Hamas Sweeps Elections...
Some talking points in reaction to the recent elections in Palestine by Left Turn editor Rayan El-Amine who works for the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) in San Francisco:
It should go without saying but I will go ahead and say it - as progressives,
radicals and leftists we know that Islamists ideology and Islamist parties often
represent regressive, patriarchal, homophobic and sexists politics. But the
Hamas win should be seen in the context of the political situation in Palestine.
I have compiled ten points below to try to give that context.
(I have also copied point # 5 for at top of the list for emphasis.)
"The biggest obstacle preventing a progressive, secular, democratic movement from
blossoming in Palestine is not Hamas but the continued colonization of Palestinian
land and repression of Palestinian civil society by Israel"
1) Hamas’s victory is a protest vote by Palestinians against the horrendous
conditions they live under and a statement to those who make their daily lives
miserable - primarily the US/Israeli governments and the corrupt Fatah leadership.
Palestinian society and politics had been historically one the most secular and
progressive in the Arab world and even in this election many secular Palestinians
voted for change not for an Islamic state.
2) The Palestinian elections are a microcosm of what US foreign policy has done in
the ME in the past year. US policies have helped usher Islamists in Egypt,
Lebanon (increased Hezbollah in parliament), religious Shiites in Iraq (not
secular) and in Iran Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a religious conservative was voted
3) US and Israeli policies have historically worked against secular and
progressive movements in the region and have directly helped Islamist movements
(Israel at one point directly aided Islamists in Palestine to counter the secular
PLO in 70's and 80's). The US helped a variety of dictators in the region crush
Arab Nationalists and left secular movements and directly funded Islamist
organizations when it seemed to serve its interests.
4) Hamas won with a slogan of "reform and change" not “Islamic theocracy and
jihad”. Furthermore the vote by 77% and overwhelming majority now represents one
of the most legitimate democratic representative governments in the ME.
5) The biggest obstacle preventing a progressive, secular, democratic movement
from blossoming in Palestine is not Hamas but the continued colonization of
Palestinian land and repression of Palestinian civil society by Israel
6) The mainstream US coverage of the Palestinian elections gives no context to the
rise of Hamas. Hamas is presented as have grown out of some sort “genetic” or
"cultural" anger and irrationality of Palestinians, when in reality it is as a
result years of violence and oppression perpetuated by Israel on Palestinian
society. ( NY Times had 4 articles on the issue this weekend in one day, none
mentioned Israeli killing of Palestinians and only one mentioned that Palestinians
7) Groups like Hamas are much more complex and dynamic then some people in the
West think on all sorts of issues from democracy to women’s rights (that was seen
in the development of Hezbollah in Lebanon). Their Islamic rhetoric tells more
about their desperation than their aspirations. Furthermore, Hamas has for years
has successfully filled a vacuum of social services, schools and hospitals to
serve the most marginalized in Palestinian society which seems to be a the center
of their work.
8) Anti-Jewish sentiment exists in the Arab world and should be confronted by
progressive forces. But it should be understood that anti-Jewish sentiments in
the Arab world is different than historically European anti-Semitism. The
apartheid nature of the state of Israel, the racist foundations of Zionism and its
countless abuses against Palestinians and Arabs are the most significant factors
of anti-Jewish sentiments in the Middle East. Jewish minorities under Islamic
rule and in Islamic empires before Zionism faced far less institutional racism
than in Europe.
9) The argument that a Hamas victory will make Israel more right wing seems
irrelevant considering the recent history of Israeli policies. Israel did nothing
to help improve the lives of Palestinians in the past few years even when the most
malleable president, Mahmoud Abbas was in office. Palestinian negotiation with
Israel and the so called “peace process” has led to nothing but continued ethnic
cleansing, land confiscations, targeted killing and unilaterist policies.
10) As progressives and leftist in the US we should be emphasize that the growth
of Islamists and the retreat of progressive politics in the Middle East is a
direct of US imperialism. If you want progressive movements to grow in the Middle
East, fight Isreali occupation and US imperialism and support Palestinian SELF