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This diary might have a fairly narrow appeal, so disregard it at your leisure. I thought I would put it up anyhow, because it's news, and it pertains to the politics of conflict resolution.

I just got back from the filming of this month's installation of "The Doha Debates" a series of debates held here that are broadcast by BBC World. Each month, a proposition is put forth in the form of a statement. Four panelists, moderated by Tim Sullivan, then debate the proposition and at the end the audience votes to accept or reject the proposal.

This month's proposal was "This House believes that the international community must accept Hamas as a political partner".

Now I don't usually like to talk about the Israel/Palestine thing. I mostly gave up spending breath on it years ago, convinced that nobody in charge is really acting in good faith.

I went anyhow tonight, because I wanted to see who was speaking (it's always a surprise), and because this proposal is about something much larger than the Israeli/Palestinian peace process. It's about a core aspect of conflict resolution... being willing to talk to your enemies.

First of all security was very tight, and no photos were allowed this time (sorry folks) except by the official press. There was a failed attempt at a suicide bombing across the border in Saudi a couple of days ago, and the security people have been extra vigilant ever since. One of the queens was in attendance as well, Sheikha Mozah, so they took extra care.

The debate was filmed before a live audience (that would be me!) and the panelists consisted of two Jews and two Muslims, with one member of each faith group arguing for and against the proposal. The panelists were two professors, a lawyer, and David Frum of the American Enterprise Institute, a former Bush speechwriter and neocon minor entity whose greatest contribution to civilization thus far has been to coin the phrase "Axis of Evil".

Frum of course argued against dealing with Hamas. He was actually pretty clever, though slippery. He got slammed hard a few times though, by both the other panelists and the crowd itself at question and answer time. I have to give the guy credit though... it was a tough topic and a tougher audience, but he showed up.

I wanted to bring this up here, because it's about conflict resolution. The proposal was about whether or not to accept Hamas as a legitimate political entity, now that they've won an election. So often on this particular issue and others, people are unwilling to even sit down and talk to the other side.

It's not about whether or not you agree with the other side, approve of them or trust them. It's about whether or not you'll sit down and talk to them, or work together on resolving differences. The premises presented against the proposal, based upon Hamas' known record of violence, failed to take into account the fact that they are the only game in town that counts. If you can't make peace with them, there will be no peace, period.

In any conflict, if we marginalize or ostracize those with whom we most disagree, not much progress can be made, because those are exactly the people with whom we need to be talking.

I won't get into all the arguments presented for and against, you can see it yourself on BBC World March 4th and 5th if you're so inclined. At the end the proposal passed by 88%(for) to 11% (against).

I met Frum afterward, and squabbled with him a little bit myself, but then I cracked a joke, made him laugh, shook his hand and sincerely thanked him for coming to face a tough crowd in the Gulf. I mean afterall, if you can't talk civilly with your enemies, then how can you expect to ever make progress towards peace?

Originally posted to mosesfreeman on Sun Feb 26, 2006 at 01:13 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I never touched a real live Neocon before (4.00)
    should I wash my hand with Lysol?
    •  Definitly wash (4.00)
      You were very gracious and hopefully that attitude can rub off on him.  I have been puzzled by the Hamas hysterics.  I saw the election as a way to get Hamas to normalize and become a solution, not a problem.  The real world of governing is significantly different from the terror business and I don't think the rest of the world would even have to force the issue, I think the governing would just evolve from the responsibility of running a country.
      •  I agree (none)
        Now is the best chance that either Hamas or the Israelis have had in a long time to put this crap behind them. I figure if you marginalize or undermine them (Hamas), it's back to square one again.

        Not that I trust them as far as I can throw them of course, I don't. But that isn't the point. There won't be any peace until Hamas finds something better to do than throw bombs.

        •  These are the (none)
          things that make me feel naive and stupid when it comes to politics and news.  This seems like such a win-win situation for Palistine and the world, I cannot understand the objections and fear mongering.
          •  You're not naive and stupid (none)
            It seems like a win-win situation because you're not greedy and conflicted.

            I wish we could chuck out all of the "leaders" and have the people negotiate directly. Maybe a huge pot-luck or something, or massive citizen/student exchange program.

    •  Or boiling oil, perhaps (4.00)
      Actually, in some sense, saying things like this probably constitutes marginalizing or dehumanizing the other side.

      Anyway, thanks for this diary.  I really appreciate it when folks here report news that we're not going to hear about anywhere else.  Of course, this won't stay up very long because this community often does exactly what we criticize the MSM for - flooding "air time" with redundant pieces about one hot topic (currently the port deal) so that other important topics get washed away.

      "Irony is the stickiest substance known to Man," I always say.

      Progressives encourage dissent to improve society through constructive engagement. Conservatives encourage dissent to identify and silence the traitors.

      by sxwarren on Sun Feb 26, 2006 at 01:41:10 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yes, you are right (4.00)
        My comment was snark... but it did nothing to advance the cause of understanding. I just can't resist here on DKos though... in real life I'm a nicer guy. Must be the bright orange background or something. Anyhow I'm sorry.

        Yeah, this isn't earth-shattering or anything of course, but I think it's important to report first-hand anything interesting that we see. You never know what might become important later, and it makes us more of a "news" site if we do it.

        •  To snark or not to snark? (none)
          Personally, that's almost as tough as Hamlet's dilemma for me.  

          Actually, I started thinking about this during the Great Cartoon Debate when someone here mentioned that in Islam (or in certain interpretations of the Koran, at least), snarking on someone is considered a "sin" for this very reason - that it tends to polarize and undermine constructive dialog.

          Someone also mentioned that the prohibition in the Hadith against producing any images of Muhammed was to prevent idol worship - the elevation of icon over meaning - kind of what flag-burning prohibitions would do - elevate the importance of the icon of the flag over the meaning of the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

          Both of these revelations enhanced my respect for the wisdom of Islam.

          Progressives encourage dissent to improve society through constructive engagement. Conservatives encourage dissent to identify and silence the traitors.

          by sxwarren on Sun Feb 26, 2006 at 02:12:23 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Bearded Arabs 1; American ladies 0 (none)
    The Daily Star has a good article on not just Hamas, but the political climate in the Middle East in general.

    Not surprisingly, the trend of public opinion and political sentiments on the ground throughout the Middle East has been in favor of mainstream Islamists who simultaneously accept democratic pluralism, defy the U.S., resist Israeli occupation and colonization, and demand less corruption and more efficient governance at home. So Hamas, Hizbullah, the Muslim Brotherhood and movements like Sadr's are winning elections, even when America-friendly governments such as Egypt's restrict their freedom of movement.

    It is not a matter of if we will accept Hamas, but when. The longer we ignore  them, the less influence we will have in the region and the more hard-core they will be to U.S. and Israeli interests.

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