Thursday, April 08, 2004

Can A Hamas Sandwich Ever be Kosher?

Most of the world's attention today has been focused on Condi Rice's Mendacity Roadshow over at the 9/11 Commission in Washington DC or the sad spectacle of US Marines fighting Iraqis a year after the "Mission Accomplished" banner was unfurled. However, interesting utterances have been coming out of the small melba toast sized patch of scorched earth known as Palestine that might indicate an opportunity for the Palestinians and Israelis to once again begin the tentative move towards a lasting peace.

Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Authority have issued proposals to the terrorist group Hamas, suggesting that for a renunciation of violence inside Israel against civillians (and a suspension of coniving and hostility towards Arafat's Fatah movement) the militant group might be able to join a power-sharing government.

The reaction from Tel Aviv and Washington DC have been predictable. The Israelis (understandably for once) have pointed out that they aren't very keen on the idea considering that the proposal still sanctions attacks on their army and their apocalyptic fundamentalist squatters sitting on stolen land in Gaza and the West Bank. Besides (still understandable given the Sharon government but much more despicable) the Israelis feel that any unification of the Palestinians can only lessen their chances to keep the holy land's original inhabitants poor and subjugated.

The opposition to this idea by the American government comes from the current dead-or-alive, hang 'em high, cheesy western lunacy that seems to pervade Uncle Sam's foreign policy these days. Aside from a blind championing of Israel (the cowboys) over the Palestinians (the indians) that seems to be unconciously based on the USA's own treatment of indigineous people, the same gunfight at the OK corral military solution imposed on a political problem that informs the whole "War on Terror®" is the only response they have to a complex issue.

"We condemn the Palestinian Authority for cutting deals with terrorists." Will no doubt be the sound bite out of the White House.

Maybe then, Mr. Bush might want to reconsider his close relationship with Tony Blair, if this behavior is beyond the pale. After all, Blair (and his pedecessorJohn Major) brokered a deal with not one but two terrorist infrastructures (the IRA and the UFF) in Ulster; bringing them in from the ambush towards the ballot box.

How about he talk to his dad about the Reagan and Bush I adminsitration's championing of the atrocity loving, drug dealing Contras? Or the atrocity loving, drug dealing, jihadist mujahadeen in Afghanistan? About how keen these previous American leaders were to advocate amnestys and places in civil government for these former militants?

Terrorism is not a military issue; it is political and criminal. Without a defense budget or a huge standing army, the terrorist uses dogma and ideology to maintain his organization and to commit his murders and maimings. We use the language of the crime scene to report on his actions; and yet the metaphors of war, not policing, to describe our reactions. Except when we take them prisoner; then they are no longer a military enemy, deserving of Geneva Convention protections, but rather "enemy combatants" condemned to endless detention without representation or trial. In Britain, despite the fact that infantry was deployed throughout Ulster, IRA men were treated as common criminals if caught, and troops and police were even prosecuted for excessive force on occasion.

Perhaps it is easier to use the war language when you are fighting people who happen to have brown skin. Innocent civillian western victims are all huge individual losses. The civillian victims of our retalitory violence in the Third World are not, apparently. Despite the fact that terrorist training camps took up very little real estate in Afghanistan, we bombed, strafed, and shelled vast swaths of the country. We are up to our nipples in shit over in Iraq, fighting a war that allegedly ended eleven months ago, condeming thousands of Iraqis to miserable deaths in the name of their own liberation, and crippling, blinding, and killing the bewildered troops of the coalition (not just Americans: by digging past the insular US media you'll learn that British, Italian, and Spanish troops have died or been wounded. No doubt more from other nations have too, but google seems eurocentric.)

The PA-Hamas deal is indeed flawed, but not beyond repair. It is a real chance to bring the men of violence to the table (much like in Ulster) and legitimize the power of democratic ideals to change the middle east. It might even serve to weaken Al Qadea by offering an organic, home grown alternative to bin Laden's nihilism rather than an imposed western model. Dismising it out of hand with macho posturings about "fights to the death" will only worsen the problems facing Israel, Europe, and the United States. Encouraging Hamas and its ilk to lay down the AK-47 and embrace Robert's Rules of Order can only make us safer.

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