Nervous Palestinians circulate Hamas jokes (& Palestinian elections “not democracy”)

January 31, 2006


1. EU to keep funding Hamas-led PA
2. Wishful thinking and mirror imaging
3. Sharansky: Palestinian elections “not democracy”
4. Islamic Jihad may join Hamas-led government
5. Calls for an Islamic revolution in Jordan
6. Abbas meets with Jordanian and Egyptian leaders
7. Fatah: Internal Intifada has begun
8. Hamas to release jailed terrorist
9. “Now we know” (By Mark Steyn, New York Sun, Jan. 30, 2006)
10. “Why Hamas’s victory isn’t such a bad thing” (By Efraim Karsh, New Republic, Jan. 26, 2006)
11. “Terrorists win: Why the surprise?” (By Cal Thomas, Jan. 31, 2006)
12. “Hamas landslide reveals more about the Left than about ‘Palestinians’” (By Dennis Prager, Jan. 31, 2006)
13. “Pragmatic Hamas – not very likely” (By Gerald Steinberg, Jan. 26 2006)
14. “Nervous Palestinians circulate Hamas jokes” (AP, Jan. 29, 2006)
15. “Arab neighbors will work with Hamas-led cabinet” (Reuters, Jan. 30, 2006)


[Note by Tom Gross]

The European Union decided last night that it will continue funding the Palestinian Authority for the time being despite the fact that it will be run by Hamas – and even though Hamas, which is on the EU list of terror groups, repeated again this morning that it will neither renounce violence against Israelis nor recognize Israel’s right to exist.

The European Union is the biggest donor to the Palestinian Authority (granting $604 million in 2005; the U.S. gave $400 million).

No surprise here given the EU’s record of appeasement throughout the Arafat years, as Chris Patten, the former EU External Relations Commissioner and others did next to nothing to stop the squandering of European taxpayers’ money. Please scroll down this webpage to see how some of their aid money was spent.


About one third of the recipients on this list are European-based. Because commentary of this kind is rarely found in Europe (or in Israeli papers like Ha’aretz), I attach a number of articles from the American press, arguing against any “engagement” with Hamas under present circumstances.

I have summarized them below, rather than attach them as full articles, which would have made this dispatch too long. I suggest you read these summaries if you have time. (Some of the authors cited – Mark Steyn, Efraim Karsh, Gerald Steinberg – are subscribers to this email list.)


The former Soviet dissident and author of “The Case for Democracy,” Natan Sharansky, has said that last week’s Palestinian election “was not the same as democracy. Democracy isn’t hocus-pocus; it’s a process. An election between a terrorist organization that wants to destroy the state of Israel and a corrupt dictatorship that does not care about helping its own people is not democracy.”

Sharansky, who is standing as a candidate for the Likud in the forthcoming Israeli elections, argues that there should have been a process of democratization in the Palestinian Authority that culminated with an election, instead of holding an election that he said came instead of real democratic reforms. Sharansky enjoys close relations with U.S. President George W. Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.


Nafez Azzam, one of the leaders of Islamic Jihad, says that if Hamas forms a cabinet based on “resistance” (i.e. violent attacks) against Israel, his group will consider joining it. As noted in the dispatch Israeli leaders brace for possible Hamas “landslide” (Jan. 24, 2006), Islamic Jihad boycotted the Palestinian elections.

Following the Hamas election victory another senior Jihad leader, Khaled al-Batch, phoned Hamas leader Ismail Haniya to congratulate him. Islamic Jihad has carried out a number of suicide bombings in the last year, killing many Israeli civilians, including children.


Islamic movements in the Middle East say they have been buoyed by Hamas’s electoral success. The Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan is demanding “true democracy” from the Jordanian monarch, in order to also win elections. In recent days they have hinted at launching a popular uprising if the government continues to ignore “the will of the people”.


In light of fears of Islamic fundamentalism taking a strong hold over the Middle East, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is visiting Egypt today. This follows a meeting yesterday in Jordan between Abbas and King Abdullah. Israel’s new foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, is expected in Cairo tomorrow.

For more on the Arab reaction to the Palestinian elections, see the Reuters piece below titled “Arab neighbors will work with Hamas-led cabinet.”


Hundreds of Fatah activists, including dozens of gunmen, have demonstrated and run riot in Nablus, Bethlehem, Ramallah, Gaza and elsewhere in recent days. They say that their corrupt leaders have betrayed them and should resign. In Gaza, Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade gunmen set ablaze cars belonging to foreign journalists.

Members of the Fatah-led security services have said that they will not countenance a Hamas takeover of their forces. Most of the 58,000 security force members are Fatah loyalists. Hamas, following its victory in the Palestinian elections, says that major changes are needed in the security forces. “The leaders of these services became multimillionaires,” Mahmoud Zahar, a senior Hamas leader, said following his group’s victory. “We are going to reform these services. This is our mission.”

“You can look for Hamas to move quickly on issues like education, health and social affairs, but I think they will be very cautious when it comes to the security services,” predicted Mokhaimer Abu Sada, a political science professor at Al Azhar University in Gaza City.


Hamas have announced that they will release Ahmed Saadat, who was convicted for the murder of the Israeli tourism minister, Rechavim Ze’evi, in 2001. Under the 2002 Ramallah agreement signed by the PA, Saadat is being held in jail in Jericho under the scrutiny of British and US monitors.

Saadat, the leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, also ordered the suicide bomb attack in Netanya in May 2002 that killed 3 Israelis and injured 59.

Israel says they will track down Saadat if Hamas releases him.

After the summaries below, there are two news reports, one concerning Arab world reaction to Hamas’s victory, and the other about how nervous secular Palestinians are circulating Hamas jokes by sms text message.

-- Tom Gross




“Now We Know” (By Mark Steyn, The New York Sun, January 30, 2006)

…Hamas, by contrast, takes the view: Why the hell should we have to go tippy-toeing around some sissy phrase we don’t really mean? Hamas doesn’t support a two-state solution, it supports the liquidation of one state and its replacement by other, and they don’t see why they should have to pretend otherwise. And in last week’s elections for the Palestinian Authority they romped home. It was a landslide.

As is the way, many in the west rushed to rationalize the victory. The media have long been reluctant to damn the excitable lads as terrorists. In 2002 The New York Times published a photograph of Palestinian suicide bombers all dressed up and ready to blow, and captioned it “Hamas activists”. Take my advice and try not to be standing too near the Hamas activist when he activates himself.

Oh, no no no, some analysts assured us. The Palestinians didn’t vote for Hamas because of the policy plank about obliterating the state of Israel because Fatah is hopelessly corrupt. Which is true: the European Union’s bankrolled the Palestinian Authority since its creation and Yasser and his buddies salted most of the dough away in their Swiss bank accounts and used the loose change to fund the Intifada. After ten years you can’t blame the Palestinians for figuring it’s time to give another group of people a chance to siphon off all that EU booty.

So I’d like to believe this was a vote for getting rid of corruption rather than getting rid of Jews. But that’s hard to square with some of the newly elected legislators. For example, Mariam Farahat, a mother of three, was elected in Gaza. She used to be a mother of six but three of her sons self-detonated on suicide missions against Israel. She’s a household name to Palestinians, known as Um Nidal – Mother of the Struggle – and, at the rate she’s getting through her kids, the Struggle’s all she’ll be Mother of. She’s famous for a Hamas recruitment video in which she shows her 17-year old son how to kill Israelis and then tells him not to come back…

It may be that she stood for parliament because she’s got a yen to be junior transport minister or deputy secretary of fisheries. But it seems more likely that she and her Hamas colleagues were elected because this is who the Palestinian people are, this is what they believe…

The Palestinians are the most comprehensively wrecked people on the face of the earth: after 60 years as UN “refugees”, they’re now so depraved they’re electing candidates on the basis of child sacrifice. To take two contemporaneous crises, imagine if the population displacements caused by the end of the Second World War and by the partition of British India had also been left to the UN to manage and six decades later they were still running the “refugee” “camps”, now full of grandchildren and great-grandchildren, none of whom had ever lived in any of the places they’re supposed to be refugees from. Would you wish that fate on post-war Central Europe or the Indian sub-continent?

So what happens now? Either Hamas forms a government and decides that operating highway departments and sewer systems is what it really wants to do with itself. Or, like Arafat, it figures that it has no interest in government except as a useful front for terrorist operations…



“Why Hamas’s victory isn’t such a bad thing” (By Efraim Karsh, The New Republic, January 26, 2006)

…Hamas’s win might trigger a widespread disillusionment with the mirage created by the Oslo process of a democratic and peace-loving Palestinian government.

…While Hamas’s terrorist credentials need no elaboration, Fatah boasts a far longer terrorist record, dating back to January 1965 and including bombings, airplane hijacking, and countless massacres of innocent civilians throughout the world – Arab, Israeli, and Western most notably at the 1972 Munich Olympics. Marwan Barghouti, who headed the Fatah electoral list, is serving five consecutive life sentences in an Israeli prison for murder and attempted murder.

…Equally misconceived is the perception of Palestinian society as locked in an ideological struggle between secular modernizers and religious radicals. Since its rise in the early seventh century, Islam has constituted the linchpin of Middle Eastern politics, and its hold on Palestinian society is far stronger than is commonly recognized. Arafat was a devout Muslim, associated in his early days with the militant Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas’s parent organization, as were other founding fathers of Fatah. And while the new generation of Fatah leaders in the territories may be less religious, they nevertheless have a draft constitution for a prospective Palestinian state that stipulates “Islam shall be the official religion of Palestine” and Sharia “which relegates non-Muslims to a legally inferior position shall be a major source of legislation.”

…The international community thus ignored the fact that for all their drastically different personalities and political style, Arafat and Abbas were both dogmatic PLO veterans who never eschewed their commitment to Israel’s destruction and who viewed the “peace process” as the continuation of their lifetime war by other means. It whitewashed Abbas’s adamant refusal to fight terrorism as a reflection of political weakness (as it had done with Arafat in the early Oslo years) and turned a blind eye to his repeated calls for the destruction of Israel through demographic subversion (via the so-called “right of return”).

…Yet one hopes that Hamas’s victory will cause the international community to pay closer attention to what the Palestinian authorities tell their own people and wider Arab constituencies. As for Israelis, yesterday’s election results will have the virtue of creating clarity in their political debate. Now, as it weighs unilateral withdrawal and other policy options, Israel can at least do so without illusions.



“Terrorists win: Why the surprise?” (By Cal Thomas, January 31, 2006)

“…The biggest surprise about the big win by the terrorist organization Hamas in last week’s Palestinian legislative elections is that so many people were surprised. Worse than denial, is denying you have been in denial. Despite the Hamas and Palestinian Authority charters calling for Israel’s destruction; despite unilateral concessions and actions by Israel; despite negotiated “land for peace” deals, which only Israel has kept; despite massive amounts of U.S. and European aid, much of which was funneled into Swiss bank accounts under the regime of the late Yasser Arafat; despite pressure and cajoling and confidence-building measures, none of it mattered. Hamas won anyway.

Now comes more denial. One hears Westerners say things like “Hamas now must deliver because people are most concerned with jobs, running water and trash pickup so they will have to moderate their views.” There is talk of cutting off U.S. and Western European aid to the Palestinians because of the Hamas victory. Do people sincerely believe that a religious mandate can be modified by economic threats, or that Hamas cannot get funding from others, like Iran?

The “Quartet,” comprised of the United Nations, European Union, Russian Federation and the United States, issued a statement that mentioned the “aspirations for peace and statehood” of the Palestinian people… If the Quartet had not been in the state of denial, it would have seen the contradiction of attempting to make peace between Israel and people who are not interested in a “two-state solution,” but in a region without Israel.

Why should Hamas listen to the Quartet? The Quartet has repeatedly demanded that the Palestinian Authority disarm terrorist groups before negotiations proceed, but the terrorists have continued attacking Israeli civilians. Why shouldn’t they when it appears the strategy is producing results for them?

…The U.S. president, indeed the world, should have seen this coming. For years – from mosques throughout the region, to newspapers and television programs – the violent rhetoric against Israel, Jews and the West has not only been tolerated, but also promoted by states we claim are our “friends.” We now say we will have nothing to do with Hamas, but that will change. We will eventually deal with Hamas after they claim to have eliminated or modified their charter for Western consumption…

How does one modify a charter that is the will of “God”? A senior Hamas official, Mushir al-Masri, told the Associated Press that recognizing Israel and negotiating with it are “not on our agenda.” Even if Hamas did negotiate with Israel, why would anyone believe it would live up to any promises it might make? …



“Hamas landslide reveals more about left than about ‘Palestinians’” (By Dennis Prager, January 31, 2006)

It is a sad day for humanity when a people choose to elect terrorists as their leaders.

But for those of us who believe that clarity is the prerequisite to moral progress, the landslide victory of the terrorist organization Hamas in Palestine has a silver lining.

First and foremost, it proves what people who perceive reality have been saying for decades: The great majority of Palestinians – like the majority of Arabs elsewhere and like vast numbers of non-Arab Muslims – want Israel destroyed…

[Tom Gross adds: the smaller parties that argued both against Fatah corruption and against terrorism against Israeli civilians received almost no votes from Palestinians.]

Prager continues: “…the Palestinian vote reveals the falsity of the worldwide Left’s view of the Palestinians as committed to peace. It likewise reveals the falsity of the Left’s belief that Palestinian terror is supported by a small minority of the Palestinian population.

Thanks to this election, the mask has been removed. When given the opportunity to express themselves, most Arabs and many Muslims elsewhere support terror and seek the annihilation of Israel. That is why the Hamas victory is such a defeat for the world’s Left – university professors, news media, socialist parties, the European Union, the United Nations, “peace” activists, editorial writers, and all other apologists for the Palestinians.

…After some initial cognitive dissonance, the Hamas victory will have little or no impact on most leftists. The day after the Hamas landslide, the Los Angeles Times editorialized, “Most Palestinians, like most Israelis, want peace.” Sure they do. Just not with Israel.



Pragmatic Hamas – not very likely
By Gerald M. Steinberg
January 26 2006

Twenty years ago, they told us that Arafat and PLO were becoming pragmatic, and were ready to give up terror and make peace with Israel. It turned out that these hopeful predictions were wrong, but the same people are now appearing on radio and television, to declare that the leaders of Hamas will form a pragmatic Palestinian government. The odds that they will get this one right are not very high.

Their optimism is based on the theory that when members of terrorist, liberation or revolutionary groups gain political power, they are forced to deal with the realities of the governing process… and [make] a transition from violence to peaceful coexistence.

But like many appealing diplomatic theories, this one has a poor track record in the real world... In Afghanistan, when the Taliban took power after decades of warfare and terror, the extremist mullahs were expected to become pragmatic. But instead of moderation, they converted their power into a reign of terror used to impose the most extreme form of Islam on the entire population.

…The same theory has been used to predict the transformation of Hizbullah from a Iranian-linked Shi’ite terror group focused on attacking Israeli and Western targets into a political party focusing on internal Lebanese issues. But in this case as well, the hard evidence has proven stronger than the soft theory, at least in the five years since the Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon. Instead of ending its terror activities and investing more in social services, Hizbullah engaged in kidnapping Israeli soldiers, the deployment of 12,000 rockets, and in providing direct support for Palestinian terror attacks. So while Hizbullah pursues political power in Lebanon in parallel with terrorism, the declarations of leaders such as Hassan Nasrallah, rejecting all disarmament proposals, appear entirely credible.

In the face of repeated failures, what accounts for the persistence of diplomacy based on wishful thinking, and the artificial dichotomy between political power and the use of terror?

In part, it is what academics (realists, at least) refer to as “mirror imaging,” in which Western diplomats project their own pragmatism and compromise onto leaders of terror groups from other cultures. The West has adopted an idealism that reflects its own history, including the tolerance resulting from the Enlightenment, and centuries of devastating religious and ideological warfare.

…Europeans, in particular, place themselves at the vanguard of a universal process in which religion, ideology and nationalism have lost their power of persuasion… So to gain aid, access and weapons, “revolutionary” leaders tell Westerners what they want to hear that they, too, share these goals.

These factors helped push the Middle East “peace process” beginning with the secret Oslo talks and ending in disaster. Here too, wishful thinking presented an image of Yasser Arafat having made the transition from terrorist leader to pragmatic statesman seeking the best for his people. The mountain of evidence demonstrating that Arafat remained stuck in 1947 rejectionism was overlooked it was inconsistent with the messianism of instant peace…

Now, many of the same people who enthusiastically promoted Oslo are pushing for a political dialogue with Hamas… If European and American statements about pragmatism and peace are more than empty rhetoric, they will have to link any further aid to the Palestinian Authority to ending terror and incitement. More broadly, the time has come for Europe and America to learn from the experience in Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq and with Hizbollah, and check their theories, based largely on wishful thinking, against the realities of the Middle East…



Nervous Palestinians circulate Hamas jokes
By Sarah El Deeb
The Associated Press
January 29, 2006

A slew of jokes circulating among Palestinians following Hamas’ landslide election victory reflects concerns that the fundamentalist group will impose Islamic law and social codes across the West Bank and Gaza.

As one goes, all police stations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip have been ordered shut because all complaints must now be filed directly to God.

Invoking God and Islamic tradition is the mainstay of all the quips that have been spreading by word of mouth and mobile phone text messages in the past few days.

Until elections Wednesday, Hamas’ goal of installing an Islamic state in the West Bank, Gaza and Israel was held in check by the ruling Fatah, which had no religious program.

But with voters handing Hamas 74 of parliament’s 132 seats, in a protest against the long-dominant Fatah, that check has weakened, if not evaporated.

Hamas officials rushed to deny that they will force their beliefs on Palestinians.

“Rest assured we don’t impose our thoughts on anyone,” Hamas leader Khaled Maashal said Saturday in the Syrian capital, Damascus. “We will present our thoughts to our people and they have the right to choose.”

Many Palestinians were not reassured.

One newly elected legislator has said she plans to submit a bill requiring girls and women to wear the hijab, a headdress covering the hair.

At a Hamas rally in Ramallah this week, an organizer tried contain his members from clashing with Fatah supporters by shouting, “Sons, it is time to pray. To the mosque.” They all dispersed.

Mobile phones are abuzz with text messaged jokes prophesying a new police uniform mirroring the short dress and baggy pants worn by the former hardline Taliban rulers of Afghanistan, and a discount on taxes for Christians who convert to Islam within a week.

Speeding ticket? Pay for it with extra prayers.

The jokes in the West Bank reflect the rawest nerves because Palestinians there tend to be less traditional than in Gaza, where the militant Hamas is strongest.

In Gaza in the early 1990s, after the first Palestinian uprising in Israel, Hamas used a quasi-police force to shut down restaurants serving alcohol and to impose a conservative dress code.

While an overwhelming majority of people chose Hamas on election day, the wide circulation of the jokes reflects how conflicted people are over their choice, said Nadia Najjab, a social psychology professor in the West Bank Birzeit University.

“The jokes are really expressive of our fears,” said Anis Barioush, a 50-year old teacher in the West Bank town of Ramallah. “The new rulers will change our traditions and impose a Taliban rule.”



Arab neighbors will work with Hamas-led cabinet
By Jonathan Wright
January 30, 2006

All the Arab governments around Israel will deal directly with a Palestinian cabinet dominated by the militant Islamist group Hamas, ignoring U.S. and European attempts to isolate the group, analysts said on Monday.

The Egyptian and Syrian governments already have good working relationships with Hamas, although some of their main domestic opponents are Islamists, and would accept a possible role as intermediaries between Hamas and the West, they added.

Egypt may press Hamas to make concessions to demands that it recognize Israel and abandon armed struggle but it will also use Hamas’s surprise election victory to argue for changes in U.S. and European policy in the Middle East, they said.

Hamas won a big majority in the Palestinian parliament last week, based on popular frustration with the Fatah movement which has dominated Palestinian politics since the late 1960s.

Arab countries have made few official comments since Hamas’s defeat of Fatah, founded by Yasser Arafat and traditionally seen in the Arab world as representing the Palestinian cause.

However, Fatah had gained a reputation for corruption and incompetence and failed to persuade Israel and the United States to deliver on promises of Palestinian statehood.

The analysts said it was Syria, the most aggressively secular government in the region, that had most to gain from the shift in Palestinian politics, because Hamas’s success strengthens an embryonic front opposed to U.S. policies.


The front includes Hamas, Syria, Iran, Hizbollah in Lebanon and Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, which inspired Hamas and itself made strong electoral gains in elections last year.

Islamists also dominate the Iraqi government, in uneasy alliance with the U.S. military on whom they depend.

“One link in the siege against Syria has been broken... Hamas’s victory is good news for Syria,” said Mohammad Habash, a prominent Islamist lawmaker in Syria.

Syria has been on the ropes internationally for the past year after the successful campaign to make it withdraw troops from Lebanon and the U.N. inquiry into the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri.

“The Syrian regime is glad (that Hamas won) because this strengthens the alliance of resistance to the Israeli and American scheme. It gives them a little boost,” said Hassan Nafaa, professor of political science at Cairo University and a prominent political commentator.

“Syria is going to be very much encouraged. It will see it as a way of enhancing its own position,” added Walid Kazziha, political scientist at the American University in Cairo.

King Abdullah of Jordan, on the other hand, is the major loser in the region, because he has burned many of his bridges with Hamas and faces a domestic Islamist opposition closely linked to the Palestinian movement, the analysts said.

“Jordan is a candidate for change, and I think they are next,” said Kazziha, referring to the possibility of Islamists making strong gains in the next Jordanian elections.


The Egyptian government, which traditionally favored Fatah and its late leader Yasser Arafat, can adapt to Hamas more easily because the Egyptian state is so strong and the level of contact between ordinary Egyptians and Palestinians is lower.

Abdel Raouf el-Reedy, chairman of the Egyptian Council for Foreign Relations, said: “Egypt is a different story... I don’t see the same thing happening in Egypt as in Palestine.”

In Egypt’s first public reaction to the Hamas victory, Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif told Newsweek that Hamas should “work within the framework” of the Oslo agreement of 1993, the peace plan known as the road map and a two-state solution.

Reedy, who was Egyptian ambassador to the United States, said he expected Cairo to work for a reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah, as well as helping persuade Hamas to change its rhetoric on recognition of Israel.

“They (Hamas) will have to move in that direction and Egypt will help with that,” he told Reuters.

But other analysts said Hamas would not buy the argument unless Israel made significant concessions toward a territorial compromise acceptable to a majority of Palestinians.

The Palestinians have learned from Fatah’s negotiating experience over the past 10 years not to take U.S. and Israeli promises very seriously, they added.

“Egypt has to tell the Israelis and the Americans... it is about time to say exactly where you want to go, what kind of Palestinian state you want to establish,” Nafaa said.

All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.