QGOs “Quasi-Governmental Organizations”

This is a roughed out versions of comments that will be edited later, when I have more time.Over the weekend of August 5th and 6th, 2006, as news broadcasts highlighted the diplomatic efforts around the U. N. Cease Fire Resolution, someone commented on the United States refusal to talk to Syria and Iran and Hezbollah and Hamas. That was said to hamper diplomatic efforts, and threaten the implementation of any cease fire. The New York Times published the entire text of the resolution (link to be added).

There are two problems here (only two?!)–for the sake of making my point, at least. One is a problem for U.S. diplomacy that does try to resolve problems with the dictatorship in North Korea by indirect participation in regional meetings. The U.S., in the Middle East, talks only to its friends–Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey, Jordan, and Israel, Lebanon–and through them tries to talk to Iran and Syria. Only at Oslo, for the Oslo accords, were any NGO organizations included in the discussions. I’m referring to the sub rosa inclusion of Hajj Faisal al Husseini, the “mukhtar” of East Jerusalem, as well as the more obvious inclusion of the PLO, represented by Yasser Arafat.

Village life in the Arab world, as in many other parts of the world, is organized in what might be understood as a patronage system. It is part of Islam, that when a person is asked to provide for the needs of someone else, if he (or she) is able to do so, he or she is obligated to do so. The flow of assistance in a village or tribal settlement flows through one person, the village “mukhtar.” This enhancement of the role of the tribal leader is someone who negotiates on behalf of the village, dispenses welfare, raises troops if needed, and does many other things. In East Jerusalem, when I was there, this role was once again “enhanced” in the person of Faisal al-Husseini, who had no elective power, but was the de facto ruler of East Jerusalem and the surrounding area. As such, he was invited to Oslo. As such, when Israel felt he had overstepped, they would start to make noises about shutting down “Government House,” apparently a metaphor for unseating Faisal al-Husseini. An American(US) friend and I walked up to Government House one day, asking to see Faisal al-Husseini. We were politely told that he was out of town; that was probably true. And then we were given a tour of the building and grounds. First, we saw al-Husseini’s reception chamber, which looked designed for a ritualized approach of supplicants and the dispensations by al-Husseini. Then we saw some of the offices which dealt with social service problems. As al-Husseini ran Government House, it was not a war-making machine. I suspect that he had knowledge of various rebellious initiatives, and could exercise some control by recalling loans, talking to combatants, etc. Whether at any one time he chose to do so, was part of his principled and yet unpredictable power. This was not democracy, but for occupied East Jerusalem, it was government.

Within this system, good students would get scholarships, widows would get support for their families, orphaned children got placement. The weak point was schools; there were a number of private schools in East Jerusalem; some of them were run by Roman Catholic orders. There was no real public school system–as such systems are designed to educate citizens of democracies?

Hamas, and now Hezbollah, are beloved by the people of Gaza or Lebanon because of their social services, and fervently supported for their military results as an outgrowth of this role of the (arab village) Mukhtar. What one does with a mukhtar is negotiate. He speaks for the village.

The U.S. and European countries are not familiar with negotiating with NGOs, which is essentially what Hamas and Hezbollah are. Would we negotiate with the International Red Cross for favorably treatment of claims against the U.S. under the Geneva Conventions? Would the IRC raise an army to enforce the Geneva Conventions? Neither is seen, in the western world, as a legitimate function of a non-governmental agency, an NGO. Yet we do recognize their interest in various ongoing problem-solving efforts between countries.

<>Both Hamas and Hezbollah have been democratically elected into their respective governments, which means they are a recognized part of the political process. Whether an organization that replaces the village leader, the mukhtar, but (sort of) serves in a government organized in a nation-state pattern, should also be a negotiating partner is a sticky problem in conceptualization. It was solved at Oslo by secretly including Faisal al-Husseini, de facto mukhtar of East Jerusalem. Oslo, while ultimately overreaching, did bring 10 years of comparative stability to Israel and her neighbors, with concomitant economic benefits. Was Faisal al-Husseini at Camp David, which was the most recent best hope, other than unilateral action, for peace in the region? I will check this out. I do suspect that Arafat envied al-Husseini’s power; he began to describe himself as descended from the Husseinis, though his claim to be a citizen of Jerusalem, let alone a Husseini, rested on a very slim foundation.

Hamas and Hezbollah, precisely because they function in ways that unify fighting and social services, are quasi-governmental organizations, and should be included in some fashion in cease-fire and peace negotiations. If they do not make the peace, they have many ways to destroy it.