The Philadelphia Jewish Voice

MARCH 2006

News & Op/Ed
• Murder Of French Jew
• Shame on the West
•  Palestinian Elections
• Levy:  Letter To The US
• Danish Cartoons
• Solar Energy in Negev
• Israeli Glucose Monitor
• Letters to the Editor

In Their Own Words
• Alan Sandals

• Community Calendar
• Successful Women
• Israeli Film Festival
• New Voice of Justice

Living Judaism
• Silence Not  Golden

ADAR 5766

News & Op/Ed
• Minyan Maker in H'burg
• Flip-Flop on  Hunting
• Halliburton Rebuild VP
• Security to Korea
• Bush: I Am An Oilahoic

In Their Own Words
• Memuchan

Living Judaism
• Psalm 23

Networking Central
• Billionaires for Bush

The Kosher Table
• The Shushan Shulchan

  About       Free Subscription       Donate       Contact Us        Links   border="0" />    Archives

News and Op/Ed

Shame on the West
The Hamas emblem shows two crossed swords, the Dome of the Rock and a map of the land they claim as Palestine (present-day Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
Women supporting Hamas during election in Gaza. Photo: Lori Lowenthal Marcus

Our reporter visits territories during recent historic election

On the historic day of the Arab Palestinian vote, this American Jew traveled through the territories with a European television crew, filming different polling places and observing interviews with Arab voters.

The European media are even more Arab-centric than the American press, and our interviewer was an Arab, so chances are good that what I heard really reflected what those interviewed meant.

I came away with two distinct views: First, despite the insistence by many of my ideological comrades, the Jews were not the issue in this election; the candidates all agree on the solution to the Jewish problem. Second, everything I saw made clear that the predictions about the likely aftermath of the vote are wrong.

To begin with, I heard the same anti-Israel and anti-Jewish rhetoric from the Fatah candidates that I heard from the Hamas candidates. The focus in this election really was on Fatah corruption. A quick example:

While waiting for the paperwork to be signed for our car, the Arab rental agent spoke animatedly to one of our crew. He kept banging on my window for emphasis. When our Arabic speaker entered the car, he told me that the agent had been a campaign manager for an independent Fatah candidate. He and his candidate had been summoned to Ramallah --- Fatah headquarters --- a few weeks earlier, and told to withdraw the candidacy or they would "pay a heavy price." The agent said he is finished with Fatah and resolved to vote for Hamas. I heard the same disgust with Fatah corruption, particularly financial, from every voter interviewed.

My second impression is that almost everyone incorrectly predicts the aftermath of the Hamas victory or correctly predicts it but for the wrong reasons. 

Let's parse that out: 

There are three major positions, and I will start with the optimistic. Those in this fold say that because Hamas was democratically elected and is now "in charge of the government," it will be forced to moderate its position in order to lead its people. Really? What about Iran's president Ahmadinejahd? He was elected but has hardly been tamed.

Next, we have the larger group, mostly lay observers, who expressed despair at the Hamas victory and had been rooting for the "moderate" Fatah. To expect that a Fatah victory might have brought Israel closer to peace is to fundamentally misunderstand the essence of Fatah.

Close observers know there is no real difference in either group's intent to exterminate the Jews. A vote for either party is a vote for the violent destruction of the Jewish State and all its Jewish inhabitants; to pretend otherwise is just that --- pretend.

Besides, for Hamas, the imprimatur of the peoples? vote is meaningless. The drive to reestablish the Caliphate is the road Hamas is on, has been on, and will continue on.

The Hamas election will have a dramatic and negative change for one group, however: secular Arab Palestinians, particularly women and homosexuals. Mahmoud al-Zahar, the top Hamas official in Gaza, explained that his government will be a theocracy because a secular system "allows homosexuality, allows corruption, allows the spread of the loss of natural immunity like AIDS." All of these are thoughts that, if voiced by Jews or Christians, would be savaged by the New York Times and its gentle readers. Yet somehow I doubt the Anglo-left will rise up in arms against al-Zahar.

Finally, some pundits have shocked their audiences with the iconoclastic view that the Hamas victory is actually a good thing. Why? Because, in every available forum, Hamas unabashedly extols its commitment to the violent destruction of Israel (and Masons and Rotarians, by the way --- go figure). Therefore, they reason, the world will recoil from funding the murderous pirates and turn its? collective back on the regime. I am afraid this prediction is almost as unlikely as the first two.

My view is the darkest of all, but I think the most likely.

I predict that Hamas will remain consistent in thought, speech and deed. It is the West that will cave, abandoning its pretext that Hamas is inadmissible in polite company because of its terrorist nature. The West will negotiate with, and fund, the Hamas Arab Palestinian government. 

At the end of my extraordinary day as an Arab election observer, I predicted this Western response. I was wrong about only one thing: I thought at least a week or two of outrage would pass before the feeble justifications for supplying the fuel - money and recognition - to Hamas began. But already we have heard from France (no surprise there), and Russia, that the fuel supply will flow unabated, albeit perhaps with a change in middle men. 

President Bush's spokesman, Scott McClellan, demurred when asked why the U.S. funding of Hamas was not immediately cut off. According to the White House, further research is needed before a decision is made to cease funding the Palestinian government. What part of terrorist state don't you understand?

Yet it is another Western player's loss of resolve that makes me the saddest.

The only really chilling moment I experienced on Palestinian election day was when Sheik Mohammed Abu Tair, the henna-bearded Hamas leader, looked me straight in the eye as he exited a room where Arab Palestinians were voting. Smelling out my American essence, possibly getting a whiff of my Jewishness, he said, in English: "Hello, how are you?" I did not answer this man who probably claims the right to kill my children, except that my face drained of color.

I did not know it at the time, but Abu Tair spent more than 20 years in Israeli jails for incitement against the Israeli "occupation." And he had been arrested only weeks before on charges of "affiliation with an illegal movement."

There have already been photos and television video of Abu Tair leaving a meeting with Israeli officials in the Russian Compound in Jerusalem. The Israeli police are headquartered there.

It did not even take a week.

Editor: What brought you there at this time? 

LLM: I actually was there for the NACIE (North American Coalition for Israel Education) conference. The timing was completely serendipitous. Such opportunities don't come along very often.

Editor: Were you at any time apprehensive for your safety? On a personal note, I admire your guts.

LLM: I was not scared at all, I suppose it's either because I was with Arab friends or because I just am missing the caution gene. However, the television crew I was with is from Denmark, so it's a darn good thing the Cartoon Controversy took a week or two longer to hit the streets.

Lori Lowenthal Marcus is president of the Philadelphia region of the Zionist Organization of America and co-host of the Middle East Report on WNWR