The Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire (LCR) has been debating the left’s response to the victory of the Islamist party, Hamas, in the Palestinian legislative elections on 25 January 2006.
An initial response by Nicolas Qualander appeared in the LCR’s paper, Rouge, of 23 February. We print here a translated extract of a reply to Qualander by Christian Picquet published in Rouge, 2 March 2006.
Often, when confronted by reactionary ideological forces that challenge the established order while resting on the exasperation of the oppressed, the revolutionary left has tried to reassure itself by looking for a hidden dynamic in the process... Qualander gives us his own unique take on the victory of Hamas.
Without doubt, the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) is not the same as the Taliban or Al-Qaeda. Though Israeli governments initially supported its development to weaken the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), it came to represent an alternative to the Fateh movement created by Yasser Arafat. A Fateh movement left discredited by its presiding over the semblance of autonomy given to the Palestinians by the Oslo Accords, by its inability to respond to the challenges posed by the increased colonisation of the West Bank and Jerusalem, by its inability to resist the smothering of the hopes for a Palestinian state, by the corruption of its elites, by its internal meltdown.
From this point of view, the success of Hamas illustrates the refusal of an entire people to give up its sovereignty. Its social entrenchment has been assisted by the prestige it draws from its military actions against Israel, by its political and organisational cohesion, by its vaunted probity, by its establishment of an Islamic welfare system, based on funds provided by the Muslim world…
Should we, however, dissociate an analysis of the Palestinian elections from the social project defended by the Islamists? That would be to blind ourselves to the direction events are taking. A simple glance at the Hamas charter, adopted in 1988, will reveal a totalitarian vision of the world.
Avowed affiliation to the Muslim Brotherhood (article 2); wish to install an “Islamic Palestine” (article 27); affirmation that “peace is only possible under the banner of Islam” (article 31); assertion that there is no place for any “course in contradiction with Islamic sharia” (article 11); assertion that “there is no solution to the Palestinian question except jihad” (articles 13 and 15); women to be reduced to slave status (article 12) and confined to domestic duties or the education of children “to prepare them for their role of fighters” (article 18); denunciation of Jews as having been behind “the French revolution, the communist revolution and all revolutions” (article 22) and going so far as to quote the well-known antisemitic text the Protocols of the Elders of Zion (article 32); calling for death to Jews… These are some of the salient points.
Nicolas Qualander is, therefore, wearing some very rose-tinted spectacles when he credits this organisation, “in contrast to Fatah”, with “a relatively democratic way of operating”.
That Hamas at first built its electoral fortune on its ability to incarnate, better than its rivals, the nationalist demand, more than on its Islamist plans is one thing. To conclude that its political programme will have nothing to do with its founding principles is to hoodwink the reader… and even himself.
Thus, evoking its triple appeal – religious and pan-Islamic, nationalist, and Arab nationalist – to justify the analysis of this complex movement… is simply to repeat article 14 of the [Hamas] charter: “The question of the liberation of Palestine is linked to three spheres: the Palestinian sphere, the Arab sphere and the Islamic sphere.”
Almost certainly… this party will have to show pragmatism in matters of diplomacy. That alters nothing! The simple fact that the aspiration of the Palestinians, and their despair, were translated into such a result, gives the measure of the dead end reached. As Michel Warschawski in this paper put it, we are witnessing a "terrible defeat in the fight for a secular and democratic state".
We should also add that the Palestinian population will gain nothing from it in terms of its conditions of existence. Throughout the Arab-Islamic world, political Islam shares, with the neoliberals of Washington and Tel Aviv, a common commitment to free enterprise and the management culture, with appeals to religion, morality and good works replacing redistributive action by the state…
Undeniably, the rise of Hamas on the Palestinian scene opens a new historic cycle in the region. Not, as Nicolas Qualander suggests, that it will lead to the possibility of recomposition of the movements resisting imperialism, which will henceforward be expressed through Hezbollah in Lebanon, the party of Al-Sadr in Iraq or the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, and will be reinforced by the Damascus-Tehran axis... More simply, Fatah’s decomposition… caps a long line of defeats of progressive nationalism and the Arab left.
The crisis of perspective can only deepen in Palestine. From the strategy of armed struggle which prevailed until the defeat of Beirut in 1982, through the management of the Oslo process ten years later, and the militarisation of the second intifada which has ended in the exhaustion of the popular struggle, a double question still has not received a realistic answer: that of the recognition of the fundamental rights of a people, and that of the coexistence of two national entities – Palestinian and Israeli — on the same territory…
The solidarity movement has from here on to trace a careful path: more than ever maintaining its independence, pursuing the battle for Palestinian sovereignty – which must immediately mean refusing to go along with any logic that seeks to punish the Palestinians for their vote – and showing the utmost vigilance with regard to civil and democratic rights.