Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Replacing Resentment with Hope

It's shocking that so many people have started to question the power of democracy in the 10 days or so since Hamas legitimately took Palestinian elections by storm. Democracy's track record as a way to give voice to the powerless and open societies to freedom is fairly strong. It is too bad one election, which according to many analyses was not about recognizing Israel's right to exist, but good domestic governance, could make so many people lean toward authoritarianism. To take a page from Mr. Fellow's book, this may be but one more case of Democrats and others foolishly turning 180 degrees from whatever Bush does, says or influences.

Hamas' election may not be such a bad thing here. It forces them to actually lead, which we all know is much harder than taking potshots in opposition. It may well also force them to reckon with Israel as a fact on the ground and the international community's resounding opposition to doing anything but slightly shrinking Israel. Even Egypt agrees.

Bear in mind that some of Israel's early political leaders were heavily involved in what were at the time considered serious terrorist organizations with outsized dreams of Israel's future size (see: the Irgun and Menachem Begin). Sure, the Irgun and Hamas cannot possibly be put on the same footing in terms of reckless, terrorizing violence, but both are/were violent movements rooted in intoxicating dreams of their people's glory.

Truth be told, neither choice in the Palestinian elections were all that great. A piece in The New Yorker's Talk of the Town this week (unfortunately, it's a magazine-only article) reports that Fatah was the real saber-rattler in this election, so this is for many people probably just a classic case of the devil you know beats the devil you don't. Regardless, it's foolish to start questioning whether democracy is the best course in the Middle East before both looking at the historical precedent and giving it a chance.


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