America's Hamas Dilemma: Spreading Democracy or Combating Terrorism?

Dore Gold (Institute for Contemporary Affairs/Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs) - * The Bush administration has not agreed with the Israeli position that Hamas be excluded from the upcoming Palestinian parliamentary elections. On September 30, 2005, Secretary of State Rice insisted that Palestinian violence could not co-exist with Palestinian politics in the future and reiterated that Hamas was a terrorist organization. Where she was fuzzy was about whether the disarming of Hamas had to precede the Palestinian elections. * Hamas leader Dr. Mahmud al-Zahar has explicitly stated that the goals of Hamas extend beyond the West Bank and Gaza, or even the destruction of Israel, and also affect the future stability of neighboring countries: "Our main goal is to establish a great Islamic state, be it pan-Arabic or pan-Islamic." Al-Zahar puts Hamas squarely in the camp of militant Islam. In the past, Hamas had sent a small number of operatives for training in bin Laden's camps in Afghanistan, and even established operational links with a Pakistani al-Qaeda cell in Britain. * The Bush administration's support for democratization of the Middle East is based on the assumption that democracies are inherently peaceful and will not encourage extremist political systems that might host terrorist groups. What happens if democracy empowers a political movement like Hamas, whose core ideology is based on belligerency? * Westerners engaging in a dialogue with Hamas have also been speaking with the Muslim Brotherhood, the original Egyptian fundamentalist organization, founded in 1928, from which Hamas grew as its Palestinian branch. According to a former Kuwaiti education minister, all of al-Qaeda's terrorism started from the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood. Today, the Muslim Brotherhood remains fiercely anti-Western. It publishes an Arabic weekly in London called Risalat al-Ikhwan. Several months after 9/11, it changed its masthead, which until November 2001 had read: "Our mission: world domination."

2005-11-01 00:00:00

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