February 2, 2006
All those people who say "Munich" reaffirms the universal truth that "violence begets violence" should think hard about the
Palestinian elections, where violence begat an electoral sweep.
So much for universal truths.
Gandhi said, "An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind," and in the long run, who knows, he may be proven right.
But in the near term, Hamas, an organization whose existence is rooted in hatred and terror, has proven one of my personal universal truths: The craziest guy in the room usually gets his way.
The analysts say Hamas won because it had better schools, better clinics, better community centers than the corrupt-to-its-core Palestinian Authority under the late thug Yasser Arafat's ruling Fatah Party. That's half true.
Perhaps Hamas administered aspirin without a message, but its schools taught a poisonous hatred of Jews and Israel, and its community centers lionized suicide bombers. Just before the elections it launched a new television station, Al Aqsa TV, which broadcast the same anti-Semitic propaganda as Hezbollah's station al-Manar.
Whether the medium is a textbook, an after-school club or a TV station, the message is the same: Hamas wants Jews dead.
To say Palestinians didn't realize this when they voted last week is to look truth in the eye and blink.
"Palestinians voted for a movement for whom means and ends are identical," Yossi Klein HaLevy wrote in The New Republic. "The suicide bombings are mini-pre-enactments of Hamas's genocidal impulse."
Remember Ariel Sharon? The dying Israeli prime minister gave an exit interview, as it were, to Haaretz columnist Ari Shavit, who turned it into a sterling profile in the Jan. 23 New Yorker. The piece is shot through with melancholy. That's due to the lion-in-winter nature of the subject, as well as to Sharon's abiding sense that, at the end of the day, the conflict between Arab and Jew in the Middle East is intractable.
"'The conflict isn't between us and the Palestinians,' he said, 'The conflict is between us and the Arab world.... The problem is the profound nonrecognition by the Arab world of Israel's birthright.'"
Sharon said talking was better than war, withdrawal better than an unsustainable occupation -- but no one should have any delusions.
If the conflict is ever resolved, he said, "It will be a very long process."
The Hamas election results, coming just a week after the Sharon article appeared, only buttress Sharon's point.
It is doubtful even he could have predicted the results, in which Hamas won 76 of the 132 seats in the Palestinian Legislative Council. The day of the election, before the ballots were tallied, Israeli Ambassador Daniel Ayalon happened to be in Los Angeles. At a meeting with members of the Pacific Council on International Policy, he downplayed the chance of a Hamas victory, but he underscored the threat it would pose.
"This is a group that gets millions of dollars from Iran," he said.
So do the math: Iran on the verge of a nuclear weapon, bent on destroying Israel, plus a new government in the Palestinian Authority, bent on destroying Israel. Combine that with an ideology of suicide bombing, and it's no wonder even Ayalon didn't want to contemplate what a few short hours later would be a fait accompli.
Some people are blaming President George W. Bush and Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice for encouraging the democratic elections that brought Hamas to power. Some blame Israel for not interfering -- something Ayalon said was the subject of intense Cabinet debate. And yes, it's true Israel had a hand in strengthening Hamas years ago as a counterweight to Arafat, and that the cruelties and injustices of Israeli occupation have led people to defer to the craziest guys in the room.
But it is the Palestinians who voted child-killers into office, and it is Palestinians who will live with the consequences, as the dream of a free, safe land in which to raise their children fades even more quickly from view.