The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Sunday, May 27, 2007


Why are the Gaza Palestinians killing each other? Matthew Yglegias, a blogger for The Atlantic magazine on-line suggests that it’s all our fault. That the Bush Administration’s insistence on a democratic vote put Hamas in power and the resultant carnage is on us.

Michael Totten demolishes this Left-leaning trope with fact after fact. But that doesn’t answer the initial question. Why, indeed, do they kill one another? Why can’t they form a functioning government in their experimental “country” — one that Israel unilaterally gave them in 2006.

Totten comments:
There is something very consistent about governance in the Arab world. Among the Arab countries today in which there is a modicum of internal stability, each is controlled by an Arafat-type figure -- an anti-democratic strongman who is able to crush all challenges to his authority. Likewise, among those Arab countries that aren't ruled by a despot, the political dynamic is also consistent: In Lebanon, Iraq, and now Gaza, sectarian violence is the dominant form of political expression. It’s true that Arafat’s authority was weaker in Gaza than in the West Bank, but in Gaza there was always another strongman present to keep a lid on things: the Israeli occupation. When Israel disengaged in the summer of 2005, suddenly Gaza was without any master at all, and that’s exactly when the territory started going full-tilt toward the Hobbesian state of nature it now finds itself in.

And so to blame recent Bush administration choices for this lawlessness -- or more precisely, to invent stories about administration choices -- is more than a bit much. Even if the PA elections in 2006 hadn't occurred, I doubt the battle we are seeing today wouldn’t have happened. The fight is foreordained by Gaza's demography, its political and religious extremism, Arafat's death, and Israel's unwillingness to police the territory. The Bush administration is simply along for the ride -- as is Israel. And the reason why Abbas has never been able to emerge as a leader of the Palestinians is because his weakness is similarly foreordained. Consensus-based political leadership is anathema to the Arab world. We're seeing that rather starkly today in Gaza.

All of that said, I think that Yglesias ends up being partially right (even though he doesn't mean to be) when he lays the lawlessness in Gaza at Bush's feet. The sad truth is that Gaza today is a testament to the failure of the entire 14-year project of creating the Palestinian Authority, retrieving Arafat from exile, and attempting to drag the Arabs of Palestine, against their will, into western political modernity. This process was started, and most forcefully pushed forward, by the Clinton administration, and today its corpse is still being dragged around the Middle East, Weekend at Bernie's-style, by Condoleezza Rice.

It’s interesting: The Left has abandoned any hope of a political settlement in Iraq, arguing (with smug satisfaction) that they knew all along that any attempt at democracy in Iraq was doomed from the onset (in my opinion, it appears they’re probably right on that score). And yet, the same people who argue that democracy in Iraq is unrealistic suggest that if the US were more “even-handed,” a viable country would magically appear in the Palestinian territories. Can’t have it both ways.

It’s time to take a hard look at the facts on the ground, the history of the past 60 years, and the rise of Islamofascist ideology in the region, and recognize that the Israeli-Palestinian problem just might be intractable. There won’t be a solution, and that means we just might have to recognize that the “oppressed” are really the oppressors, and that the billions we pour in to support Palestinian thugs and terrorists could be far better spent in other ways.