On Keeping Our Eye on the Ball: Three Reflections on Hamas

hat tip: Josh Katzen

Efraim Karsh has a piece in the New Republic,“Hamas does Israel a Favor including the following:

The international community thus ignored the fact that for all their drastically different personalities and political style, Arafat and Abbas were both dogmatic PLO veterans who never eschewed their commitment to Israel’s destruction and who viewed the “peace process” as the continuation of their lifetime war by other means. It whitewashed Abbas’s adamant refusal to fight terrorism as a reflection of political weakness (as it had done with Arafat in the early Oslo years) and turned a blind eye to his repeated calls for the destruction of Israel through demographic subversion (via the so-called “right of return”).
In these circumstances, where the real choice is between a plain-speaking extremist organization advocating the destruction of a neighboring state and a corrupt and repressive regime couching its intentions in hollow peace rhetoric whenever addressing non-Arab audiences, Hamas may prove the lesser of two evils. By leaving no doubt about its true nature and raising no false expectations of imminent peace and democracy, it helps expose the deep malaise of the Palestinian political system and the attendant need for its fundamental overhaul.

Of course, that depends on the West’s (including Israel’s) ability to keep their eye on the ball and not fall for the grudging concessions in our languages that Hamas may rapidly begin to realize will rapidly advance their cause. Not too hopeful on that one as long as things like Pallywood continue to play at major MSM newstations near you and me. As David P. Steinman argues:

In the coming days and weeks you are going to see a lot of sophisticated people commenting on the meaning of Hamas’ election by the Palestinian people and how the west, and most especially Israel, should respond to it. There will be increasingly articulate — and urgent — analyses proposing either that we must deal with Hamas because not dealing with it will make it more desperate or because dealing with it will make it more moderate. We will hear about how it is the legitimate expression of the democratic will of the Palestinian people and entitled therefore to our respect. We will hear that the Palestinian people reaally voted for an end to the corruption of their old masters in Fatah and not for a terrorist regime. The terrorism, we will be told, is an unfortunate by-product of having to get rid of their corrupt former rulers. We will hear that the burden of actually governing will eventually help to moderate Hamas or that it won’t and won’t that be fine because then the world will be compelled to acknowledge that it is an unreformable terrorist organization. And on and on.

Steinman then goes on to quote from a New York Sun column by Mark Steyn, “Now We Know“:

The Palestinians are the most comprehensively wrecked people on the face of the earth: after 60 years as UN “refugees”, they’re now so depraved they’re electing candidates on the basis of child sacrifice.

Indeed Steyn directly addresses the point that I think many liberal cognitive egocentrists make in their effort to spin this electoral victory in terms we can understand, that is, that they voted against corruption, not for genocide.

So I’d like to believe this was a vote for getting rid of corruption rather than getting rid of Jews. But that’s hard to square with some of the newly elected legislators. For example, Mariam Farahat, a mother of three, was elected in Gaza. She used to be a mother of six but three of her sons self-detonated on suicide missions against Israel. She’s a household name to Palestinians, known as Um Nidal – Mother of the Struggle – and, at the rate she’s getting through her kids, the Struggle’s all she’ll be Mother of. She’s famous for a Hamas recruitment video in which she shows her 17-year old son how to kill Israelis and then tells him not to come back. It’s the Hamas version of 42nd Street: You’re going out there a youngster but you’ve got to come back in small pieces.

That strikes me as keeping your eye on the ball. This is about a war to the death for honor, defined as the supremacy of Islam, without which life is not worth living.

Having made that clear-eyed judgment call, however, Steyn then falls back into fantasy:

So what happens now? Either Hamas forms a government and decides that operating highway departments and sewer systems is what it really wants to do with itself. Or, like Arafat, it figures that it has no interest in government except as a useful front for terrorist operations. If it’s the former, all well and good: many first-rate terror organizations have managed to convert themselves to third-rate national-liberation governments. But, if it’s the latter, that too is useful: Hamas is the honest expression of the will of the Palestinian electorate, and the cold hard truth of that is something Europeans and Americans will find hard to avoid.

As with Joel Stein, you’re always better off knowing what people honestly think. For decades, the Middle East’s dictators justified themselves to Washington as a restraint on the baser urges of their citizens, but in the end they only incubated worse pathologies. Western subsidy of Arafatistan is merely the latest example. Democracy in the Middle East is not always pretty, but it’s better than the west’s sillier illusions.

I’ve made the point repeatedly, so I’ll leave the last word to Steinman, who, despite his admiration for Steyn, keeps his eye on the ball longer than Steyn does:

Steyn is right in the first paragraph quoted above. But I fear he is overly optimistic in the second. The Palestinians have been ridiculously successful for decades at hoodwinking the west — including a lot of Israelis — by playing a blatantly obvious shell game, saying in English what we want to hear — what we construct as our “expected world,” while doing what we don’t want to see, information we ignore because it contradicts our expecdted world construct — continued terrorism aimed at destroying Israel and making war on the western world — using superficially deniable proxies. Hamas has already begun the same game, with spokesmen dropping hints and suggestions about long term truces, about concessions the Israelis must make in order for Hamas to agree to put its war of extermination on temporary hold, and so on. And western analysts have already begun the intricate processes of picking apart each and every word from numerous Hamas “leaders” to find implications of suggestions of possible future “moderation” and the like.

But the plain truth — the easiest thing to discern but the hardest for the west because it contradicts our expected world — the world we want to live in rather than the one we actually live in — is that Hamas and the Palestinian people are exactly what Steyn says they are — the world’s most depraved, wretched, evil people on the planet. They voted for exactly what they wanted as their representatives. The only question is whether the rest of the world has the courage to hold them accountable for that vote. My bet is that we don’t and that the slow motion war against Israel — and the rest of the west — by the Islamist world will continue while we work within the confines of our expected world, unable to bear the discomfort and shock of acknowledging that the objective facts don’t square with what we allow ourselves to see. Eventually we’ll have to “get it” or suffer some pretty dire consequences. Iran with nukes may be the first of those consequences but there will be many more to come until we are forced to adjust our view of reality to reality itself. Please keep this concept of an “expected world” versus information that contradicts it in mind as you follow these events. I suspect you’ll be surprised to see how accurate it will turn out to be.

Alas. Only when we wake up to the catastrophic consequences of our wishful thinking about “them” and our often malicious thinking about us, will things begin to change.

4 Responses to On Keeping Our Eye on the Ball: Three Reflections on Hamas

  1. Steyn is a wimp. If you want the real deal, you must read the columnist Spengler at Asia Times, who has just favored us with these reflections:

    Fight a dictatorship, and you must kill the regime; fight a democracy, and you must kill the people. Two years ago I called George W Bush a “tragic character” (George W Bush, tragic character, November 25, 2003) who “wants universal good, but will end up doing some terrible things”. Now we have begun the third act of his tragedy, which shatters the delusions that led him to the edge of disaster. President Bush met Nemesis in the form of Hamas, whose election victory in Palestine last week makes clear that democracy can empower the war party as well as the peace party.

    I suspect that this Spengler, like his famous namesake, is confusing the clarfying power of extreme situations for the proposition that only extreme measures will do.

    Frankly, it never occurred to me that Hamas or Fatah would ever hope for anything less than a one-state solution. That, however, is a different question from whether they might bracket that ambition while they go about building a functioning state. That process might (or might not) be worth subsidizing, provided that we remember that it’s essentially a tribute relationship.

  2. RL says:

    the problem, John, and you know this better than most, is that Hamas is a millennial movement. their idea of a functioning state is on the same plane as the Taliban.

    but what i don’t get is your final remark: that process [which i don't think can happen, but let's say it does] might (or might not) be worth subsidizing [that is to say, we give them money], provided that we remember that it’s essentially a tribute relationship [that is, we are their tributaries?]

    what do you mean?

  3. but what i don’t get is your final remark: that process [which i don’t think can happen, but let’s say it does] might (or might not) be worth subsidizing [that is to say, we give them money], provided that we remember that it’s essentially a tribute relationship [that is, we are their tributaries?]

    Buying them off; essentially the same relationship we have with North Korea.


    the problem, John, and you know this better than most, is that Hamas is a millennial movement. their idea of a functioning state is on the same plane as the Taliban.

    By no means. The Taliban had no idea of the state in the modern sense. Sophisticated Islamists, as in Iran, have do have a model. Both Nazi Germany and the USSR were millennial polities, too.

    It might or might not be a good idea to encourage the consolidation of such a thing. It would not allow freelance violence, but would wait for Der Tag. Would that be good enough?

  4. RL says:

    John wrote in response to RL:
    but what i don’t get is your final remark: that process [which i don’t think can happen, but let’s say it does] might (or might not) be worth subsidizing [that is to say, we give them money], provided that we remember that it’s essentially a tribute relationship [that is, we are their tributaries?]

    Buying them off; essentially the same relationship we have with North Korea.

    and that one’s working really well.


    the problem, John, and you know this better than most, is that Hamas is a millennial movement. their idea of a functioning state is on the same plane as the Taliban.

    By no means. The Taliban had no idea of the state in the modern sense. Sophisticated Islamists, as in Iran, have do have a model. Both Nazi Germany and the USSR were millennial polities, too.

    point taken. perhaps the comparison with the Taliban was ill-chosen. but as your comparison to the USSR and the Nazis illustrates, these millennial polities are all the more dangerous the more effective they are.

    It might or might not be a good idea to encourage the consolidation of such a thing. It would not allow freelance violence, but would wait for Der Tag. Would that be good enough?

    that’s one of the ways to deal with apocalyptic millennialism… wait it out. but when they’re in power, and they’re active cataclysmic (we are the agents of the massive destruction to come), it’s not at all clear that letting them develop their own polity is such a good idea.

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