Someone posted an interesting comment in response to my post on the downside of democracy.
This election presents some very interesting issues and questions for the West. If Hamas is to be "ignored"; then on what basis? Are some voters better than others? Can the result of a fair election be ignored if we don't like them? If we can do that in this case, when do we do it again? Nope, this is not going to be dismissed with a wave of anybody's hand.
Can the results of a fair election be ignored? Well, it depends on what you mean by ignored. This is not a simple question. In fact, I am not so sure I would have asked it in this particular way. A better question is to ask "how should we deal with Hamas, now that they are the government?" The question is still not simple, but the assumption that anyone is ignoring them is now removed. We are left with a less biased question.
The rise of Hamas to power is not unlike that of the Nazis. During the Depression, the Germans were quite desperate. They laboured under the tough restrictions of the Treaty of Versailles. They were a socially humiliated and economically damaged people. The Nazis gained a majority government, and when they fell to a minority, Hitler was made Chancellor.
Now consider the conditions surrounding the election of Hamas. One could very easily argue that the Palestinians are a similarly humiliated and damaged group. Like the Germans, they are desperate. Unlike the Germans, they elected Hamas in a possible attempt to punish Fatah. However, both groups incorrectly felt that an extremist group was their best avenue to success as a nation (or potential nation). I could also point out that both extremist groups are profoundly anti-Semitic, but I am not so certain that this feature is particularly relevant to their inadequacy for government (Holocaust and hate for Israel notwithstanding).
In the case of the Nazis, we have the benefit of hindsight. Because we know what happened, it is easy to argue that they should never have been in power at all. Were we to live at the time, however, I am sure we would find ourselves faced with a very different reality. Europe, like most of the world today, was desperate for peace. They therefore collectively turned a blind eye to the obvious problems of the Nazi Party. By showing peace to someone who was clearly their enemy, war could be avoided.
Only a handful of people recognized the fact that someone who does not share your societal values, someone who does not want peace, someone who hates and resents your very existence, cannot be trusted. The overwhelming majority of people in Europe were fooled by the Nazis.
It is this critical misstep that I think should be considered when we deal with Hamas. Regardless of the fact they were elected, like the Nazi Party, Hamas does not desire peace. Their government is bent on the obliteration of their neighbour, Israel. They do not consider us their friend and will never do so, regardless of how many olive branches we extend. Israel is our friend and ally; if Hamas is set against her, then it is our duty as friend and ally to stand up for her. As our ally, she is our primary responsibility, not Hamas.
A democratic election, while it may create a new government, does not create a new friend. Allies are created by their actions and policies. If a government holds policies that are contrary to our own, then we are not obliged to ally ourselves with them. Countries, much like people, are not handed international respect on a silver platter. It must be earned. If Hamas desires the respect of Western nations, then they must turn from their terrorist ways and learn to negotiate in what I can only call a mature and professional manner.
Having said this, I would like to add that I think it is critical that we work with Hamas as long as we can. It is important that this government be encouraged as much as possible to put down their terrorist ways and embrace peace and diplomacy. It certainly can happen, eventhough I am sure it will take a lot of work on all sides. I cannot stress enough that I think the burden of proof rests with Hamas. Their policies are well known. For us to simply trust them to do the best thing would be incredibly naive.