America/Europe, Israel, Palestine, Hamas & Democracy
Saturday, 25 February 2006
Shock and amusement are the words that best sum up my feelings regarding the reactions generated in America, Europe and Israel to the electoral victory secured by Hamas in the recent Palestinian elections.
At once, I am shocked and amused by these reactions because they are in stark contrast to what the Americans, the Europeans and yes, the Israelis persistently claim they want and need from Palestinians, from Arabs and the entire Middle East.
I am shocked because America, a country that prides itself as the mother of all that is democratic, and the grandmother of all that is freedom and liberty of all the world, is loathe to see Hamas triumphed at the ballot box in Palestine.
This American, European and Israeli stance, are in complete disregard for the national interests of the people of Palestine, and the fact that Palestine has just had a free and fair election by all accounts. Palestine elections were adjudged to be free of irregularities and fraud, Palestine elections were devoid of acrimonies of the Florida and Ohio types.
Then of course, I am amused, thoroughly amused, because, America and Israel seem to be saying to Hamas, and by extension, to all of Palestine, Be reasonable; do things our way! Be our puppet! America, Europe and Israel seem to only want a puppet, and interloper-interlocutor who will do what he is told? And that will be the democracy in Palestine that is acceptable? A democracy and a leadership that is subject to manipulation.
But who indeed, defines democracy? In Algeria, duly conducted elections were disregarded or nullified, just so, citizens of Algeria with Islamic credentials or manifestoes would not see the light of day, and a chance to implement their political and economic programs. But in America, President Bush’s election was buoyed by the evangelicals and ultraconservative religionists. These social and religious conservatives have been trying vigorously to install conservative justices on the United States Supreme Court they also are the engine room that continues to drive President Bush’s domestic and foreign policies. Whether such policies are social, economic, political or judicial etc
Why is it okay to have the evangelicals drive American public policies, but clerics are for some reason, not allowed to influence policies in Iran, Iraq or Palestine? How about what the locals and the local electorate in Palestine or Haiti want? Only recently, Ambassador Curran, the US former ambassador to Haiti publicly recounted his gory experience in Haiti, how agents of the Bush administration were frustrating the ambassador’s effort to steady democracy in Haiti. The US government armed insurgents, rebels and criminal elements to overthrow the legitimate and constitutional government in Haiti, while the same US government publicly pretended to be interested in democracy in Haiti, according to the former US Ambassador to Haiti. http://query.nytimes.com/search/query?query=former%20US%20ambassador%20to%20Haiti&date_select=full&srchst=nyt And President Aristide was pushed out!
Again, the Islamic Brotherhood in Egypt who sought to attain political power through the ballots box and democracy, were similarly undermined by the Western powers. President Hosni Mubarak has flagrantly announced the suspension of more local elections, soon after his Western friends expressed outrage over the elections of members of the Islamic Brotherhood.
The same financial muscle-flexing against Haiti guaranteed the failure of President Aristide of Haiti, as those who wanted him to fail, guaranteed and ensured his failure with multi-facetted efforts the World Bank approved financial assets were blocked from Haiti
President Bush has during the preceding five years argued and repeatedly stated that his mission was to democratize Iraq, Palestine and in fact, the entire Middle East Arab World, the undiscerning of the world agreed with President Bush pretexts.
And some gullible were sold the Regime Change idea, regime change to enable the installation of democracy in Iraq, and perhaps every where else in the Middle East. Regime Change to get rid of oppressive and corrupt government. Anyone who believed Bush, may have therefore expected many installations or inaugurations of a governments that are transparent and accountable to the people.
Did anyone believe that the United States, under the President Bush administration was indeed interested in exporting democracy? Did anyone believe that the invasion and occupation of Iraq has anything to do with democracy? It is all about strategic interests.
Clearly, anyone who thought that the invasion and occupation of Iraq was a missionary undertaking to install good governance, must now think again! Iraq is spiraling into anarchy and lawlessness. Iraq has no democracy, at least, not at the present time and Iraq cannot therefore serve as any example of anything that resembles democracy. Iraq has this week actually moved closest to civil war and sectarian strife and outright disintegration along the lines of Shiite, Sunni and Kurd
What is worse, in all of these, is the fact that President Bush is apparently not proud of his achievement as an exporter or deliverer of democracy to the Arabs of the Middle East, especially, if such Arabs or Middle Easterners include members of Hamas?
But it would appear that the members of Hamas, have followed the precepts and concepts of power through the ballot box, as instructed by the owners of democracy, freedom and liberty. And Hamas won the hearts of the Palestine electorate. Hamas obeyed all the applicable rules and Hamas prevailed at the polls! What now? Why the blackmail and intimidation of members of Hamas? Why the plan to starve it of funds to ensure its failure and collapse? Why the hurry to visit Palestine with plan obsolescence?
The world is by now familiar with the violence between Palestine and Israel; For over fifty years since the creation of Israel, smack in the center of Arab land and front and center of Palestine country. It is safe to conclude that neither Palestinians nor Israelis are disciples of nonviolent political methodology made famous by Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Neither Palestine nor Israel can claim to have followed the teachings of Mother Teresa. It must be borne in mind that Israel is seen by Palestinians as occupier and usurper of Palestine lands, Israel has never limited itself to lawful tactics, Israel has not been shy to apply aggressive military tactics in Sabra Shatila, or in the West Bank, Gaza, Golan Heights and everywhere else in Palestine and all of the Middle East of Arabia.
Israel has acted too often, outside of legal norms and United Nations conventions and protocols. In fact, Israel has been known, to have historically disregarded UN resolutions, including Nuclear non-proliferation rules, strategic ambiguities and all.
Hamas is reputed for its violent struggle with Israel and even with moderate Arabs. Hamas military wing, engaged in bloody campaigns and a zero sum policy toward Israel, all these, in search of a free Palestine that is not beholden to anyone. Palestine insists they are fighting colonialism and occupation, these are not friendly endeavors worldwide and history is my witness.
Hamas is not all military, and violent in their campaigns for a free Palestine. Hamas has provided social services, including medical services, schools and trainings etc which won the hearts and minds of the average man and woman in Palestine.
Hamas became synonymous with effectiveness and efficiency compared with the established government of the Palestinian Authority administered by the Fatah party, the offspring of the PLO, a brainchild of the late Yasser Arafat
Hamas has now nominated Mr. Haniya to be Prime Minister of Palestine, and all of a sudden there are threats and intimidations emanating from America, Israel and even Europe!
It is a wrong headed policy on the part of the United States, Israel and all others who are attempting to stifle or strangle democracy and governance in Palestine, just because, the ballot box has not produced a puppet or someone that is subject to sundry manipulations.
Hamas won their elections fair and square. Hamas is not accused of any electoral malpractices or frauds. Hamas must be allowed to form a legitimate and constitutional government without outside interference and intermeddling by the United States, Israel and Europe. Israel should unfreeze monies meant for Palestine. In the alternative, Palestine should declare nationhood and create her own currency and institutions!
President Bush should be proud of Hamas for accepting his preachment of democracy. Hamas has embraced constitutionalism and legality. Hamas accepted President Bush's favorite export to the Arabs in the Middle East. Now, who is afraid of democracy or the success of democracy?
It may well be the case that President Bush’s democracy export has worked in Palestine by default. But Hamas now stand as the elected representatives of the people of Palestine and the Americans, the Israelis and Europeans do not have to like that fact, but they must accept it. Accepting Hamas will put to rest, some concerns already expressed regarding the permanent double standards that the Western world frequently indulges in.
Two instances in the past several days stand out clearly. First, David Irvin was convicted in an Austrian court for saying the Holocaust never happened (which of course is contrary to the facts of history and therefore, a ridiculous and absurd thing for David Irvin to say, write or teach. But we must be reminded about freedom of expression and freedom of thought, even if such thoughts or expressions are absurd and illogical!
Soon after, the Mayor Ken Livingstone, mayor of London was suspended for one month beginning on March 1, 2006. Mayor Livingstone was suspended because he used inappropriate and insensitive language in addressing a journalist Mr. Oliver Finegold, who happens to be Jewish. Some have already described the suspension of the Mayor of London, as an overreaction. And they may be right, given the fact that the whole world, particularly Western Europe, have been deriding Muslims for reacting with umbrage to a “mere” cartoons and caricatures of Prophet Muhammad and Islam.
The bulk of the defense of the cartoonists and caricaturists, were hinged on press freedom and freedom of expression. But do these same fine rules of freedom also apply to David Irvin and Ken Livingstone? The world is watching and sees these manipulations and double standards.
Hamas on their part, has now has a very huge responsibility. Hamas must publicly accept peace agreements entered in the past by leaders of Palestine. Hamas must demonstrate to the world in words and actions that they have not engaged in gratuitous violence or violence for its sake! Hamas must reach for the olive branch and declare itself partner with Israel in the peace process.
Hamas elected officials must now emphasize democratic credentials and the value of peaceful negotiations and diplomacy.
Both Israel and Palestine must renounce violence. Targeted killings must stop. Suicide bombing must stop. Israel and Palestine must now give peace a chance.
America, Israel, Europe and the whole world will do well to respect democracy and freedom as expressed through the ballots in Palestine. Hamas members elected by the people of Palestine remain the elected representative of Palestine and that is democracy at work.