Regarding Hamas, the Guys Waiting in the Wings Are Worse

In the midst of all of the talk about hitting Hamas hard (or even eliminating them as a political entity), no one is asking what will happen if they are so weak that they have to relinquish power.

The assumption is that a moderate Palestinian faction will arise. But, after so much violence, there's a good chance a more extremist group will gain power. And who might that be?

Why, your local neighborhood Salafists:

...a more tangible threat for the rulers of Gaza is from other groups loosely linked to the sect, which are known collectively as A-salafiyeh al-Jihadiyeh. These extreme groups identify with salafi religious principles but dispute the principle of remaining aloof from political, military and diplomatic involvement.

The best-known of these groups are the Army of Islam and the Army of the Nation. Their ideology recalls the teachings of Al-Qaida, and they flaunt their connections with the latter. While the Army of Islam is clan-based and mainly connected to the Durmush family, the Army of the Nation is gathering numbers largely from people cast out by Hamas and Islamic Jihad because of their extremism.

In an interview with a Palestinian journalist, one of the leaders of the Army of the Nation explained that as far as his followers were concerned, there is no difference between the "military wing" and the "political wing." "They are all soldiers," he explains. These organizations see the need to return to Islam's roots; for example, stoning adulterers, cutting off thieves' hands and whipping people who drink alcohol.

In their view, anyone who is not a believing Muslim should be hounded, even beyond the borders of Palestine and including, of course, Jews and Christians. These are the people assumed to be behind the wave of strikes on Western institutions, from Internet cafes to libraries.

They are also believed to have been behind the grenade attack during a festival organized by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency in Rafah a year and a half ago, where 12-year-old boys and girls appeared together in a traditional dance. The militants consider this "un-Muslim." They reject any kind of agreement with Israel or the West, which explains the statement to the Palestinian reporter by the Army of the Nation leader that "the leaders of Hamas do not believe in Allah."

For its part, Hamas has not remained indifferent to the rise of this ultra-radical group, and is harassing them. The Army of the Nation currently has only a few dozen members, but like the salafis, the ranks are swelling amid the rising poverty, extremism and hatred for Israel and the West.

(one thing the story gets wrong is distinguishing between AoN and AoI; they are tightly linked)

Yes, AoI/AoN make Hamas look sane. Sounds kinda familiar....

When Israel invaded Lebanon (the first time), the PLO was weakened and more extremist groups, including Hamas, filled the gap. Now, Israel will weaken Hamas and....


Anyone who says things can't get worse is simply suffering from a lack of imagination.

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Ah, but you're forgetting that many of Israel's supporters (both jewish & Christian) 'know' what will happen because their bible tells them so.

And its never wrong!

By Robert Jase (not verified) on 04 Jan 2009 #permalink

Mike, I share your worries but I don't think this sort of result is likely. Most Palestinians who have supported Hamas in the last few years have done so because unlike Fatah, Hamas is not nearly as corrupt and is able to deliver basic human services to a minimal extent. But the people doing so will only tolerate so much. I strongly doubt they would tolerate more extreme groups taking power.

Joshua Zelinsky:

That's the beauty of it - you don't need 100% support for political extremists. Just a few percent of popular support is quite enough for them to capture power during crises. And they won't have a lack of volunteers given the current number of civilian casualties from Israel bombings.

By Alex Besogonov (not verified) on 04 Jan 2009 #permalink

Hamas recently legalized crucifixion.

By Rose Colored Glasses (not verified) on 04 Jan 2009 #permalink

You break it, you own it. 'Pottery Barn" fully applies.

If Israel destroys Gaza, the two choices are 1. run it as a colonized territory, where hopefully your people can restore enough order to keep militants from seizing control or 2. return to Israel, wait for the next uprising, re-invade, etc, etc...

I don't think Israel wants to set up government in Gaza, so it looks like for the foreseeable future, the endless deathtrap will replay, over and over again.

Whether its the Salafists, Hamas, or some other faction doesn't matter. If Gaza can't get itself up and running (which is really, really hard to do when you are being periodically invaded and constantly blockaded by a superior military power) the power vacuum will result in more anger against Israel, which will enable the rise of another militant faction, which will result in Israel taking "defensive" measures, which will result get the picture.

Since neither the Gazans or Israel itself want Israel in there setting up infrastructure and governing I don't see any other alternative.

The invasion is bound to follow the same failed trajectory of the invasion of Lebanon. Nothing diplomatic will be accomplished, Israel doesn't want to stay in there forever, and after they leave the rebels will regroup and both sides will be ready for yet more relentless head-banging.

Israel hasn't come forth with any strong leaders who will end the broken record replay, and Gaza seemingly cannot either.

I'm not seeing any light at the end of this tunnel.

So, Israel should let Hamas shoot more rockets to prevent that even more radical terrorist fill the Hamas gap?

Given all the widely-documented assistance that the government of Israel gave Hamas in its early years (attempting to undercut the PLO), the possibility that they - or a faction thereof - may be open to the same gambit again a generation later is non-trivial.

Since numerous administrations in Tel Aviv have consistently chosen the most abrasive policy options regarding the Palestinians, perpetuating the conflict while milking it for all it's worth ($2-3B/yr in federal funding alone) in the US, the idea that Olmert (et alia) might consider rotating their Muslim villains once more seems less improbable than that they have any intention of seeking peace or co-existence.

Either that or Olmert, Livni, the IDF, et alia, are consumed with belligerence and stupidity (an idea I would have dismissed out of hand regarding the leadership of any major nation, before 2001).

HEL: One way to get a man to stop flailing at you with his fist is to release your grip on his throat.

By Pierce R. Butler (not verified) on 04 Jan 2009 #permalink

re: HEL
Great point! No one should discuss short or long term consequences or possibilities ever because Hamas might shoot more rockets. There will be no discussion or questioning of the glorious leaders! All policies are correct! and we have always been at war with Oceania.

Re Pierce Butler

Either that or Olmert, Livni, the IDF, et alia, are consumed with belligerence and stupidity

I find myself in the rather uncomfortable position of being in agreement with Mr. Butler. Olmert, Livni, et al are indeed stupid, incompetent, and corrupt. In this regard, they're not much better then Abbas and Haniyeh.

HEL: One way to get a man to stop flailing at you with his fist is to release your grip on his throat.

Of course, if the grip on his throat is released, he man indeed stop flailing and instead deliver a kick to the gonads.

Using a medical analogy:
Is this a case where the antiseptic applied by the Israelis spares a more virulent and deadly infection.


Is the Israeli actions a warm compress that softens the infected skin and allows the deeper infection to emerge and form a boil that can be lanced.

Time will tell.

Also I read a lot about the 'failed invasion of Lebanon' but the fact is that after the Israelis pulled out the rockets stopped. Which was a declared goal. Also Hezbollah has shifted its efforts into politics to make up for damage its reputation took within Lebanon for causing the Israelis to inflict suffering on groups that didn't start or consent to the fight. This too was a declared goal.

The declarations about the 'failed invasion of Lebanon' start to sound like the old Jewish joke about the food at the resort: 'The food here is poison, poison I tell you. And such small portions'.