By some time between last night and early this morning, the White House staff would have had the singularly uncomfortable task of informing President Bush that, in spite of all his Evangelical Zionist beliefs, the terrorists had in fact won the free and fair parliamentary elections in the Palestinian territories.
As of Thursday morning, it is increasingly clear that Hamas is headed to a sweeping victory in a majority of the 132 seats in the Palestinian Legislative Council. Palestinian PM Ahmed Qureia has resigned, as has his cabinet of ministers, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is preparing to invite Hamas to form a new government.
Hamas now joins a history of examples where brutal and prejudicial anti-terror policies have done more to propel the cause of the terrorists than to quell it. The only real way of defeating terrorism is to take away the political agenda of the terrorists – to deny them any reasonable grievance whatsoever – and one clear success in recent years has been the disarming of the IRA, once all the nonsensical British name-calling ceased and the Irish Republicans were invited into the political process as equals, not criminals.
The reason why the West, including the United States, remain entrenched in their Cold War ideas of minority-based terrorist groups is partly because of the early experiences of Western powers with small domestic terrorists such as the Red Brigades, the Baader-Meinhof group or the Symbionese Liberation Army. These groups failed precisely because their grievances failed to find a sympathetic ear among any sizeable section of their community.
But it is exactly these successes that have blinded policymakers in the West to the inherent flaws in their approach to anti-colonial terrorists, like Hamas, who actually did have a political platform of genuine grievances. The West was quick to follow Israel’s lead in its “successes” against terrorism but, again, they failed to realize that Israel is fighting a war of occupation, aimed at converting large expanses of Arab territories into sovereign Israeli land.
This violent and heavy-handed Israeli campaign, in effect, created Hamas in the 1980s, and led to its exponential growth over the last twenty years.
The Bush administration is currently sticking to its stand that the Palestinian elections are not a victory for Hamas, but rather a defeat for the corrupt Fatah leadership. No examination, whatsoever, is offered for the U.S. role in this Fatah corruption, but it is an effective way to take away from any legitimacy for Hamas’s victory.
President Bush himself stated Thursday morning that he will not negotiate with Hamas because it is an armed group and because its charter calls for a destruction of the Israeli state. This position is, of course, contradictory to Bush’s advocacy of respect for freedom and democracy. It is also quite hypocritical that Bush is demanding a disarming of Hamas specifically because no such demand has ever been made of Israeli politicians on the question of the armed settler militias that they support in the illegal settlements on occupied Palestinian lands.
The Bush administration’s decision to detach itself from the Palestinian government is not a new phenomenon. This was the precise strategy applied by the Bush administration in its first few months in office during the time that the Israelis had the upper hand and Palestinian casualties numbered 5-to-1 to Israeli casualties in the Second Intifada. Once the Palestinians started killing more Israelis, and the statistics changed to 3-to-1 Israeli casualties, the Bush administration got involved in all earnest, urging restraint and plotting a Roadmap.
That Roadmap was effectively put to sleep by Ariel Sharon who opted instead for a policy of Disengagement wherein Israel would pull out of all territories it could not control militarily, and put up a wall of security around all Palestinian territories it felt it could grab and hold. It seems that the Bush administration is again playing a waiting game to see if Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu’s election in the upcoming Israeli elections will, once again, give the Neoconmen an opportunity to implement a Clean Sweep of the Middle East along the lines of the Project for a New American Century.
The larger issue here, of course, is of the inability of the U.S. government to respect a democratically elected government that is critical of American policies. This historical U.S. policy of Sulk-and-Destroy is amply substantiated by the history of American actions in Central and South America, where the U.S. has repeatedly preferred to do business with friendly drug dealers and dictators than conduct responsible policy with a democratically elected hostile government.
A Hamas government pitted against Bibi Netanyahu’s Israel might well be the recipe for the Rapture that so enthralls Bush’s Evangelical Zionist base. Given the pinning down of the U.S. military in Iraq, and the rise of radical Muslim groups in Arab states, and the solidifying power base of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a decision to allow Palestinians to be pushed into a corner and be slaughtered can only be seen as a decision to provoke a regional war.
The Bush administration must grow up. A policy of With Me or Against Me is infantile, and most kids educate themselves out of it by their teens. Or at least they used to, before the Bush administration helped turn schools into breeding grounds for religious-fascist fervor by promoting groups that practice intimidation of teachers and supporting law suits to punish schools that deviate from the party line.
At issue here also is the process by which the Bush administration defines its war on terror while repeatedly refusing to acknowledge the fact that beneath the iron grip of pro-U.S. dictatorships in the Arab and Muslim world there is a growing resentment among the Arab and Muslim masses. The only way these people can presently manifest their rage against the Bush administration’s policies is through radical Muslim groups.
And if free and fair elections are allowed, even in limited municipalities, as we have seen in Lebanon, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and now in Palestine, the anti-American radicals, irrespective of their religion or tribe, are the ones garnering the most votes.
On a much broader level, the American people have to hold their government responsible for a foreign policy that has, for the last 50 years, oppressed and tortured the Arab and Muslim people through U.S.-supported Kings and dictators, in the singular interest of supporting the so-called special relationship with the state of Israel and the supply of Oil.
There has to be a way by which the safety and security of the state of Israel can be preserved while also supporting the democratic hopes and aspirations of the Arab and Muslim people in the region. Up until now, the Bush administration has refused to examine any such policies.
In the current case of the rise of Hamas in Palestine, the failure of the Bush administration to embrace and incorporate the new Palestinian government will send a clear message to the Arab and Muslim people – that America would rather have an American Shah ruling Palestine with an iron fist than respect a democratically elected government.
And that lesson will only embolden and strengthen the ranks of those organizations that have long maintained that the U.S. pretence to spreading freedom, liberty and democracy is but a sham, a lie, a ploy, cunningly designed to disguise an extension of U.S. hegemony in the region.
Abhinav Aima is a Journalism Professor at the University of Minnesota, Duluth. Email to: firstname.lastname@example.org