Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Gazan People and Hamas - What is the Difference?

A confusing tactic that posters on the Huffington Post use is blurring the lines between the Gazan people and Hamas. If you ask who was killed in Cast Lead, it was "Palestinians". If you ask who fired the rockets, it's "Hamas" or better yet "Palestinian armed groups that have nothing to do with Hamas". Let's talk about how exactly the Palestinian people are related to Hamas and what each group is responsible for.

Posters on HP are quick to remind us that "Hamas was democratically elected". This is sort of true, Hamas won a majority in the new Gazan government, but they were expected to share the power among a coalition of other parties, such as Fatah. Hamas chose not to share, but seized control of the government and made themselves the sole ruler of Gaza. To say Hamas was democratically elected is somewhat true, but their current position is not an entirely legitimate one.

Some Palestinian supporters argue that the Gazans had no choice but to elect Hamas, as the only alternative was Fatah, which was hopelessly corrupt and useless. You'll get no argument from me about the state of Fatah, but I would point out that there were and are alternatives to both Hamas and Fatah. Look up Palestinian political parties on Wikipedia and see a list of alternatives.

So when we look at Cast Lead and the suffering of the Palestinian people, what are we supposed to think? It is clearly too cruel to state anything like Palestinian civilians deserved to die because they elected Hamas, but at some level they do bear responsibility for what Hamas does. After all, they democratically elected Hamas. Hamas made no secret of the fact that they intend to destroy Israel, (just read the Charter) and the Gazans undoubtedly knew that when they elected them. For the first eight years, everything was, if not great, pretty OK. Hamas was running a scary but functioning government and taking the fight to the "Zionist entity" while the Gazans lived off the food and medicine provided by that very same "entity". But when Israel came back and left death and destruction in its wake, can we really lay the blame on Hamas and Hamas alone? The Gazans elected Hamas, they stood silent as rockets flew, and they allow Hamas to remain in power even now. They cannot remove themselves completely from the situation, as the expression goes, "They have made their bed, now they must lie in it".

I think the Gazans, or at least a significant percentage of them, are no longer fans of Hamas. But as long as Hamas is in power and claiming to represent the Gazans, for all we know Hamas and the Gazans are exactly alike and Hamas are perfect representatives of the Gazan people. The Gazans must take responsibility for their own fate and take steps against Hamas, or else share the fate of Hamas.

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