June 15, 2007

The Wrong Right: Hamas' Right to Run in Elections

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Back in 2005, Israel took a huge step toward peace by withdrawing from Gaza, a move that would not be forgotten. Praises of Israel echoed in the streets in the form of Qassam rockets being fired from Gaza. Then, a delegation from Gaza visited Israel to pay tribute to them by kidnapping Cpl. Gilad Shalit. And now, the Islamic terrorist group Hamas has decided to throw a huge party in Gaza after seizing complete control of the area and capturing all the strongholds of the more moderate Fatah.

Hamas claims that it neutralized elements of Fatah which conspired to betray the government now led by Hamas after the last set of elections. Quite frankly, the mistake here happened in the elections. Not when Hamas won them. When they were allowed to even run in them.

As radical as the proposal of excluding people from elections may sound to some, this would not be the first time for an extreme measure like this. In many places in the United States, felons do not even have the right to vote much less run for public office. Hamas carries a bit more baggage than felons do.

But even before that, after the Civil War, the 14th Amendment (as well as many other regulations) laid out restrictions on who could run for office in the U.S., often excluding former Congressmen who joined the Confederacy. Furthermore, this highlighted a more general concern of Reconstruction. If the South could immediately regain all the rights it formerly had, radicals in the South would easily undermine the more moderate movement that promoted true freedom in the U.S.. The Union did not fight the Civil War just to go back to the status quo.

Now today as Americans, we do not have problems with lawmakers who are as radical as those from Hamas. In other parts of the world, though, this constitutes a huge concern. Giving terrorists and similar radicals the right to run for office can create a chaotic situation like the current one in Palestine. Refusing to exclude them in the name of freedom and liberty would prove much more idealistic than the most overzealous attempt by Democrats to protect civil liberties at the expense of national security.

Now inevitably someone will quote Benjamin Franklin, who said, “Those who would sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither.” I have heard that cliché all the time, often as substitute for substantive debate and discussion, as well as Patrick Henry’s quote, “Give me liberty or give me death!” Let me put this bluntly: If you give Hamas liberty, you will get death, and if Hamas has its way, there will be neither liberty nor security.

Some may hold more reasonable concerns about this policy, worrying that in addition to Hamas, it may also exclude a more legitimate group later on. This can be avoided, however, by setting extremely high standards for exclusion. After all, Hamas does not recognize Israel’s right to exist, endorses violence, and also is classified as a terrorist organization by not only the U.S. but also the European Union. Hamas should have little trouble qualifying (or disqualifying in this case) under just about any standard.

However, some Palestinians, despite their concerns about Hamas, despise Fatah for being too close to the West and Israel and also mismanaging Palestine at times. Granted, for many people Fatah does not represent a very good alternative, but other ways exist to resolve this problem politically. For example, Palestinians could form a new party somewhere in the middle. Israel did that with the new centrist Kadima party, created by Ariel Sharon from the right-wing Likud party, with the support of Shimon Peres from the left-wing Labor party, and it seems to have succeeded. In fact, Kadima currently is the largest party in Israel right now. Or just try something else, anything. Even the worst proposal would work better than letting terrorists get elected.

Since Hamas never should have run in that election, a good solution in this situation would involve declaring a state of emergency and dissolving the Hamas-led government. Wait, Palestinian President Abbas of Fatah tried that just now, and Hamas did kindly accept his proposal. Considering that Hamas’ power has grown steadily since the elections, I suppose it’s too late to try that one.

So how can this crisis be solved? Implementing a three-state solution would work very well. With Fatah and all the moderates located in the West Bank, it now makes Israel’s job much easier as they take out Hamas’ terrorist state in Gaza. Let Israel take control of Gaza (again), but have Israel relocate the wall with the West Bank to be on the Green Line, not past it and in the West Bank, and voilà…Israel and Palestine have the two-state solution they were looking for all along. Granted, many Palestinians will relocate from Gaza to the West Bank for their own good, but Israel has already done something similar in Gaza quite forcibly, and eventually probably has to do it again in the West Bank. Hamas makes bad company in Gaza anyway.

That probably will not happen, though. Most likely, Hamas will continue to tighten its grip and further indoctrinate/pervert the minds of people, leading to a slow and steady buildup with the grand finale involving Israel in an epic showdown. Hopefully someone can intervene before it is too late once again…