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Goldberg Lectures: Israel-Palestinians
Irv Jacobs


Scholar anticipates Hamas will
hudna, then try to arm itself, April 7, 2006

Goldberg on Israeli elections
Goldberg on Iran

LA JOLLA, Calif.—A favorite speaker for over 20 years among San Diego Jewish audiences, Israeli Professor of Political Science Jacob Goldberg  gave a series of three lectures during the week of April 3 at the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center in the La Jolla section of San Diego..  His second lecture, Tuesday evening, April 4, addressed “The Isreeli-Palestinian Clash – Towards Settlement or Escalation.”
His lecture focused on Hamas’ surprise victory in the Palestinians’ January elections, in which Hamas won 74 of 132 of the parliamentary seats, a clear majority for that terrorist organization. 
Goldberg confided that behind the scenes the weak Palestinian Authority (PA) officials urged Israel to stop Hamas from participating at all.  With Hamas’ open goal of Israel’s destruction, a Hamas strong showing was neither in the interest of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah, the West, nor the UN.  At the same time, no group expected Hamas to win more than 40-45 percent of the seats.
The determining factor, Goldberg related with disappointment, was the Bush administration’s “blunder” of exerting pressure to let Hamas participate.  This was based upon Bush’s goal of “spreading democracy” to the Middle East and a “conventional wisdom” that even terrorists, once responsible to an electorate, will moderate their stance for the practical reason of retaining voter appeal.  Such a thesis has never been shown to work out, as witness Afghanistan under the Taliban, Sudan in the 1980’s, and the ever-worsening situation in Iran,  In the case of Hamas, founded in 1987 as a “branch” of the radical Muslim Brotherhood Organization (MBO), destruction of Israel is a primary element in its charter, unlikely to be removed.
The world until recently has opposed political legitimacy for defined terrorist groups.  The consensus has been that if elected, terrorists would gain undeserved legitimacy and likely would proceed to dismantle the very democratic institution that elected them, such as occurred in  Nazi Germany.  Accordingly the Brotherhood has been banned or at least greatly suppressed in various Muslim elections, as in Egypt and Algeria.  Even the UN had agreed with this, according to Goldberg.
Goldberg explained that with the majority election of Hamas, the Israeli-Palestinian equation has been converted from a conflict over nationalism to one over religion.  The PLO, founded in 1964, expressed a nationalistic goal in its charter, namely to regain "Arab land.” Yassar Arafat was a secular leader.  To Hamas, Israel is "Islamic land.”
The MBO was founded in 1928, in the wake of the Ottoman Empire’s collapse after World War I.  That era, after the West’s division of the Empire into multiple secular states, represented the first time in some six centuries when an Islamic religious state did not exist.  The mullahs’ desire to restore a clergy-controlled society resulted in the formation of the Brotherhood.  Over the decades since, various branches of the MBO in the several Muslim countries had tried unsuccessfully to gain control of the countries, generally with violent means.  In the few places where they won elections (never more than 15 percent of legislative seats), they were voided or suppressed by the controlling king or dictator, as in Algeria and Egypt.  In Turkey, The MBO won elections in 2005, but the military, per a constitutional escape feature inserted by Ataturk in 1921 at Turkey’s founding, stepped in to void the MBO’s control.  Goldberg pointed out that the MBO is a Sunni organization, and in fact except in Iran and Iraq, Sunnis are the heavily prevalent sect of Islam.  Sunnis comprise 90 percent of the 1.2 billion Muslims in the world.  Al-Qaeda is a Sunni organization.
Generally the militant MBO’s various branches in the Muslim world have refused to participate in elections, but in January’ elections they saw opportunity to use a new strategy— to take over the Palestinian enterprise from within.  Bush’s “blunder” gave them their opportunity, helped greatly by the Palestinians’ disgust with the corruption of the Palestinian Authority from the time of Arafat.  Hamas’ successful social programs for the Palestinians in contrast to those of the failed PA, mitigated its openly violent stance toward Israel, which had provoked retaliation upon them.
Unfortunately, both the European Union (EU) and the USA, despite their recognition of Hamas as terrorists, encouraged its participation in the January elections without a prior promise that it renounce violence, recognize Israel, and accept the prior signed agreements by the PA.  It is only after the elections that they make such demands, a rather naïve position.
Goldberg posed the current dilemma over the unknown future Palestinian direction, namely “How will Hamas behave?”  Fatah’s Chairman Abbas still controls the PA, and ostensibly its military and its money.  Abbas believes that if Hamas doesn’t change its hostile stance in the eyes of the world, he as executive can dissolve the parliament and order new elections.  Under that scenario, it would be hoped that the Palestinian electorate would see its error in January and not make the same mistake again.   A worldwide boycott of the Palestinian economy would support such a development.  Unfortunately donor states have supported the Palestinians for decades, despite their hostility to Israel, their intifadas, and their habit of siphoning off large amounts of the funding to private bank accounts.  Goldberg said the West has maintained an ironic attitude that if it does not give money to the Palestinians, they’ll “become radical.”
On the other hand, what Hamas seems to want to do is to extend a hudna (temporary cease fire), during which time it would “arm itself to the teeth,” only to attack Israel later. The hudna, Goldberg explained, was a strategy stated by Mohammed himself in the 7th Century.  When he was weak, he made a truce only to violate it later when he became stronger than his adversary.
Israel meanwhile will play a watchful game for at least a few months. Goldberg said. Should it accept a hudna, even for a while?  How can it keep the USA and the EU firm and vigilant against terrorism?  What is the best way to ensure a message to Palestinians that the election of Hamas was an error?  Which Palestinian competing group will ultimately control its police and army?  If the Palestinians were to become a valid negotiating partner, Israel could resume participation in the suspended Bush "road map."  If not, Israel will discontinue its withdrawal policy, complete the separation fence, and continue to dominate militarily.
Goldberg, a Ph. D. professor of political science at the Dayan Center of the Middle East, of Tel Aviv University, first lectured at UCSD and the JCC over 20 years ago.  He regularly returns to San Diego. to lecture.  As has become typical, he attracted for this lecture an estimated crowd of over 300, and gave a detailed lucid account practically without notes.  At a Q&A period following the lecture, he fielded questions for a half-hour, and numerous listeners collared him privately further before he left the premises.