Sunday, June 24, 2007

On legitimacy


Granted, political rhetoric is by nature reductive and simplistic, concealing the true intentions of actors beneath a discourse acceptable to the audience. But allow me some venting.

As Hamas has taken co
ntrol of Gaza, relegating Fatah officials to nervous chain smoking in the lobbies of Ramallah hotels, the tide of empty rhetoric lies has become overwhelming.

Here's one of the more egregious examples, found in a New York Times article today previewing Monday's meeting of Egypt's Hosni Mubarak, Israel's Ehud Olmert, Jordan's King Abdullah II, and the Palestinian Authority President/Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas:

“We are following closely the fallout from the coup against Palestinian legitimacy,” Mr. Mubarak said in a statement to members of his party.
(my emphasis)

Legitimacy, Hosni? Legitimacy? We're talking about legitimacy? Sorry to sound like Allen Iverson. But let's talk about the legitimacy which, Mubarak insinuates, Hamas lacks.

In the elections of January 2006, the Palestinian people propelled Hamas to 76 of the 132 parliamentary positions, with secular Fatah coming in second with 43 seats. The vote was complicated. On the one hand, it represented a repudiation of Fatah's complacency and corruption as well as a recognition of Hamas's efficient social services and centralized organization. For some, it was also an affirmation of a harder line - especially rhetorically but also militarily - against the Israeli occupation. What is clear, however, is the election's certification by international election observers.

Even George W. Bush seemed caught up in the the moment, noting at the time that "the Palestinians had an election yesterday, the results of which remind me about the power of democracy." Or maybe Mr. Bush was just confused, thinking of all the time he's been able to spend on vacation in Crawford, Texas as a result of his experience with the power of democracy.

The point is, Hamas was legitimately elected to power, in something of a land slide at that. As such, it seems they must figure into Palestinian legitimacy in some way, at least more than Hosni Mubarak would like to admit.

But at the end of the day, Mubarak is scared. Scared of the possibility of a refugee exodus coming over his border from Gaza. Scared of Hamas's success emboldening the Brotherhood.

His short term domestic concerns trump any clear eyed assessment of what constitutes legitimacy in the eyes of Palestinians or, for that matter, a legitimate peace. If he did, he would recognize that the alienation of a powerful, primary stake holder lays the foundation for a creaky peace, if any at all. As a wise Israeli whose last name rhymes with kalamari noted, this was one of the significant flaws of the Oslo Accords - it was an agreement between Labor and Fatah to the exclusion of the Likud and Hamas. More recently, refer to Bush and co.'s reluctance to heed the recommendations of the so-called "wise men" of the Iraq Study Group to engage Iran and Syria in the effort to secure Iraq as exhibit b in the failure of alienation as a viable strategy.

Reminding us of Hegel's contention that "the only thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history," it seems the powers that be are nevertheless intent on bulldozing forward. Which, the Economist notes, could lead to a choice between "martyrs or traitors" for the Palestinian people.

And - sparing you any extended reference to a certain Bay Area rapper of early 90s fame - you can probably guess which side will be seen as legit.


Stephen said...

Sam, love the "his experience" link. Nice.

Stephen said...

Also have to give a shout out to the "wise Israeli" link. Now back to Alif Baa.