The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) has just published a penetrating assessment of the Hamas victory in the Palestinian territories, authored by its president, Yigal Carmon. It is startling.
First, Hamas is not just a national terrorist organization. It is the Palestinian arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, which has fought against Arab regimes for fifty years. The Brotherhood assassinated Egypt's Anwar Sadat for making peace with Israel. It has just made startling gains in Egyptian elections.
The Muslim Brotherhood pursues the classic Communist/Fascist strategy of combining violence with a "peaceful" political front. Appeasement minded Westerners are always happy to talk with the political front, for fear of the violent one.
But they are of course the same dictatorial organization, with an world imperialist agenda.
Second, any peaceful action by Hamas will be purely temporary and tactical. This has already been proclaimed by Hamas leaders.
Third, the broader international threat today is "the political participation of the Muslim Brotherhood ... in other Arab and Muslim countries." The Muslim Brotherhood may be able to take power in Jordan and Egypt, thereby destabilizing the entire Middle East.
(This is not even dealing with the problem of Iran, which is Khomeinist and Shiite, different from the Muslim Brotherhood.)
"The critical point will be when Hamas assumes command of the Palestinian security forces. At that point, the crisis will become much more difficult to manage, as well as more likely to spin out of control. This is liable to happen because Hamas's declared strategy is one of combining political participation with continued resistance, as stated by Mash'al, Haniya, and Al—Zahar ('The hoisted rifle will be in one hand, and politics and authority in the other.').
"The desired scenario is that, rather than combining political participation with continued resistance, Hamas will undergo a process of further moderation — similar to the process undergone by the PLO.
"Hope for this scenario may be gleaned from the tactical/temporary moves currently being stated and made by Hamas in its efforts to gain world recognition for its takeover.
"However, the likelihood of this scenario is not high. Unlike the PLO, which is a distinct, national organization limited to one people and one land, Hamas is bound to the regional — and even global — Muslim Brotherhood movement, with its comprehensive Islamic framework."
Carmon presented this assessment to the House International Relations Subcommittee on International Terrorism. Based on the rising danger of the Muslim Brotherhood, he suggested a US strategy as follows.
"1) Endorsement of (Hamas' adoption of) politics to the exclusion of violence and the use of force. Hamas needs to transform itself from an armed resistance movement into an unarmed political party. The same holds true for Fatah, which was supposed to undergo this transformation in the Oslo process, but has not done so, to this day.
Once Fatah takes such a step, the pressure on Hamas and other factions to do the same will gain momentum; in the event that Hamas does not comply, it will be denied international recognition.
2) Endorsement of the full package of democratic values. This demand is long overdue. It will reverse the erosion of the notion of democracy, which, in recent years, has been reduced to mean only free elections. ... This full package of democratic values should include:
equality of all before the law regardless of religion, ethnicity, or gender; and the official endorsement in the organizations' political platforms of all constitutional freedoms, embodied in internationally— accepted conventions..."
Carmon's recommendation is in line with President Bush's strategy of promoting democracy in the Middle East. Elections are the outward form, but not the inner essence, of democracy. That essence is summed up by Natan Sharansky in the contrast between a "fear society" and "a free society." The Palestinian territories are a Fear Society, in which individuals are afraid to speak their minds in public.
Elections in a Fear Society don't present real choices.
We must pursue a much more vigorous process of democratization in the Middle East, one that is focused on free expression of opinion, equal rights for women, and legal protections against arbitrary power.
Doing so in the midst of an international assault by both Sunni and Shiite extremists, willing to kill without conscience, is going to be a major challenge, on par with the Cold War. We are in fact in another Cold War, which may turn hot if it is not handled both aggressively and thoughtfully. The strategic cowardice of Europeans and Democrats are no help, of course. But the Cold War was won when the people of Russia and Eastern Europe found a way to true democracy. That must be our aim today.
James Lewis 3 16 06