January 31, 2006 © The Center for War, Peace and the News Media. All Rights Reserved.

Palestinian Election:
Be Careful of What
You Wish For

By Laszlo Dosa
Global Beat Syndicate
—If George W. Bush is to be believed, he has been praying for democracy to bloom in the Middle East. His prayer has now been answered in spades. Democracy is bustin’ out all over the Muslim world. He just does not know what hit him.

To begin with the latest, the Palestinians held an election that, by all accounts, was clean and orderly. Hamas won fair and square, whether we like it or not. Obviously we do not like it because Hamas has been branded a terrorist organization, and justly so. But, as the old saying goes, today's terrorist may be tomorrow's freedom fighter, as this historical footnote demonstrates:

Sixty years ago, in July 1946, another organization in the same region, called Irgun, was fighting for a homeland for its people. Its most spectacular operation was the bombing of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem at the cost of 91 lives, including 28 Britons, 41 Arabs and 17 Jews. Irgun was widely condemned for its terrorist activities by Jews and non-Jews alike, including David Ben Gurion, the first prime minister of Israel. Irgun was led by Menahem Begin. In 1977, this former terrorist was elected Israel's prime minister; two years later he signed the peace treaty with Egypt and subsequently won the Nobel Peace Prize.

As for the recent sweeping victory by Hamas, both President Bush and the Israeli government declared at the end of January that they refuse to deal with Hamas and would freeze all assistance to the Palestinian people. Leaders in both countries seem to forget that if they want peace they must negotiate with their adversary, as Israeli Prime Minister Rabin did with Yasser Arafat. Unfortunately, if the U.S. government and the European Union halt their assistance to the desperately broke Palestinians, there is a country in the region that will be more than happy to step into the breach.

That country is Iran, whose new president is eager to embrace the enemies of Israel. And as Hossein Derakhshan in Tel Aviv reported for The New York Times, President Bush actually contributed to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s victory in Iran last summer by declaring beforehand, "These elections would be 'sadly consistent' with the country's 'oppressive record.' For Iranians," Derkhshan wrote, "there was no mistaking the American president's point: he was tacitly sanctioning the call that some Iranian exiles and activists had issued for an election boycott, based on exactly this logic.  With what appeared to be the endorsement of President Bush and dozens of American-backed satellite television channels that broadcast in Farsi, the disillusioned young people of Iran effectively took one of the world's most closely watched nuclear programs out of the hands of a reformer and placed it into the hands of a hard-line reactionary."

Derakshan adds that "while [former] President Khatami built his international reputation on his call for a ‘dialogue among civilizations,' President Ahmadinejad has reached out to racists and anti-Semites instead.” Now it appears that President Bush is further rewarding President Ahmadienjad by pushing the Hamas-led Palestinians into his arms.

A BBC report last October provided an interesting contrast and a striking parallel between the political careers of the American and Iranian presidents: "Mr Ahmadinejad reportedly spent no money on his presidential campaign—but he was backed by powerful conservatives who used their network of mosques to mobilize support for him." Mr. Bush and the Republican Party, in contrast, had seemingly unlimited funds to flood our televisions with endless campaign propaganda. And it is worth recalling that Candidate Bush "was backed by powerful conservatives who used their network of mosques (read: fundamentalist churches) to mobilize support for him."

Looking at the two campaigns, another remarkable point stands out: Hamas won by a landside. We have seen countless explanations for its victory but nobody suggested that it was "stolen." The first election for George W. Bush, on the other hand?

Laszlo Dosa is a native of Hungary who came to the United States as a refugee in 1951. After serving in the U.S. Army during the Korean War, he spent the next 33 years with the Voice of America. Nineteen years ago he retired as VOA Science Editor and "recycled" himself into a freelance medical writer in Florida.

© 2006 The Center for War, Peace and the News Media. All Rights Reserved. The Global Beat Syndicate, a service of The Center for War, Peace, and the News Media, provides editors with commentary and perspective articles on critical global issues from contributors around the world. For more information, check out http://www.bu.edu/globalbeat/syndicate/.

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