The US and Israel
shouldn't set pre-conditions on duly elected leadership
By Sam Bahour
repercussions, sometimes bitter ones. The historic election landslide
victory of the Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, in Palestine on January
25 was merely a confirmation of this basic fact. Palestinians simply voted
in a manner that reflects their reality.
Secular Palestinians, such as myself, are not thrilled to see an Islamist
movement come to the forefront of the historically secular Palestinian
struggle to end the occupation and continue with the state-building process.
However, those of us willing to look beyond the daily headlines, which
emerge out of professionally spun mainstream media, are fully aware that
Hamas' victory does not emerge from a vacuum.
Palestinian reality in year 2006 is three-fold. There is the bitter reality
of 39 years of a non- stop Israeli military occupation that has battered the
Palestinians beyond recognition, but failed to break the Palestinians' will
and determination to ascertain the basic human and national rights that are
justly due to every indigenous people.
Then, there is a decade, some would say four decades, of a monopoly on
Palestinian politics by the moderate Fatah movement which mismanaged and
abused its position of power to a point where the average Palestinian saw
their governance serving the Israeli occupation more than serving the needs
of a people hemorrhaging from an unrelenting Israeli onslaught.
Non-violent resistences have failed
Lastly, Palestinian reality today, after trying all possible non-violent
methods to jerk the international community, particularly the U.S., into
assuming its responsibility toward a people under occupation (as per the
Geneva Conventions) have been left naked to take on their occupier
single-handily, all the while, being coerced into becoming totally dependent
on the crumbs and political agendas of donor aid.
Initial knee-jerk reactions from Washington D.C. and Tel Aviv indicate that,
not only have the U.S. and Israel failed to acknowledge that decades of
aggression against Palestinians was sooner than later bound to result in
bitter repercussions, but they arrogantly abolish themselves of any
responsibility for this reality. Palestinians under occupation were left
with little other choice, but to express their despair and frustration by
electing into government a movement that many believe speak the same
language as Israel has been speaking to Palestinians for almost four decades
now, the language of force, both political and military.
The U.S. and Israel seem overly surprised at Hamas' victory. We must ask
why? Back in 2002, following a suicide bomb attack in Jerusalem the United
Press International's Terrorism Correspondent, Richard Sale, wrote the
Israel and Hamas may currently be locked in deadly combat, but, according to
several current and former U.S. intelligence officials, beginning in the
late 1970s, Tel Aviv gave direct and indirect financial aid to Hamas over a
period of years.
Israel "aided Hamas directly -- the Israelis wanted to use it as a
counterbalance to the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization)," said Tony
Cordesman, Middle East analyst for the Center for Strategic Studies.
Israel's support for Hamas "was a direct attempt to divide and dilute
support for a strong, secular PLO by using a competing religious
alternative," said a former senior CIA official.
The UPI article went on to say,
But even then, some in Israel saw some benefits to be had in trying to
continue to give Hamas support: "The thinking on the part of some of the
right-wing Israeli establishment was that Hamas and the others, if they
gained control, would refuse to have any part of the peace process and would
torpedo any agreements put in place," said a U.S. government official who
asked not to be named.
"Israel would still be the only democracy in the region for the United
States to deal with," he said.
All of which disgusts some former U.S. intelligence officials. [�]
According to former State Department counter-terrorism official Larry
Johnson, "the Israelis are their own worst enemies when it comes to fighting
"The Israelis are like a guy who sets fire to his hair and then tries to put
it out by hitting it with a hammer."
"They do more to incite and sustain terrorism than curb it," he said.
Although the magnitude of Hamas� victory took all by surprise, the fact that
the Palestinian electorate booted from office the 40-year ruling party of
Fatah was no surprise to anyone familiar with the facts on the ground.
Bankrupt in its ability to frame the just Palestinian struggle in a manner
understandable to the external world and after reaching levels of corruption
and nepotism unheard of in occupied Palestine, Fatah deserved to lose, and
This writer wrote back in May 18, 2001, following the start of the second
Israel grasps to solve the conflict by inventing new political jargon and by
engaging well- designed public relation blitzes instead of facing its core
international obligation of ending occupation. The truth is becoming harder
to hide with every passing Israeli warplane. The world has spoken -- Israeli
occupation is the source of contention and must end, illegal Israeli
settlements must end, imprisonment of Palestinian political prisoners must
end. There is no other way.
Mr.[Ariel] Sharon has returned the Palestinian society back to a culture of
resistance. Soon, he will move the international community to a new culture
of responsibility toward protecting Palestinian civilians and realizing a
negotiated solution to the conflict based on peace with justice. In the
meantime, a new generation of Palestinians will learn and live the meaning
of Intifada while the State of Palestine continues to be built amongst the
backdrop of Israeli bombings.
A month later, in a subsequent article on June 13, 2001, I continued,
If Sharon's Israeli war drums are translated into an all-out war on the
Palestinian people or its leadership, the world -- Americans and Israelis in
particular -- should not expect the frameworks of the Oslo Peace Accords,
the Mitchell Report, or the numerous antiquated UN resolutions to remain as
reference points for any future resolution of the conflict.
If Palestinians must choose between their annihilation and their collective
memory, their choice is most likely to be the latter and their time frame,
the future. Likewise, Israel must choose between continuing an illegal
occupation and preserving the State of Israel. To think that both can
peacefully co-exist is an utter ignorance of history and human development.
The end of Israel's occupation should be the priority
So as we move forward, we cannot but remind ourselves of all the warnings
that were made, mostly by Palestinians, over and over, advising the U.S. and
international community that without intervention and without a serious
approach to ending Israel's occupation, once and for all, moderate secular
voices in Palestine would be drowned out.
Instead of heeding to Palestinian�s advice and to the facts on the ground,
the international community preferred to only send international observers
to oversee the most democratic elections process that has ever happened in
the Middle East, despite the occupation's boot remaining on the neck of the
Now it is the world's duty and responsibility to accept the outcome of the
elections. Each and every country will need to redefine how it will deal
with the sober reality that, once again, now by way of the ballot box, the
Palestinians have provided them.
The U.S. would be wise not to continue to set pre-conditions on yet another
duly elected Palestinian leadership. That policy has failed twice already,
once with Yaser Arafat and again with Mahmoud Abbas. The editorial of The
Jewish Week said it best, �Hard and fast proclamations at a time of
tremendous ferment will only make it harder for regional leaders to find a
way to make the best of the newest tough hand dealt to them.� (1/27/06).
The U.S., under President Bush, has caused so much havoc within U.S. foreign
policy that the U.S. will now find itself a hostage of its own hastily
drafted internal polices. Political wisdom, not Presidential evangelism, is
what is required from Washington today.
For the first time since the Oslo Peace Accords, Palestinian priorities are
being set independent of foreign agendas. The donor community, led by the
U.S., can choose to bring the Hamas government to its knees financially.
This would be short-sighted and catastrophic for the region at large.
Alternatively, Hamas can be given the needed time to reflect on their
election victory and define a set of policies that coincide with their new
position which will require them to be held accountable on a national and
Speculation is a risky business in the Middle East, but if Hamas�victory is
viewed as a pilot project by Islamist movements in the region, we could
expect them to excel in installing a better system of governance which has
the potential to positively affect every Palestinian citizen. If they fail,
they should only be removed through the same ballot box that they won by.
As I wrote elsewhere, the Palestinian's "election season [should be viewed]
as concrete that has now been poured. What remains to be seen is whether it
will actually dry in time and remain in place to hold the Palestinian
political house together."
Sam Bahour is
a Palestinian-American businessman living in the Israeli-occupied
Palestinian city of Al-Bireh. He is co-author of HOMELAND: Oral Histories of
Palestine and Palestinians (1994) and can be reached at email@example.com.
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