The Significance of the Hamas Election Victory
by John Spritzler [ http://spritzlerj.blogspot.com/ ]
The Israeli government, not the Palestinian Authority, holds actual governmental power and sovereignty in the West Bank and Gaza, so the Hamas election victory is more significant for what it says about Palestinian aspirations than for what it portends for future policies of the Palestinian Authority.
The tremendous significance of the Hamas victory is this: it shows that many Palestinians--not just a crazy fringe--believe a Jewish state in Palestine has no legitimacy--that it is racist and, like apartheid South Africa, should be abolished.
Palestinians have rejected the "road map to peace" with its "two-state solution" because they want an end to racism, not a little statelet to live in next to a dominating racist Jewish state occupying 78% of Palestine.
The incumbent Palestinian Authority ruled by the PLO/Fatah was famous among Palestinians for three things:
2. More corruption
3. Spineless servility to the Israeli government
Hamas is famous among Palestinians for four things:
1. Calling for the destruction of Israel. (To most Palestinians this means abolishing a state based on racism against non-Jews; it does not mean killing Jews because they are Jews or driving anybody into the sea, any more than those who wished to destroy the Apartheid state of South Africa aimed to kill whites because they were white or drive them into the sea.)
2. Providing many social services without corruption.
3. Waging armed resistance against Israeli occupation of Palestine
4. Calling for Palestine to be an Islamic state
Most observers report that people who voted for Hamas did so in spite of, not because of, its call for an Islamic state. In the past it was the PLO/Fatah, with its aim of a secular democratic state, which claimed the mantle of opposition to a Jewish state in Palestine, and that was why the PLO once enjoyed enormous support from Palestinians. Lately, the PLO/Fatah has been seen by Palestinians as a "partner in the peace process" which means an instrument of Israel for forcing Palestinians to accept the legitimacy of the racial separatism and exclusion that is the basis of the Jewish state project. Hamas now claims the mantle of opposition to a Jewish state in Palestine, and that--not some sudden rise in enthusiam for an Islamic state--is the most obvious explanation for its present popularity.
Until now the mass media have been able to claim that only a fanatical fringe wants the destruction of Israel. But yesterday's election results indicate massive opposition to the existence of a Jewish state in Palestine. I believe Hamas's call for the destruction of Israel (in contrast with the PLO's crass servility towards Israel) gained Hamas far more votes than it cost them. This is entirely consistent with the fact that polls have long shown that the greatest concern of Palestinians, by far, has been to obtain their right of return inside the Green Line with restitution for their confiscated property. And as everybody knows, if Palestinians are allowed to return, then the population inside the Green Line might soon lose its overwhelming Jewish majority, and the existence of a Jewish state--which officially is only for "the Jews" rather than everybody regardless of their religion who lives inside its borders--will be untenable.
The cat is now out of the bag. The only just and tenable solution to the conflict in Palestine/Israel is for all of Palestine, from the Mediterranean to the Jordan, to be one democratic state, with genuine equality for all regardless of religion. The time has come to abolish states based on racial separatism, which is exactly what a Jewish state is.
In response to the upset vote, the media are doing their utmost to confuse the public by portraying Palestinians, who agree with Hamas's opposition to the existence of the Jewish state of Israel, as terrorists. For example, a BBC article reports:
"Israel can't accept a situation in which Hamas, in its present form as a terror group calling for the destruction of Israel, will be part of the Palestinian Authority without disarming," Mr Olmert's office reported him as saying.
Let us be clear. Terrorism is the killing of innocent civilians, and it is wrong. When the U.S. deliberately targeted German and Japanese civilians in World War II without any military strategic rationale, that was terrorism. When the U.S. deliberately targets civilians in Iraq, that is terrorism. When the Irish IRA set off bombs in British subways, that was terrorism. Whoever orchestrated the 9/11 attack committed terrorism. When Hamas kills random Jews at a bus stop or restaurant in Tel Aviv, that is terrorism.
But people who called for the DESTRUCTION OF the Third Reich, and people who called for the DESTRUCTION OF Apartheid South Africa, and people who called for the DESTRUCTION OF the Confederacy (the slave-based South in the USA before the Civil War), and people who called for the DESTRUCTION OF the Vichy state (Nazi occupied France), and people who "CALL FOR THE DESTRUCTION OF ISRAEL"--these people are not for that reason terrorists.
Likewise, those who killed German soldiers occupying France and enforcing oppression, and those who killed German soldiers enforcing Nazi rule over Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto, and those who killed South African government police or soldiers (or informers) enforcing apartheid, and those who killed slave-owners enforcing slavery in the United States, AND THOSE WHO KILLED ISRAELI SOLDIERS OR ARMED CIVILIANS ENFORCING OPPRESSION OF PALESTINIANS--these people were NOT terrorists. They were fighting violent oppression with violence, as was their right, both morally and even under existing international law. We honor the French Resistance, and the Jewish Warsaw Ghetto Rebellion because we know the difference between resistance to oppression, and terrorism.
So yes, let us denounce terrorism. But let us also denounce the mass media and Israeli officials and American politicians who try to confuse us by equating morally justifiable violent resistance against oppressive regimes with terrorism. There's a huge difference.
The reasons most Palestinians voted for Hamas are good reasons, which all good people should support.
Having stressed above why I believe the landslide vote for Hamas reflects entirely commendable aspirations on the part of Palestinian voters, there is the separate question of what to make of the Hamas leadership, as opposed to the many people who voted for them.
I will be frank about Hamas. I think they have committed terrorism. I disagree with their goal of an Islamic state. I know that the Israeli government has secretly supported Hamas because they thought it would be easier to isolate the Palestinians from world support if they were associated with political Islam than if they were associated with the democratic secular aims espoused by the PLO. 
For all of their hostility towards the Zionists, Hamas has a political Achilles Heel which helps the Zionists stay in power, and which is the basis for a tacit and mutually beneficial relationship between the two forces. By stating that the future Palestinian state should be one in which "It is the duty of the followers of other religions to stop disputing the sovereignty of Islam...,"  Hamas legitimizes the concept of a religiously exclusive state in Palestine, the very core idea behind the Zionist's Jewish state with its declaration that the sovereign authority in the 78% of Palestine they call Israel is "the Jewish people" rather than everybody who lives inside its borders regardless of their religion.
Framing the conflict in terms of WHICH religion shall be sovereign instead of WHETHER ANY religion will be exclusively sovereign is an enormous gift to the Zionist leaders; it not only helps them strengthen their grip on frightened Jews in Israel, but it also helps them garner undeserved world-wide sympathy for their racist Jewish state project. The Palestinian people need leaders who confer legitimacy on the concept of religiously exclusive states in Palestine like they need a hole in the head.
Likewise, and in keeping with their "Islam versus Jewish sovereignty" framework, Hamas gives the Zionist leaders another huge gift by carrying out not only justifiable violence against Israeli soldiers and armed civilians who oppress Palestinians, but also terrorist violence against random Israeli civilians at bus stops and restaurants in places like Tel Aviv. If the Zionist leaders didn't have Hamas terrorism to keep the Jewish working class population in line they would probably have had to invent it, since it serves the same role of social control for them as 9/11 does for George Bush.
It is a real shame that Hamas does not fight for a Palestine where nobody is forced to accept the sovereignty of another's religion. If Hamas fought for a Palestinian society based on the working class values of equality and solidarity, and if they offered Jews genuine equality (minus the ability to oppress anybody, of course), this would make it a lot easier for ordinary Jews to see that their Zionist leaders are only using them, and that their real safety and security and prosperity lie with becoming equal citizens in a single democratic Palestine--a revolutionary Palestine that rejects the capitalist values of inequality and competition and top-down control.
Israeli leaders like Sharon seem to appreciate the gifts offered them by Hamas. Sharon recently returned the favor, tacitly. By pulling out of Gaza unilaterally instead of pretending that it was the result of shrewd PLO negotiating, Sharon handed Hamas a gift: he allowed Hamas to claim that its armed resistance, not the PLO's negotiating, deserved the credit for the pullout. This certainly helped Hamas win the recent election, as Sharon clearly knew it would.
When the conflict is framed by the Hamas/Zionist pairing as a fight of one religion versus the other, it is a recipe for maintaining the status quo of elite rule. What gets lost are the actual revolutionary anti-capitalist aspirations of ordinary people, of all religious persuasions, for a society based on equality and solidarity and democracy.
1. See "Analysis: Hamas history tied to Israel" by Richard Sale, UPI Terrorism Correspondent, published 6/18/2002 at
2. The Covenant of the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas), 18 August 1988, from http://www.mideastweb.org/hamas.htm]