that time will be needed for Hamas to get to that point. It's not just or even primarily a question of changing attitudes but of getting control over the Palestinian security services and maintaining internal discipline.

This assumes, though, that Hamas sees the need to travel this path. We can hope that is true, and stall for time (as the administration appears to be doing, rightly) to give the new government the time it needs. But the assumption may be wrong.

Posted by: Zathras at February 17, 2006 04:37 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I find the stunning victory of Hama in the recent Palestinian elections as another glaring example of the Bush administration's ignorance of the political dynamics at work in the Muslim world. Professor Juan Cole's article in Solon, "How do you like democracy now, Mr. Bush?," criticized President Bush's absolute faith in spreading democracy to the Middle East without the underlying civil insitutions necessary for such a develoment. Secretary of State Rice commented that she and her collagues in the State Department were quite taken back by the victory of Hama and never envisoned such a possible scenario. Her reaction, of course, reminds one of former Under Secretary of Defense Wolfowitz's comment that he never thought that an insurgency in Iraq would become the wipespread and committed response to the American occupation.
Yet there was a clear warning that politics in Islamic societies would follow such a course. One has only to look at the Algerian election in December, 1991. The military cancelled The Algerian National Assembly election when it became clear that the FIS, Islamic Salvation Front, was almost certain to garner more than 2/3 of the seat. The FIS ran a campaign that promised the promotion of sharia, authority of the teachings of The Koran, if it won enough national seats in the legislature. The FIS would have had the power then to amend the Algerian Constitution to institute a theocracy in place of a democracy. The constitutional crisis of this cancelled election resulted in the Algerian Civil War in which there were close to 100,00 causalties in the battles between government troops and the guerillas.
Because there are no viable civil insititutions in place in most Islamic societies, citizens are attracted to religious, hard-line organizations where they find a modicum of expression. We also saw the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt make significant gains in that country's recent elections. The problem is that Muslim nations have little tradition in the much praised market place of ideas, which we take for granted in the Western democracies. Because the average Muslim lives in a repressive society, he finds Islam and the mosques as his only alternative to the repression. So I think that one should not be surprised that when offered the chance to finally cast a vote, the average Muslim would be attracted to the religious parties.
What I find interesting is that, once again, we see high ranking officials of the Bush administration dumbfounded by the results that they set in motion. Democracy is a process; in Western societes, this form of government took hold after a long historical process. So to promote democratic elections in the Middle East and simply expect democratic results is rather naive. And they have no one to blame but themselves. Now, if the Bush administration tries to undercut the political legitimacy of Hama, it will merely be seen by the Palestinians that voted for Hama as a repressive regime. Rather than blame the messenger for the news, the Bush administration should be examining their role in bringing about this development.

Posted by: George at February 17, 2006 05:24 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

George:

The Fatah regime was impossibly corrupt. And when terrorism happened, they could blame those nasty Hamas people, and condemn the attack. And blame was diffused. I'm not sure how maintaining Fatah in power would really have helped anyone

Hamas now is accountable for its actions in a way it has never been. If there is more misery in Palestine as a result of more attacks on Isrealis, it is clearly their fault, and they will pay direct consequences, and their supporters may reconsider thier actions.

The threat of that may cause hamas to moderate itself, to concentrate on the "good government", social welfare part of its agenda.

And that would be a defeat for Democracy how?

Posted by: Appalled Moderate at February 17, 2006 06:15 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I, for one, wasn’t surprised that Hamas made such an impressive showing in the elections. The Palestinians have had Fatah as the helm for years with nothing to show for it but continuing strife and misery. As Arafat and his progeny siphoned off huge amounts of aid dollars, they showed their true colors to be nothing different from the other Middle Easter despots. I don’t think the average person on the street was enthusiastic about the $16 million per year budget item for Arafat’s wife’s austere life in Paris. When the Palestinians were offered an option, particularly focused on better, more responsive government, they voted as one would expect. It remains to be seen whether Hamas will be able, or will even attempt to impose its religious strictures on the Palestinian population generally as they are more secular and more Europeanized than most in the region.

For those who want “instant democracy”, I counsel patience. This is a process and one that takes time as the participants get used to and then cherish the attendant rights and obligations. That may take a few generations if history is a guide. To expect that process to take but one election is absurd. There will be movement, forward and back, and at times it will be difficult to determine whether we are witnessing progress or backsliding. It may fail in the end. It took many decades for the political institutions in this country to develop and then be cherished by Americans. Think Civil War!!!

With political power comes political responsibility. Hamas must show progress toward alleviating the plight of their people, they will be voted out of office if they allow another election. The correct stance now is to wait and see what develops. I expect that Israel will continue to publicly remain at a distance while privately, will establish contacts and dialogue. The US and Europe should continue to exert pressure on Hamas to abandon its terrorist behaviors, to recognize Israel in some acceptable fashion, and to focus not on further military forays, but rather on building the infrastructure both social and physical that the Palestinians desperately want and need. Aid should not be cut off entirely, but there should be a clear message that without progress as a nation into the community of nations, aid will be scarce. I use the term “nation” deliberately, because I see this Hamas election victory as moving further toward the two state solution although informally and defacto rather than by agreement with Israel.

Michael

Posted by: Michael Pecherer at February 17, 2006 09:28 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Hamas win is a clarifying event. They will bring war, war, and more war. The arabist sympathisers will be faced with the essential reality of Islamist groups and will allow those that believe in Western and Islamic democracy to deal with these scum as appropriate.

Posted by: Hey at February 17, 2006 10:11 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"a Kadima victory would be far preferable to a Likud one"

I note that this is the author's preference - not necessarily one for Hamas.

Also, it is important for policymakers (and commentators) to keep in mind that elections are a necessary but not sufficient condition for democracy. Democracy requires an entire infrastructure of legal/social/political (perhaps even economic) rules and policies. There are many states that hold elections with whom the U.S. does not get along well but I cannot think of any democracies with which the U.S. does not have close ties (yes, even the French).

Posted by: Jamesaust at February 18, 2006 07:36 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

We should be celebrating a Hamas victory, and continuing to provide aid to the Palestinians Authority.....

for all the hand-wringing about Hamas being a terrorist organization, one rather salient fact is being ignored --- Hamas is not stuck having to accomplish the tasks that "governments" are held responsible for --- that means adapting existing PA bureaucracies and/or creating new ones to accomplish the simplest tasks.

In other words, in a few weeks/months Hamas officials will be far more involved in dealing with bureaucratic infighting and turf battles than it will be with "the destruction of Israel". Its tough to organize suicide bombers when you have to deal with disputes over parking spaces....

Posted by: p.lukasiak at February 19, 2006 01:59 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Luka, it is great to see you back. Practical as always.

Best wishes,

Michael

Posted by: Michael Pecherer at February 19, 2006 05:01 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Lukasiak, hasn't Hamas always been divided into administrative and military wings? Israel keeps killing Hamas guys who're doing medical work or education etc, because those are the ones that are easy to find, so they claim they had contacts with the ones who did attacks and kill them.

Chances are the suicide bombers etc will be pretty much unaffected. They'll wait for israel to kill somebody and then try a retaliation, as usual.

Posted by: J Thomas at February 20, 2006 12:00 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

J Thomas' comments above make me want to throw up. Another Arab apologist who has not one iota of the historical facts.
Hamas can package itself any way it want's to. They remain pond scum who are willing to send naive children with bombs tied to their waist to kill other children as long as they are Jews etc.
Isn't it interesting that the real end to the intifada came when Sharon ordered the killings of Hamas leadership AFTER Hamas sent in their crews.....If you would like Mr Thomas,we can play verbal volleyball with " massacre facts"...come prepared; I don't like spending too much time with the iintellectually impaired.

Posted by: seth brown at February 20, 2006 04:06 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Arabist.

That's the new code word for "people who don't agree with me"?

Doesn't have the visceral appeal of the opposite end equivalent, 'jew lover' but rather strikes me as of the same intellectual order and analytical depth.

Posted by: collounsbury at February 20, 2006 05:55 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Seth Brown, I see no possible value in you and I hitting each other over the head with inflated pig bladders.

You are a partisan for the israelis, and no doubt the israelis desperately need such partisans.

My point was that Hamas has traditionally been divided, the guys who did humanitarian work had little connection with the ones who did military work. The latter have no reason to expose themselves now -- the israelis will kill them if they do. And so they won't be bogged down in running a government.

Note that the IRA did not so much do that split -- they wound up electing actual terrorists. But the british were not nearly so terrifying as opponents.

Posted by: J Thomas at February 20, 2006 07:02 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"The main goal should be to ensure there is no catastrophic detioration in relations"... "In my view, given all the above, the way forward should now be to broach low-intensity confidence building discussions"

"In my view" - your views are as phony as a $2 bill and sound like the view of someone who is not what he purports to be

"...no catastrophic detioration in relations" - murdering and espousing the murder of israelis and firing rockets at infrastructure, poisining water supplies and calling for the destruction of israel is not a "catastrophic detioration in relations?"

"broach low-intensity confidence building discussions"
Whatever those are, there will be only one party to the "discussions"- Israel.

FACTS - Archaeologists ahve shown that the Hebrews are the indigenous people of the Judean hills, having been there longer than recorded history. There has never been any such state as "Palestine." Jews/Hebrews have lived CONTINUOUSLY in ISRAEL since the bronze age and before. "Palestine" was "Arab Land" from 637 - 750 AD - 113 years in 10000 - it was "Arab land" because, in 637, they slaughtered as many Jews as possible in what was then called JUDEA. In 750, the Arabians were evicted by the forces of the mixed ehtnic Baghdad Caliphate, who, were in turn shortly evicted by the Huns, then the Turks and then the English. The word "Palestine" is form the Hebrew "filishtim' which means INVADERS. Jews lived in "Palestine continuously during all the years from 750 - 1918. The current "Palestinians" and their apologist ranters who scream about the fact that the Israelis come from Europe and other places from other places conveniently ignore the following - more than 1/2 of Israelis come from Arab and non -european countries where they wound up after being expelled from JUDEA by the Arabs. Those that come from Europe are descended from those that also came from ISRAEL/JUDEA as genetic tests prove. The "Palestininans" are the ones who are the real land grabbers as more than 95% of them have ancestors with NO CONNECTION TO THE LAND THEY Claim - They are - north africans, syrians, Turks, Turcomans, Lebanese, greeks, albanians, egyptians, circassians etc.

Posted by: tim at February 20, 2006 04:58 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Equating Arabist and "Jew lover" as Mr. Collounsbury does was probably an oversight. Conflating Israelis and Jews is a common mistake. There are many Jews in Europe and America who feel an identity with Israel of sorts, but whose allegance is to their home countries and not to some movement that encompasses the world and seeks some new world order. That conflation derives from belief that the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" is a legitimate publication and not the crap that it is and I don't use that kind of language often.

As for the dust up between Mr. Thomas and Mr. Brown, please keep the playgound scraping for other blogs. You are both very wrong in your facts and, I suggest more closed minded than is productive here. We should all strive to keep this blog on the elevated plane that has largely characterized the comments thus far.

Michael

Posted by: Michael Pecherer at February 20, 2006 05:32 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Re Michael's comment

Equating Arabist and "Jew lover" as Mr. Collounsbury does was probably an oversight.

No, it was spot on.

I was drawing attention to the absurd ethnicity baiting behind each term. I am well aware that not all Jews are Israeli nor even Zionist (in the technical sense of the term, not the silly but often amusingly bigotted and abusive sense).

However, the issue is labelling with a term 'Arabist' - defined by the user to mean effectively "loving the hated Other and 'illogically' not taking my side" - anyone taking a critical look (i.e. not taking 'my side') at the Israelo-Palestinian/Arabs dynamic has a lot of similarity to the rather more visceral bigotry of 'Jew lover' (hurled at those who step back and critique anti-Jewish nonsense).

As I keep seeing the pejorative usage of Arabist, its disturbingly similar (although again, rather more polite).

As to this, well, bizarre ethnic-supremacism:

FACTS - Archaeologists ahve shown that the Hebrews are the indigenous people of the Judean hills, having been there longer than recorded history.

Well, that's debatable, as imposing a modern "Hebrew" identity back on ancients is, at best, tenditious.

But even if one accepts that sort of bizarre ahistoricism, so the bloody fuck what?

At some point my ancestors appear to have been largly unwashed Saxons and Angles who invaded England and messed the place up for the Celts etc.

Then others went off to the Americas and stole land from the Amerinds.

Should I cede property to the long gone ancients?


There has never been any such state as "Palestine."

So what. There was never such a state as the Czech Republic before the 20th century. National Mythologies aside.

Should we ressurect some ancient Germanic claim to the land?

Jews/Hebrews have lived CONTINUOUSLY in ISRAEL since the bronze age and before. "Palestine" was "Arab Land" from 637 - 750 AD - 113 years in 10000 - it was "Arab land" because, in 637, they slaughtered as many Jews as possible in what was then called JUDEA.

Some Jews did indeed live continuously in the area. Although lots did not.

The story about slaughter is merely nonsensical.

The Arab conquest took the provinces away from the Xian Byantines (Or eastern Romans, the contempory identification) who actually were far more inclined to slaughter Jews (as well as Xians who did not believe as Rome/Constantinople liked).

Most of the Arabs in the area are rather clearly Arabised locals, probably converts from Jewish and Hellenised locals (themselves perhaps ex-Jews and at least ex-fellow Semites).

Your blood cousins as it were.

And you do forget the Franks (the Crusaders) had a joyful time slaughter Muslim and Jew alike when they could. Although I suppose that doesn't fit into the current political needs.

In 750, the Arabians were evicted by the forces of the mixed ehtnic Baghdad Caliphate, who, were in turn shortly evicted by the Huns, then the Turks and then the English. The word "Palestine" is form the Hebrew "filishtim' which means INVADERS.

False etymology, I note for the record, rather bad history as well.

Jews lived in "Palestine continuously during all the years from 750 - 1918.

Some did. Some didn't.

So what?

The current "Palestinians" and their apologist ranters who scream about the fact that the Israelis come from Europe and other places from other places conveniently ignore the following - more than 1/2 of Israelis come from Arab and non -european countries where they wound up after being expelled from JUDEA by the Arabs.

Eh?

Just for the records, it was the Romans (classical and later Byzantine) who did the expelling of Jews, who were a most annoying and unruly people to rule.

I suppose it is interesting to see the falsification of history right before our eyes, political mythology. I suppose you really believe this tripe.

Those that come from Europe are descended from those that also came from ISRAEL/JUDEA as genetic tests prove.

Well, genetic analysis shows that some percentage of descent likely comes from the region. Varies a bit, but some percentage also clearly doesn't.

So, like all human beings, mongrels.

Good thing, cuts down on deformities.

The "Palestininans" are the ones who are the real land grabbers as more than 95% of them have ancestors with NO CONNECTION TO THE LAND THEY Claim - They are - north africans, syrians, Turks, Turcomans, Lebanese, greeks, albanians, egyptians, circassians etc.

That is, of course, every bit as mendacious distortion as Arabs claiming the returning Jews have no connexion with modern Israel.

Competing sets of lies.

Really most unenlightening as history.

Does, however, have some interest in the context of demostrating the liveliness of blood mythologies in the human imagination as part of nationalist mythology.

The fictive kinship of the Tribe writ large.

Well, I guess one can't undo hundreds of thousands of years of human evolution by a few hundred of culture.

Posted by: collounsbury at February 20, 2006 07:07 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Hi, Michael.

Conflating Israelis and Jews is a common mistake.

Agreed. Also conflating Zionists and Jews is a common mistake. There are very many upstanding Jewish people who are not zionists.

As for the dust up between Mr. Thomas and Mr. Brown, please keep the playgound scraping for other blogs.

I agree. Arguing about the 3000 years history is not going to be very productive. Nor even the last 100 years. If there is to be any chance of change, it must come despite the last 3000 years of history.

You are both very wrong in your facts

I disagree with you here. I didn't present many facts and the few I did were correct.

But let me bring up a problem that seems to me almost insurmountable, that's more of a stumbling-block for israel/palestine than people's irrational fears and desires.

There simply is not enough water there. There is not enough water to properly support the population they already have, much less the population they're heading for. Real israelis get ten times the water ration as palestinians -- if palestinians got a deal that gave them equal water, that would be a big problem. Israel can't afford to allow a palestine that controlled its own water rights.

Now palestinians who lack proper sewage treatment are contaminating israeli aquifers. Somebody ought to spend the money to get them workable sewage treatment -- but it would take not only money. It would take water.

A sizeable part of the population will have to leave, barring some miracle. Nuclear-powered desalination plants? Salinate the eastern mediterranean? Maybe global warming will bring lots of rain?

Without some political compromise, doesn't it seem likely that the people who leave will be pretty much all of the palestinians, or pretty much all of the israelis? And given the military circumstances, which is more likely?

What chance for negotiation and peace, when the physical environment doesn't really allow coexistence?

tim:
"broach low-intensity confidence building discussions"
Whatever those are, there will be only one party to the "discussions"- Israel.

Well, yes. That's part of the problem all right. Israel negotiates with itself.

Collounsbury, arguing with zionists is just exactly like arguing with wingnuts

Posted by: J Thomas at February 20, 2006 08:25 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

J Thomas

Arguing with any kind of ideologue is a losing proposition. I, doing business in the area, have a foot on both sides, and frankly am a friend to neither. I'd prefer to throw the lot of both of them into the sea and resettle the area with nice friendly Turks, but failing such idiotic ideas, I would rather discussions focus on the present rather than mythologisations of the past.

In any case, my comments were aimed at the general reader rather than the author. Anyone writing such tripe is already lost.

Regardless, the water shortage issue you raise is a serious one throughout the Sham/Levant region. Climate warming along with intensive land use seems to be having a generally negative impact.

Posted by: collounsbury at February 20, 2006 09:06 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

My 2 cents on historical claims is that they are interesting but should not be controlling. Populations shift and change over time and we have to deal with the facts on the ground. When I think of the enormous waste of lives and resources that have characterized the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and how these might have been applied to the betterment of the folks that have to feed their families, it is sickening. If you consider my post on Hamas above, you will see that I see change as good in that what has gone on previously went nowhere. I just don't see the issue being resolved on the basis of DNA testing.

As for you collounsbury, I truly hope that your treatments are successful and that you live a long and fruitful life. Your contributions are very helpful whether or not I agree.

Michael

Posted by: Michael Pecherer at February 20, 2006 10:25 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Michael

Thanks. And re the chemo, if more than a decade business and pleasure in MENA can't kill me, no bloody tumour is going to.

Posted by: collounsbury at February 21, 2006 06:18 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

re: the term arabists:

Originally used to designate folks in the foreign service who specialize in Arabic language and the arab world - analagous to Europeanists, Africanists, etc. Some folk have made fairly serious arguments that these folks have a bias, and that this has impacted US policy in the middle east - for ill. Which may or may not be right, but isnt really about ethnic slurring at all. OTOH when the term is used as it was above, IE outside of the context of state Dept staffing, its apt to become a racist term, and should be avoided.

Re: Water - Yes Israelis use more water than Palestinians - they have a higher GDP per capita, and higher GDP populations usually use more water. If the disputed water were all assigned to the Pals, the Israelis would certainly still use more water, but theyd buy it. These issues are of course things that need to be resolved in negotiation, and I dont see why they cant be. But Israel will only negotiate with a partner that acknowledges Israels right to exist.

Posted by: liberalhawk at February 21, 2006 08:22 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

" Israel keeps killing Hamas guys who're doing medical work or education etc, "


Cite?

Posted by: liberalhawk at February 21, 2006 08:24 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"At some point my ancestors appear to have been largly unwashed Saxons and Angles who invaded England and messed the place up for the Celts etc.

Then others went off to the Americas and stole land from the Amerinds.

Should I cede property to the long gone ancients?"


I would suggest that if the people of Wales wanted to allow celts from elsewhere, to escape persecution and statelessness, to settled in Wales, their moral claim would be very strong. Ditto if descendendants of Native Americans who fled the US (the Nez Perce for ex) wanted to return, I think they would have a moral right to do so.

Thats all Zionism was, in origin. A claim of a right to return and build a Jewish society in the land that was the original home of the Jews.

Posted by: liberalhawk at February 22, 2006 04:40 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I would suggest that if the people of Wales wanted to allow celts from elsewhere, to escape persecution and statelessness, to settled in Wales, their moral claim would be very strong. Ditto if descendendants of Native Americans who fled the US (the Nez Perce for ex) wanted to return, I think they would have a moral right to do so.

The morality of land rights is kind of dense and hard to follow.

If the descendents of native americans who owned Manhattan wanted to return, where should they go? An existing reservation in upstate NY? Give them Central Park?

Entirely apart from who has what rights, people of good will should try to find ways to help all these squabbling people somehow live together. While they're arguing about who's right and who's wrong, somebody has to muck out their stalls and provide them fresh water.

As long as this stays on the level of who's right and who's wrong, nothing will be accomplished except more of the same.

It's like a couple of toddlers. "He started it!" "No, *he* started it!" "He hit me first, I was only hitting him back." "No, he hit me before that, it was me that was only hitting him back." "I had it first!" "Daddy promised it was mine! And I had it before he did!"

This sort of thing is all worthless.

Posted by: J Thomas at February 23, 2006 04:32 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

This site is a lot of fun very well designed.

Posted by: carole at April 15, 2006 01:59 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I like your website alot...its lots of fun... you have to help me out with mine...

Posted by: Marta at April 21, 2006 04:56 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

About Belgravia Dispatch

Gregory Djerejian comments intermittently on global politics, finance & diplomacy at this site. The views expressed herein are solely his own and do not represent those of any organization.


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