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The Hamas Election Victory PDF Print E-mail
Feb 19, 2007 at 11:33 PM

cover for The Hamas Election VictoryWhat has changed? What remains the same?

The vitality of Palestinian democracy

The Canadian Observation Mission reported “ordinary Palestinians proved their commitment to shaping their future at the ballot box … Palestinians turned out to vote, often in an atmosphere of exuberance and celebration…. Voters were presented with real choices following a vigorous and competitive campaign.” Israeli peace activist and former member of the Israeli parliament, Uri Avnery, wrote “These elections are a huge achievement… a badge of honor for a people suffering under occupation… Everyone who has a hat should take it off.”

But as Robert Fisk, the most knowledgeable English-language reporter in the Middle East wrote satirically, “God damn that democracy. What are we to do with people who don’t vote the way they should?” ...

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Why did Palestinians vote for Hamas?

The election campaign was not about the role of religion in politics, nor was the vote for or against a religious program.

Commentators generally agree Hamas “won because it held out the promise of redressing some of the terrible imbalances, chaotic distortions and deep indignities that have plagued Palestinian domestic society in recent years. These include corruption and incompetence in the Palestinian Authority, lawlessness at the local level, fragmentation as a result of Israeli occupation policies, and a humiliating inability to protect the integrity, humanity and day-to-day normal life of Palestinian communities. Hamas won because Palestinians think it can do a better job than Fatah in restoring order and self-respect to their lives.” (Rami Khouri, Globe and Mail Jan 27)

Hamas has an acknowledged record of impartial and committed service to meeting the daily needs of Palestinians, running schools and clinics for example. Given the demonstrable failures of the old-guard leadership of Fatah, many Palestinians now also look to Hamas for more capable and credible efforts to defend Palestinian rights under international law.

The garden of hypocrisy

When Ariel Sharon, a war criminal by the evidence of his own government’s report, was elected Israeli Prime Minister, there was no outcry by Palestinians or any government demanding Sharon renounce his past actions, or his known program for ethnic cleansing, before he could be accepted as a party to negotiation of the conflict. Jack Straw, UK foreign minister, pronounced that “Hamas has to understand that with democracy goes renunciation of violence.” Is Straw pulling British troops out of Iraq and personally joining the Christian Peace Maker Team in Baghdad? Hasn’t the UK negotiated with an IRA that aspires to an entire unified Ireland? Note that the US did negotiate with the North Vietnamese while war continued. Prime Minister Harper, in response to the Hamas election victory, has said that "for a nation to be truly democratic it must renounce any use of terrorism." Is he also wagging his finger at the US and Israeli governments?

Perhaps the biggest hypocrisy of all: the same Israel that today refuses to negotiate with Hamas once promoted its growth – openly acknowledged this week in Israel’s largest daily Maariv – and had leader-to-leader communications. It was Hamas leaders, expelled to Lebanon by Israel in 1992, who gave reporter Robert Fisk the personal phone number to contact Shimon Peres.

Do those who smother us in hypocrisy believe we are too blinded by fear and racism to see this for what it is?

The Fateh-led Palestinian Authority years ago did what Israel now demands of Hamas as a “pre-condition” for negotiation. Yet for a dozen years of an Oslo “peace process” Israel didn’t slow down construction of new Jewish settlements, didn’t forego destroying olive trees, didn’t halt preventing pregnant women from reaching hospitals, didn’t stop assembling 8 metre concrete slabs in the gigantic apartheid wall, didn’t enter into serious negotiations..

More than a year ago, Hamas took the decision to stop all suicide bombings, and has upheld that decision to this day; meanwhile, Israel continued to murder Hamas members, trying to provoke a resumption of terrorist attacks. This year the Israeli security service (Shin Bet) issued a public statement saying it was Hamas’ decision, not the apartheid wall, that was the main reason for the decline of Israeli deaths.

Israeli policy continues and continues ...

Israel continues to murder Palestinian civilians. During the peaceful Palestinian voting, while her Gazan parents watched election results on television, Aya, a petite, nine year old girl was murdered, shot in the neck and stomach several times near a border fence by Israeli soldiers. Soldiers said she was behaving in a suspicious manner reminiscent of a terrorist.

Israeli unilateralism continues: creating the permanent boundaries it wants, particularly using the wall to incorporate large parts of the West Bank, declaring Jerusalem the undivided capital of Israel, maintaining full control over the movement of goods and population in and out of Gaza . .. and as a cover for this strategic objective Israel continues to set-up one “pre-condition” after another to prevent any serious negotiations with the Palestinians.

Israel’s defiant contempt of international law continues: contempt for the International Court of Justice, contempt for the provisions of the Geneva Accords, and contempt for the mountains of authoritative, documented Israeli violations of human rights.

What also continues is the uncritical support by foreign governments (including Canada) of Israeli defiance --. with mass media as the echo chamber for this support.

One important thing definitely is changing. Outside Israel, people’s impatience is growing apace with Israel’s defiance of international laws and human rights.

What should we do?

Call on our government to press Israel to accept the democratic decision of the Palestinian people and negotiate without pre-condition. Uri Avneri writes: “one does not elect the leadership of the opponent – first, because the opponent will not accept this, and, just as importantly, because an agreement made with such a leadership will not hold.” The head of the Hamas political bureau, in an article published by the British daily Guardian, said to Israel “if you are willing to accept the principle of a long-term truce, we are prepared to negotiate the terms.” (January 31)

Uphold international and humanitarian law as the guiding principle for everyone, which means first and foremost an end to the Israeli occupation of all lands conquered in 1967, a dismantling of the illegal Israeli wall, recognition of the Palestinian right of return, and an end to all murders of innocent civilians. As in the earlier campaign against South African apartheid, we should work for sanctions, divestment and boycott of those who defy the laws. On-going, escalating, mutually destructive warfare is the only alternative – the one mainly being pursued by the US and Israel today.

Call on Canada and other governments to provide financial humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people living under occupation, who endure abject poverty. Hey, Jimmy Carter calls for this. Should our and other governments pursue their announced intent to cut assistance, as punishment for the vitality of Palestinian democracy,.that will only fuel the irrepressible anger of humiliation, and perpetuate the conflict for another generation.

Canada-Palestine Support Network
www.canpalnet.ca
support@canpalnet.ca

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