To argue, as David Yerushalmi does, that Hamas’s victory shows “the fallacy of the democracy thesis,” one would have to first establish that the Palestinian Authority is a democracy. It isn’t just yet; as Glenn Reynolds is fond of repeating, democratization is a process, not an event. If, as Yerushalmi speculates, Hamas proceeds to “eliminate any real democratic limits on tyranny by simply eliminating or reducing to a caricature the democratic institutions,” then the democratization process will have failed. But Hamas’s victory shouldn’t scare us off from the goal of completing that process.
Democratic politics are critical to the political evolution that will kill off bin Ladenism, and it isn’t surprising that the evolution of Islamic activism should start off from an ugly place (“Latin American anti-Yanquism on speed,” as Reuel Marc Gerecht puts it). That doesn’t mean that this evolution isn’t possible. Contra Yerushalmi, national character is not a static quality: Anti-Semitism and militarism were no less fundamentally German 100 years ago than radicalism is fundamentally Palestinian today.
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