September 8, 2007


Gaza Under Hamas: Quiet, Cut Off and Digging In (STEVEN ERLANGER, 9/08/07, NY Times)

Nearly three months after Hamas conquered the teeming streets of Gaza, a wary calm has taken hold. People stroll at all hours, car theft has practically stopped, even armed police officers are rarely seen.

After 18 months in which gun battles between Hamas and Fatah forces defined street life, Hamas has made it illegal to carry weapons in public or to fire them, even at weddings or funerals.

Tamer al-Bagga, who manages a beachside cafe, said people now patronized his business until “all hours of the night.” In June, people were hiding at home, keeping their children on the floor to avoid bullets. “Now we have security,” he said. “But with the closure, we have no money.” [...]

Hamas insists that it respects the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, of Fatah, and that Hamas will continue to rule here under the political program of the unity government negotiated under Saudi auspices in March and dismissed in June by Mr. Abbas. And Hamas has been careful in its language, talking of fighting American and Israeli agents and “corrupted elements” inside Fatah, but not Fatah itself.

Even at the Soraya, the massive Palestinian security headquarters overrun in the June fighting, Hamas has been openly respectful, leaving the murals of Fatah heroes undisturbed on the outside walls.

But Mr. Youssef also has a tough warning for Fatah and Mr. Abbas, who is also known as Abu Mazen. “We could turn the tables on Abu Mazen in Ramallah if we wanted to, but we hope that in a few months we can talk together and solve our internal problems and find a solution on a new government,” he said.

He asked Mr. Abbas to lift a ban on Fatah politicians’ in Gaza talking to Hamas, though he said some Fatah leaders in Ramallah regularly consulted with Hamas, “trying to repair the damage and find a way to work together.”

The Hamas threats to Fatah are real. The crackdown on Hamas in the West Bank, with Israel’s help, is severe. But Fatah is largely unreformed, Mr. Abbas is reported by those close to him to be tired of the pressures of the job and not respected by many in Fatah, and the Palestinian security forces, even they admit, are still too weak to take responsibility over even quiet towns like Jericho from the Israelis.

Even the jailed Fatah figure Marwan Barghouti, whom some see as an Abbas successor, warned that Fatah should quickly hold new internal elections and not underestimate the threat from Hamas in the West Bank.

Mr. Zahar said that Hamas had corruption files on major Fatah figures, some of whom, he said, spied for the United States on Hamas and the Arab world, and that Hamas knew Fatah’s plans for disruption in Gaza.

Refusing to let them get on with normal lives is a deeply strange decision on the part of the West.

MORE (via Mike Daley):
Liberty and Justice for All?: A review of Michael Mandelbaum’s Democracy’s Good Name: The Rise and Risks of the World’s Most Popular Form of Government (Bruce S. Thornton, Pajamas Media)

His most important point is that democracy requires “the appropriate mix of skills and values” that makes possible and nurtures self-government and liberty. These “skills and values” cannot “be called into existence by fiat,” particularly in an undemocratic government. They require time to develop and conditions favorable for their development. Mandelbaum’s history of how various nations came to be democratic shows how much chance and accident have figured in democracy’s success, and how much that success depended on preexisting traditions and habits that had grown up over time. Thus the modern spread of democracy has not been the result of its external imposition on a people (as Mandelbaum shows, Germany and Japan are exceptions that prove the rule), but has followed from the economic and military successes of the United States and Great Britain in becoming wealthy and winning three global struggles with the alternatives to democracy. That success in turn inspired an internal desire among other peoples to learn the skills and values that accounted for such global preeminence.

Great Britain and the United States both became wealthy because they embraced free-market economies, and as Mandelbaum writes, “Free markets, the evidence of modern history strongly suggests, make for free men and women.” The free market is “democracy’s constant companion” because the “workings of the free market have instilled the values, habits, and attitudes and have helped create the institutions that democratic governance requires.” The free-market’s respect for private property, itself a form of liberty; its dependence on the rule of law to protect property; its fostering of civil society, Burke’s “little platoons” that act as a buffer between the free individual and the power of the state; the practice in sovereignty that comes from private enterprise and commercial transactions; and the need for trust and compromise in business — all foster and reinforce the liberty and self-rule that lie at the heart of democratic governance.

Societies that are free, self-governing, and prosperous are also peaceful. Trade suffers during wars, and modern warfare is very expensive, so peoples with free-market economies are not so eager for conflict. In addition, free peoples tend to become less warlike and more impatient with war’s costs in blood and treasure, an impatience that can be politically expressed in elections, as we are currently seeing with the war in Iraq. Whereas popular sovereignty absent liberty can incite wars, as happened in the Balkans in the Nineties, the limits on governmental power and the expectations the people hold for their leaders, both created by the institutions and practices that undergird liberty, will also act as a brake on war. So too will three features of political liberty that carry over into interstate relations: a preference for compromise, lengthy decision-making processes, and transparency in government operations. This connection between democracy and peace, however, paradoxically can create more wars, as non-democratic governments, frightened by the desire for freedom and prosperity aroused by the proliferation of successful democracies, can lead dictators and autocrats to start wars as diversions from their failures, as Saddam Hussein did in 1980 and 1990. As Mandelbaum concludes, although the replacement of dictatorships with democracies does not mean the end of war or terrorism, “the progress of democracy has made the world a more peaceful place.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 8, 2007 7:11 AM

once again oj gives wet kisses to the murderous scum of Hamas.

Posted by: molon labe at September 8, 2007 11:27 AM

You don't have to kiss them, just accept that you aren't going to do anything about them. They're the elected representatives of the Palestinian people.

Posted by: oj at September 8, 2007 2:36 PM