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Damn if you do , damn if you don't.
This is exactly what the Palestinians must be feeling after the barrage of threats of dire consequences from the US and the West following their recent elections.
And all this for exercising their democratic rights in the most free and fair elections that one can ever hope to witness in that part of the world.
Perhaps, apart from the only other democratic state in the Middle East, Israel, it is the Palestinians under the PLA that have been run under the most democratic dispensation, notwithstanding the many mistakes that Fatah is responsible for committing in the conduct of their affairs.
While the US seeks to democratise the Middle East and the rest of the world, it appears that its president has been overwhelmed by what he himself terms as the "power of democracy" that the Hamas victory has demonstrated.
And the position of the US and the West betrays the dichotomy, contradictions and, of course, the double standards, that predominates their policy in so far as it relates to the Middle East.
And the Catch-22 situation that the Palestinians find themselves in, makes the position of the West highly pronounced.
Imagine how the majority of the Americans would have felt had the world laid similar caveat on future relationship with the US for voting George Bush to the White House.
The Palestinians have voted a party of their choice to lead them to their desired goal of a free Palestinian state but now run the risk of being ostracised for having chosen Hamas to lead them.
Neither the election result nor the reaction of the US is surprising.
The US would have liked a different outcome, and even though much was done to dissuade the Palestinians from voting for Hamas, the result has not been to the liking of the US or Israel.
While much of the blame for Fatah's debacle in the election must be shouldered by the US and Israel, the US must not fail to go into the reasons why the people of Palestine chose a party whose pronouncements they do not necessarily agree with all the time.
The reason the two most important players in the region, US and Israel, have threatened to cut off aid and have decided to not to deal with Hamas, nor even recognise the new government, is the Hamas position on Israel.
Should Hamas not renounce its stated position on Israel, the Palestinians have no chance of surviving as a political entity.
Not surprisingly, the EU has followed suit in aping the US position.
It is true that Hamas has been in the forefront of the struggle for an independent homeland for the Palestinians, a homeland they consider is under illegal occupation, having been usurped in the first place when the state of Israel was carved out of the Palestinian state.
It is also true that it had resorted to terrorist acts against Israel in their struggle against illegal occupation and for the establishment of a Palestinian state. But that was a tactical expedient rather than a strategic philosophy of conduct of their anti-Israeli activity.
And while comparisons of deaths are odious, one will need only to glance the statistics to see that the number of Palestinians killed by Israeli actions far outstrips those killed by acts of terror undertaken by Hamas. And one has to acknowledge the fact that Hamas has desisted from resorting to violence in the last one year.
While on the question of terrorism it is important to remind us of events of history that occurred in not too distant a past in this region. Some conveniently forget the fact that the state of Israel, that is so vociferous against the PLO and Hamas for being terrorist outfits, itself emerged out of terrorist acts in the final phase of its creation.
It appears that the term "terrorist" is applied selectively, only to those whose activities one does not approve of.
To put the matter in perspective, not only Ariel Sharon, but Menachim Begin and Yitzhak Shamir were also active in establishing the Jewish state in the then British-mandated territory of Palestine.
And at least two of them were active members of Irgun, that resorted to acts of terrorism and violence in the territory, like blowing up the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, an act that the British considered as "terrorism."
These gentlemen and their partners in violence went on to become leaders of Israel and came to be known as "freedom fighters" with whom the West suffered no qualms in dealing with subsequently.
In fact, the Likud party, of which Begin was the leader once, initially was not reconciled to the idea of a free Palestinian state.
There is indeed a similarity in the way the Palestinians have orgainised to resist Israeli occupation with an organisation like Hamas predisposed towards violence, quite like the Zionist group that conducted more than two hundred acts of terrorism in Palestine.
Isn't it an irony that Israel and its sponsors call these people "terrorists"?
The consequence of the US position is fraught.
The US and the West must realise that it is the Palestinian Authority that they are dealing with, not just the party that has the majority in the parliament.
It is a good thing that Hamas has been elected to represent the Palestinians. Their new responsibility will certainly cause them to reconsider their stated position vis-a-vis Israel.
But an inflexible position and cutting off of aid may push Hamas into the lap of the radicals in the region who may compensate monetarily for what the EU and US aid cut may cause.
Thursday, February 02, 2006
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