The international reaction to the Palestinians’ choice of Hamas to lead their “government” illuminates both the absurdity and the desperation of the Palestinians’ situation. The irony, as they say in Hollywood, is simply dripping.
The editor of Lebanon’s Daily Star wrote that the Palestinians have elected “the most legitimate political leadership in the Arab world, because it is the only one to be voted in through a free and fair election monitored by the international community”. (1)
Why was this breakthrough for democracy in the Middle East met with a wave of fear and loathing in the US-aligned world?
Reason 1: Hamas stands accused of killing perhaps 400 Israelis, some with suicide bombings. Fair enough. When it targeted Israeli civilians, Hamas committed crimes against humanity that cannot be condoned.
What can be condoned is Israel’s killing of at least 25,000 Palestinians in the Territories, Lebanon, and elsewhere, with aerial bombardments, missile attacks, calculated massacres, sniper shots, white phosphorus, tear gas suffocations, and other methods too numerous to list here. (2-4)
Reason 2: Hamas must “renounce violence” before it can become a “partner for peace” with Israel.
Hamas has carefully observed the “calm” negotiated by Sharon and Abbas at Sharm el-Sheikh a year ago. Independent of that agreement, Hamas has changed its policy to limit anti-civilian attacks to the most extreme circumstances.
Meanwhile, the Israeli army has committed thousands of violations of the Sharm el-Sheikh agreement. It continues its daily “operations” in and against the occupied West Bank and/or Gaza Strip, during which Palestinian civilians, often children, are routinely killed.
So this is the new challenge we all face, to bring these “men of violence” from Hamas up to the standards of Israel. Then the Palestinians may finally qualify for that peace that everyone would dearly love to give them, if only they weren’t Arabs, in Israel’s way, and so disinclined to move.
Reason 3: Hamas must learn that a political party cannot have an armed wing
unless the armed wing operates under the auspices of a government approved by the United States. Consider the recent history of US-sponsored wars in Central America, in which right-wing political parties operated vicious death squads with covert US support.
Or take the recent elections in Iraq, which were greeted on both sides of the Atlantic as a giant leap forward for all things good and consumable in the Middle East. They featured Shia factions connected to the leadership of the notoriously corrupt Interior Ministry, which is largely funded and trained by the US and Britain. Prior to the vote, we read several reports exposing the death squads and networks of secret prisons and torture chambers that were, and presumably still are, being run out of the Interior Ministry. (5,6)
Did we question these political parties’ legitimacy? Of course not. They were to be commended for “following the democratic process”.
Reason 4: Hamas must recognize Israel’s right to exist.
And when will Israel recognize Palestine’s right to exist? Israel says it could swallow a Palestinian state (perhaps literally), provided it survives the “peace process” and earns Israel’s seal of approval. Until then, Israel forbids the Palestinians to form their own state.
On other hand, Israel’s Zionist founders had every right to seize Palestinian lands and unilaterally declare the State of Israel in 1948, an act that also torpedoed the “peace process” of its day.
No one mentions that Hamas has already made a practical admission of Israel’s “right to exist”. Many Hamas leaders have held that a Palestinian state based on international law could live next to Israel, either in peace or in a ‘very long’ state of truce, while Hamas indefinitely deferred its demand that Israel cease its attempt at becoming a “Jewish state”.
If our leaders were actually interested in a solution, they would seize on this opening to try to build a working agreement. Instead, they deliberately ignore the opportunity. They would rather kick the Palestinian people in the gut for daring to embarrass them at their own “democracy” game.
By most accounts and statistics, when Palestinians went to the polls on January 25 they were worse off than they have been for many years, perhaps since Israel’s thirty-nine year-old war of occupation began. Two-thirds of Gaza and nearly one-half of the West Bank are now living in abject poverty, at economic levels rivaling those of sub-Saharan Africa. Malnutrition has become endemic in the Territories.
The Palestinian economy has been decimated by the security fence-cum-Annexation Wall, by the theft and destruction of thousands of acres of Palestinian farm land, by the daily strangulation of hundreds of Israeli checkpoints, by Israel’s appropriation of four-fifths of the West Bank’s water-the list is long. Meanwhile, the CIA/State Department-trained Palestinian Authority has been bleeding growing tides of red ink, partly into its own pockets, partly in a vain attempt to buy the allegiance of its many employees, and it teeters on the brink of financial collapse.
Now the Palestinians have hired the famously competent and corruption-resistant technocrats from Hamas to finally clean up the PA and make it tend to the needs of the people.
What better moment for Israel, the US, the European Union, the World Bank, and all the other enlightened moneybags of the world to simultaneously pull the plug on Palestine?
This is not diplomacy. It is a conspiracy to enforce a state of siege against a civilian population by adding economic strangulation to Israel’s military occupation. It’s an illegal exercise in collective punishment calculated to exploit the desperate financial straits of the Palestinian people to rapidly extort major concessions from Hamas.
This act, carried off as if a benign dose of strong medicine were being administered to a deranged child, is a disturbing indication that this train may not have any brakes at all. It is chilling to watch the international community baldly play the economic disaster of the Palestinian people like a poker chip for Israel.
With everyone’s blessing, Israel is refusing even to pass the Palestinians’ own taxes back to them. This international piracy clearly illustrates the illegitimate status of the stateless Palestinian Authority. Chartered by the defunct Oslo Accords, the PA is little more than a contingent appendage of its occupying master, the state of Israel.
Now President Abbas, conspiring with Egypt and perhaps Israel and the US, has added another poison pill. He is demanding that Hamas also accept all prior agreements between the PA and Israel. This would include the Oslo Accords, which Hamas has always rejected as a matter of unyielding principle-and long before Oslo became universally despised.
Under the circumstances, it would be logical for Hamas and the Palestinian people to conclude that for their own survival they must finally cast off the hateful PA and declare their own nation state. At least a state would be able to manage its own funds. It could raise taxes without being forced to pay them to Israel, and it could receive international aid directly, instead of at the mercy of Israeli courts and politicians.
At last, the international community would have its two-state solution. Way to go, diplomats.
1) No American perplexity needed on Hamas
Rami G. Khouri, Daily Star, 2/1/2006
2) Pity The Nation
Robert Fisk, Oxford University Press, New Edition, 2001
3) The Hidden History of Zionism
Ralph Schoenman, Veritas Press, 1988
4) Traces of poison
Salman Abu-Sitta, Al-Ahram Weekly Online, 27 Feb. – 5 March 2003
5) UK, US aid funds Iraqi torture units
The Observer, 7/3/2005
6) Revealed: grim world of new Iraqi torture camps
The Observer, 7/3/2005