ONE MAN, ONE VOTE -- ONCE
By Asaf Romirowsky
Ideologically speaking, Hamas descends from the Muslim Brotherhood, the group responsible for putting an anti-American and anti-Israeli message on its flag. Islamism is rooted in the writings of the Brotherhood. The notion that Hamas will have the opportunity to show its political strength in the upcoming elections in January, 2006, is mind-boggling. This bizarre development exemplifies how a non-state group – one that is nothing like a ‘political party' – uses the rhetoric of democracy to infiltrate a state-like entity to become the governing power.
Hamas is both an Islamic and Islamist organization, and demonstrates how the logic and obligations of the religion flow directly – and perhaps inevitably – into the latter. Hamas works under the guise of charity (zakat) to promote its agenda, and it is also known for using hospitals and medical treatment centers to hold meetings and hide its arsenal of explosives, thereby compromising the integrity of these facilities.
In addition, Hamas practices dawa – what Muslims call "inviting others to Islam," an obligatory duty (fard) for Muslims of all sects and degrees of (im)moderation. In reality, this is proselytizing, in which Hamas' version of Islam encourages the faithful to achieve at any cost. As such, dawa operatives willingly volunteer their homes as safe-houses for fugitives and their cars as escape vehicles. Using Islam's mandates for social welfare and kindness has become Hamas' signature. As terrorism expert Matthew Levitt writes:
Given these deliberate manipulations of Islam, we must ask ourselves whether it is sensible to hold negotiations with countries run by al-Qa'ida, Hezbollah, or Palestinian Islamic Jihad. The willingness to use Islam as a means of terror is exceeded only by hatred of the West and Israel, however disguised it may be at any given moment. Islamists and other adherents of jihadist ideology don't recognize or accept the West; their goal is to destroy it, not work with it. Accepting Hamas as a legitimate legal political party means accepting a sworn enemy as an equal partner in a political process they have sworn to destroy, from the inside and the outside.
The debate over the role of Hamas in the democratic process skirts the issue of whether Islamist groups are actually capable of running a state. Hamas has not progressed in the direction of developing this capability, as the group still does not recognize Israel or America, nor does it recognize the Palestinian Authority (PA) as the main body of Palestinian representation. A victory by Hamas means simply another revolutionary group actually taking charge, an Islamist group, rather than the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), and this is the last thing Palestinians and Israelis need.
As usual, the "official" Palestinians want to have it both ways, indicating strongly that they share Hamas' goals. On the one hand, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, who has been working on co-opting Hamas, criticized Ariel Sharon for saying that Israel "will do whatever is possible to impose difficulties on the movement of Hamas members on Election Day." Abbas called this "flagrant intervention" in internal Palestinian affairs. On the other hand, he has met the challenges to his own party and leadership from Hamas weakly. Agreeing to treat Hamas as political party de facto means that the West and the Palestinians are surrendering to terrorism.
Internationally speaking, Hamas has already managed to attain a status of an NGO (non-governmental organization) by infiltrating the ranks of UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency). There, they guide the UNRWA educational system and shape what is taught to Palestinian children by UNRWA, as well as use UNRWA vehicles to transport explosives and suicide bombers. As Dore Gold, the former Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations, states:
UNRWA runs 27 refugee camps in the West Bank and Gaza, and another 32 camps in neighboring Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria. It calculates almost four million Palestinians as refugees, including those whose grandparents never saw "Palestine." There is no wonder why the support for Hamas continues to grow.
Hamas is everything an NGO isn't; it is a grassroots initiative/charity/NGO that wants to perpetuate the status quo, and, like the PLO in its golden days, benefit from it. And neither Hamas nor the PLO could run a state, even if it wanted to. We have already seen the process in Iran, which supports the Islamist model of governance, which is similar to what Hamas would like to build -- an Islamic revolutionary regime that is massively corrupt, brutally repressive, and irrepressibly aggressive.
Algeria also exemplifies the Islamist model of governance, albeit in an interrupted way. When Salafists were permitted to run in an open election. They won, which resulted in the military step in, creating a civil war that caused hundreds of thousands of deaths.
All of the above should remind us not to forget that Hamas and al-Qa'ida are one and the same. Hamas may be local and al-Qa'ida global, but they are two sides of the same coin. If we are truly committed to cracking down on terrorism, we should stand up and prevent Hamas from gaining political credibility. In sum, given the growing support for Islamism in the Arab world, we face a dangerous situation where the Islamists use democracy as tool for promoting their totalitarian ideology.
UNRWA is already a liability, given the fact that it has been tainted by Hamas. Let's make sure that Hamas does not have the opportunity to taint an entire government.
 Gold, Dore. Tower of Babble, New York: Crown Forum, 2004, P. 217.
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Asaf Romirowsky is a Campus Watch associate fellow for the Middle East Forum and the Israel Affairs Fellow for the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia.
The foregoing article by Asaf Romirowsky was originally published in Front Page Magazine, December 12, 2005 and can be found on the Internet website maintained by the Middle East Forum.
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