Palestinian Authority President Yasir Arafat stunned the world yesterday by demanding that the United States hold democratic elections for a new Chief Executive before it attempts to continue in its role as broker between Israel and Palestine.
"Mr. Bush is tainted by his association with Jim-Crow-style selective disenfranchisement and executive strong-arm tactics in a southeastern province controlled by his brother," said Mr. Arafat, who was elected with 87% of the vote in 1996 elections in the West Bank and Gaza, declared to be free and fair by international observers, including former U.S. president Jimmy Carter. "Our count shows that he would have lost the election if his associates hadn’t deprived so many thousands of African-Americans, an oppressed minority, of the right to vote. He is not the man to bring peace to the Middle East."
Hugo Chavez, elected president of Venezuela with 62% of the popular vote, concurred with Mr. Arafat. Chavez has long been a victim of Bush’s anti-democratic attitude, as the Bush administration funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars through the "National Endowment for Democracy" to anti-Chavez forces and reportedly gave the go-ahead for an attempted military coup by those forces. "After it was over and I was back in power," said Chavez, "his administration actually told me ‘legitimacy is not conferred by a majority vote.’ Unless, of course, it’s a majority of the Supreme Court. I respect the local traditions, however quaint, of the United States, but he hardly sets the best example for the Middle East, does he? Why don’t we get back to that idea of an international conference to settle the question of Palestine?"
Bush was not without his supporters, however. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, elected head of a country that legally discriminates among its citizens on the basis of religious belief, forbids political candidates from advocating an end to that discrimination, and disenfranchises an entire people through military occupation, dismissed the call as "absurd."
Hamid Karzai, recently "elected" head of Afghanistan by a grand council, or "loya jirga," in which a foreign body, controlled by the United States, selected delegates; unelected warlords who had ravaged the country were permitted to control the meeting and to threaten delegates who refused to vote their way; and the U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, refused to allow at least two other candidates to stand for election, added his support for Mr. Bush in his hour of need. Said Karzai, "In Afghanistan, we have the loya jirga. In the United States, you have your own process — as we understand, it’s traditional over there for corporations to play a large part in electing officials and writing legislation. We’re very interested in looking into that kind of system ourselves."
Vojislav Kostunica, chosen head of Yugoslavia in an election where the United States spent an estimated $25 million to influence the results, was also keen to rush to Bush’s defense, indicating that he saw no procedural problems with the 2000 elections.
And Mahathir Mohamad of Malaysia, long derided for his claim that "Asian culture" is at odds with universal human rights, added, "The elections are strictly an internal matter, and should have no bearing on the status of the United States as a broker. The Palestinians’ high-handedness is a serious threat to national independence."
In a surprise move, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, long an ally of the United States, supported Arafat’s call, saying, "While we’re at it, let’s take another look at our agreement on American independence. George Washington was not only unelected, he did rather associate with terrorists. Benedict Arnold would have been a much more suitable partner for peace, n’est ce pas?"
Arafat, busy working on a plan to find a new Israeli leader not tainted with the massacre of hundreds of innocents in Sabra and Shatila to negotiate with, could not be reached for further comment.
Rahul Mahajan is the Green Party candidate for Governor of Texas and author of "The New Crusade: America’s War on Terrorism," (Monthly Review Press, April 2002). He serves on the National Board of Peace Action and is a founding member of the Nowar Collective.