This article was last modified on February 2, 2006.


Thoughts on the Palestinian Elections

In the recent Palestinian elections, Hamas secured 42.9% of the popular vote, granting them 74 of the 132 seats in Parliament. What does this mean for Palestine and what does it mean for Israel? What, in other words, is the big picture?

Background

Hamas, until recently, has primarily been a militant group that some would classify as strictly a terrorist organization. Their platform, quite simply, was that Israel should be destroyed or at the very least should return the land they occupy to the Palestinians, as outlined under the British League of Nations mandate. This land would be what we know as the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Hamas and Israel have had no diplomatic relations; their relationship can be summed up as a series of Palestinian suicide bombs and Israel “surgical strikes” (i.e. premeditated murders).

This new development takes Hamas from the guise of “terrorism” to the more official stance of legitimate policy-makers. Their goals will now no longer be limited to independent attacks, but increased to possibly include state-sponsored terror and other intiatives that Hamas deems worthy. The voters certainly took into account the domestic ideas of Hamas as well as the foreign policy, although we will not concern ourselves with that in this space.

Will Israel Be Wiped Off the Map?

If Hamas has the goal of wiping Israel off the map (a goal shared very vocally by the President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and less vocally by a variety of other Muslim and Arab leaders), the simple question is: will they succeed? The answer, of course, is no.

Israel has the unique distinction of being the only Middle Eastern country allowed nuclear arms and extensive military support from the United States and Britain. America provides Israel with a grossly disproportionate amount of miilitary funding and advanced weaponry. The Israeli Air Force, for example, is made up of mostly American planes and outpowers many of the surrounding countries combined. Palestine, with no cohesive governmental structure and minimal support, would stand no chance in a direct battle with Israel (with or without American forces in the fray).

The only way to eliminate Israel militarily would be through a conjoined effort with other Arab nations (such as the aforementioned Iran), a union that would surely guarantee a third World War and ultimately send the Middle East into an even bigger recession than it already finds itself. Iran and Palestine are well aware of these consequences and would have to be truly mad or suicidal to pursue direct military force.

The Crisis of Democracy

In 1975, the Trilateral Commission released a report known as “The Crisis of Democracy” (which is now available through New York University Press). One of the ideas highlighted in this report by Noam Chomsky (and others) is that pure democracy will only lead to problems for a country’s elite. Allowing the poor, the minorities and the women to vote will skew the results in a direction that will not keep the status quo of the nation. Chomsky, a believer in direct democracy, abhors this idea and has taken issue with the report on numerous occasions.

This is where Chomsky and I differ. While I am not opposed to women and minorities voting (disenfranchising them would only further exascerbate the ruin of this country), I can see where allowing everyone an equal voice has its problems. The vote for Hamas is now a primary example. Without some standard for a right to vote (such as being properly educated on the issues rather than picking a name that sounds vaguely familair), we leave elections up to chance, hearsay and pure emotion. The win by Hamas can only be seen as a “gut vote” rather than a thought-out decision. Surely no one in their right mind believes that an organization devoted primarily to destruction has their best interests in mind? (Do we really believe in America a political party focused on a foreign war cares one way or another about the welfare of the people they are sworn to protect?)

Why Foreign Support Should Continue

Yet, despite the people voting against their best interests (as people often do) and the government becoming possibly little more than a terrorist organization with more comfortable chairs, both America and other nations should continue their financial support for the time being. That is, until the nation can rightfully be declared a terrorist state. Why? Two reasons.

One, it is unfair to equate the people of a country with the government that represents them. If 42% voted for Hamas, this means that 58% voted against Hamas. So they cannot be said to have the majority opinion. Compare America, where Bush won 51% of the vote. Not only does this mean that 49% of the voting population was against him, but what of the millions of non-voters as well? If only a third of a country votes and you capture a half of that third, you’re really only speaking on behalf of that small group – a group, as suggested above, that probably was not even fully educated on their decision. So the point I am trying to drive home is that to cut off the humanitarian aid to the Palestinians would be an insult to their humanity, saying both that they don’t count and that their democracy doesn’t matter.

Two, we as a country have pushed for the idea of democracy. And while I dislike the concept of democracy, I feel that a country should stand by its promises and its values. Encouraging a group to vote democratically and then shunning them when they do what you ask is pure hypocrisy. (Although America has a long history of overthrowing democratically-elected leaders, most notably Chilean leader Salvador Allende, and possibly someday Hugo Chavez, so we’re hardly true to our word.) Until Hamas makes a move that would brand the Palestinian government as a rogue state, support should continue. And even then, humanitarian aid should not be reduced if at all possible.

Conclusion

If history has shown any trend, the future of the Middle East is both predictable and unfortunate. Hamas will inevitably strike against Israel, and Israel will retaliate. This back-and-forth will escalate, and the Palestinians will suffer more in the coming years than ever before. Some will argue they “deserved” it, setting this self-destruction device into motion. But when do human lives ever deserve to be snuffed out without reason?

Peace in the Middle East is possible and will someday come to pass. Unfortunately it was the supposed cure — democracy — that has single-handedly sent relations in the region back twenty years. As the Parker Brothers might say, “Do not pass go; do not collect $200.” Welcome to arrested development.

Also try another article under Political
or another one of the writings of Gavin.

Leave a Reply