30 January 2008

Hamas's Gaza debacle - yes, and yet...

In his latest article Hamas's Phony Victory professor Barry Rubin of GLORIA Center tells the story of Hamas' latest failures:

Imagine a very secret meeting held somewhere in the Gaza Strip. Around a table sit various Hamas bigwigs and their leader makes the following speech:

"Ok, here's the plan. We'll wage war on our stronger neighbor, Israel, and lose; destroy our economy; make our people suffer; ensure international sanctions continue against us, and alienate almost all Arab regimes. Then, when things can't seem to get any worse, we'll turn out all the lights and get international sympathy!"
And he is right on all five counts. And yet...

Hamas indeed seems to be losing its war. The economy, what there was of it before the putsch, is thoroughly destroyed, leaving room for progress only for rocket science, Gazans suffer grievously indeed (a good part of them undeservedly), international sanctions (or at least the official attitude to those) are in place and the last meeting of Arab leaders was largely critical on Hamas.

But while prof. Rubin acknowledges (more or less) the inroads Hamas' propaganda made in the Western press, he sees this success as unimportant. Unfortunately, I have more than just gut feeling telling me the opposite.

Arafat's Fatah learned to use the language of images - fake or otherwise - to their advantage, and their Gazan "heirs", Hamas, do their best to improve on the technique. To use the "easy" example, the poster boy Muhammad Al Durah that was (still is) one of the main exhibits on the totem pole of the Intifada, but many others as well. Of course, the messages were sown in the fertile soil of generally anti-Israeli Muslim world and the Western fellow travelers, but no mistake about their potency.

The images are not addressed to the powers that be (also even the powers are influenced by their undeniable impact). The images are not aimed at a short-range goal. And the images don't even have to be true.

Hamas learned that the reasoning, the truth and the logic are all unimportant in the long run. They know that the images stay in our memory long after the logic, the reasoning and the truth are forgotten. Images, like nothing else, consolidate the myths, and there is hardly a social entity - well, a nation, that is not based on myths.

In the latest round of images: the insidious candles, the children trying to study in the darkness, the hungry people breaking through the border for food (that they succeeded to empty the Egyptian stores of electronics as well is a lesser matter), the queues for bread - all this has already entered the "treasure" of Palestinian and, indeed, Muslim folklore to stay there for years to come. And eroding whatever there remains of skeptical and realistic outlook.

Hamas is not in a hurry. They know very well that it takes years to sway the public, especially in the West and to make the public to fully accept their version of reality (or unreality, no matter). Even when the public and many of the media outfits seem to lap up their story quite readily. As a reminder - see the review by Soccer Dad.

So, while Hamas is in trouble, the wench is far from being dead. Hamas is kicking, and quite vigorously. To disregard this aspect of its activities would be a folly.

Cross-posted on Yourish.com.