Last Thursday the first jihadist government since the Taliban ascended to power. The induction of the Hamas government in the Palestinian Authority has created a new dynamic in the Middle East.
Today a force openly supportive of global jihadist organizations like al-Qaida and Hizbullah, allied with Iran, dedicated to the complete Islamization of Palestinian society and committed to the eradication of Israel now reigns in the Palestinian Authority.
To date, Western governments have limited their response to Hamas's rise to power to endless debates and statements regarding their desire to create mechanisms that will allow them to continue to give the Palestinians billions of dollars a year and to maintain their official ties with the Hamas-led PA through the office of PA President Mahmoud Abbas. Exemplifying this trend last week were Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and US President George W. Bush. On election night, Olmert entreated Abbas to open negotiations with Israel.
In an address last Wednesday, Bush said, "I weep about the suffering of the Palestinians," while maintaining that the "US government has got aid that goes directly to people. And I know that we'll continue to call upon governments in the region to support the Palestinian people."
At base, the Western world's desperate search for a way to give the Palestinians its money shows two things about the West. First it shows that Western governments from Washington to Paris to Jerusalem understand that Hamas is not the same as Fatah. They know that there is something that fundamentally differentiates today's situation in the PA from that which existed before the January 25 elections. Yet on the other hand, the fact that the West searches for ways to continue aiding the Palestinians in spite of the fact that they just elected Hamas to lead them indicates that the West is unclear why the Palestinians' choice should change the way its governments do business.
SO IN the interest of clarifying the situation, it is necessary to examine what Hamas actually is. In the first instance, Hamas is a jihadist organization rooted, like al-Qaida, in the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood movement. Hamas was founded in 1988. Its covenant defines the goal of Hamas's jihad as the eradication of Israel.
Towards this end, the notion of negotiating a peace treaty with Israel is completely ruled out. As the covenant states, "There is no solution to the Palestinian problem except by jihad."
The Hamas covenant places great emphasis on the need to indoctrinate the Palestinian people in the cause of jihad. Raising the banner of jihad, "requires the propagation of Islamic consciousness among the masses, locally [in Palestine], in the Arab world and in the Islamic world. It is necessary to instill the spirit of jihad in the nation, engage the enemies and join the ranks of the jihad fighters."
Hamas's covenant is important because its tenets are upheld and given concrete meaning in Hamas's electoral platform published in January. That document places its greatest emphasis on Hamas's intention to use its political power to Islamize the PA government apparatuses and to bring about the total mobilization of Palestinian society for jihad. The platform stipulates that Hamas will revise the PA's criminal code and constitutional laws to ensure that "Islamic Sharia law will be the principle source of legislation in Palestine."
Since its electoral victory, Hamas has targeted nightclubs, bars, Westernized women and homosexuals in Gaza. Its platform backs these moves and future suppression of Western norms when it states, "We will foster respect for all views that do not deviate from the people's beliefs and their cultural heritage." Women are targeted specifically with the promise that they will be instructed in the ways of Islam to "familiarize" them with their "independent identity which is based on chastity and commitment."
In promoting and proselytizing jihad, Hamas will "support mosques and mosque facilities" and "ensure that places of worship serve both a missionary and educational role in society." And the educational role of the mosques, like the role of schools and the media, will be to preach jihad. Hamas explains that its goal is to "improve our citizenry" with the goal of helping them "resist cultural normalization." The media under Hamas will receive "guidance... so that they serve to elevate the Palestinian people and foster their perseverance and resistance."
The fact that Hamas publicly places its greatest emphasis on indoctrination is borne out by its decision to appoint Dr. Nasser Al-Din Shaar deputy prime minister and minister of education. Shaar is the dean of the Sharia Law department at A-Najah University in Nablus. He is the senior government minister in Judea and Samaria, with the PA's prime minister, foreign minister and interior minister all located in Gaza.
In an interview with Ma'ariv last month, Shaar, whose university has seen several of its students become suicide bombers, not only refused to acknowledge the virulently anti-Semitic content of the PA's school and university curricula, he accused Israel of corrupting Palestinian society. In his words, "We know that the government of Israel and its intelligence services are trying to oppress the Palestinians, for instance by distributing narcotics and pornography."
WHILE MAHMOUD Abbas is seen as the great white hope of the West, for Hamas it appears that his main purpose is to buy time during which they will complete the Islamization and militarization of Palestinian society. Acting as a fig leaf to a West addicted to the Palestinians, Abbas will enable Hamas to mobilize the Palestinians for the next round of jihad as it builds up its arsenal - which is already formidable.
Last Tuesday a Katyusha rocket was launched for the first time on Ashkelon. Since Israel's abandonment of the international border between Gaza and Egypt last September, al-Qaida operatives from Iraq and Hizbullah operatives from Lebanon have established bases of operation in Gaza.
Iranian Revolutionary Guards officers have begun assisting Hamas commanders in establishing, arming and training a new jihadist army. That army, which will be called the Murbitun, will be modeled after the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.
Hamas is also taking steps to co-opt Fatah terrorists and bring them into its government with the aim of Islamizing Fatah. Its Interior Minister Said Siam appointed Khaled Abu Hilal, one of the commanders of Fatah's Aksa Martyrs Brigades terror group, as his ministry's spokesman. Siam also cancelled the Fatah-instituted ban on beards in the PA security services.
The West is operating under the assumption that the Palestinians will stop supporting Hamas if they stop giving their money to the PA. But Hamas seems to invite the aid cutoff. Its electoral platform pledged that it would "Reject all donations that come with conditions or ask us to concede any of our inviolable principles."
HAMAS'S RISE to power renders it all but impossible to deny the connection between the insurgency in Iraq and the global jihad in general and the Palestinian war with Israel. Indeed, in his first statement as foreign minister, Mahmoud Zahar attacked the US claiming, "America is committing big crimes against the Arab and Islamic countries."
Yet as Hamas prepares for war on all levels, Israel is about to form a government led either by Kadima or Labor whose politicians insist on pretending that there is no problem here. Kadima's plan to remove Israeli communities and IDF forces from Judea and Samaria is based on an abject refusal to admit that the areas abandoned will be taken over by Hamas. Furthermore, as Olmert has repeatedly stated, Kadima refuses to acknowledge that Hamas is even a threat to Israel.
For its part, Labor believes that it is still possible to negotiate an agreement with the Palestinians in spite of the fact that they elected Hamas to lead them. Labor believes that Abbas, who has never lifted a finger to fight terrorism and has been incapable of making any constructive steps toward peaceful coexistence with Israel, is a viable partner for negotiations. As well, its leaders have expressed a willingness to negotiate with Hamas.
The Taliban's rise to power was greeted by indifference from the international community. Every once in awhile, Mullah Omar and his buddies would be caught stoning women to death or blowing up Buddhist monuments and would receive global reprimands for a few days.
Although it was shunned by all countries except Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, the Taliban's global isolation did not seem to inhibit its commitment to jihad. In the end, the Taliban were only forced to change the way they did business when the US military brought down their regime after they enabled the September 11 attacks.
Is there anyone willing to draw any lesson from the last jihadist government in their dealings with the newest one?
Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.