Harvard Square Observer: Democracy & Hypocrisy
Our government is all in favor of democracy. Indeed, it is sacrificing the lives of many of our fellow citizens, young and old, and the lives of thousands of Iraqis and Afghans, it being so concerned to reward them with democratic governments - at the point of a gun!
But, what happens when the "wrong" party scores a large electoral win? Yes, Hamas! I have waited a week to comment on this subject, waiting for the dust to settle. Well, the air is still hazy, but, the attitudes of western governments which advocate "democracy" have become clearer in the intervening days. They only favor democratic electoral victories by parties of which they approve.
They are now insisting that Hamas change its attitude toward Israel. Hamas, apparently, is not in favor of the Jewish state, and would like to see it disappear. Of course, what is not mentioned by President Bush, and other western governments, is that Israel has assassinated many of its leaders. (The western press has bought the Israeli terminology, "targeted killing," but, this terminology is in the same class as that used by certain opponents of abortion, a type of procedure that they have christened "partial birth abortion." Which, needless to say, is not what physicians call it.) Assassination by any other name is still assassination, and, it is no wonder that the group that is subject to such attacks does not look kindly on Israel.
A dear friend, James Adler, recently wrote a piece that appeared on the website of Ha'aretz Daily, the leading Israeli newspaper, in which he pointed out that Likud's charter calls for wiping Palestine off the map!
Needless to say, we don't usually see that charter quoted. And, the U.S. government has yet to demand that the Likud party change its charter!
It has been a favorite technique of the Israeli government under Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to claim that it has no partner with which to negotiate. This probably is a first in human history. In the past, it has been the practice for enemies to negotiate with each other. But, this is part and parcel of the chutzpah of the Israeli government. If the Israelis have no one to negotiate with, they can just hang on to the land seized from the Palestinians.
Of course, Palestinians have noticed Israel's refusal to deal with President Mahmoud Abbas. So, it is no wonder that they would choose a different political group. The Fatah party of Abbas certainly had gotten nowhere with the Israeli government. And, Hamas is known for its health clinics, schools, and other social services, as well as its resistence to Israeli occupation. Needless to point out, the U.S. media seldom mention anything except its resistance, including horrendous suicide bombings. Thus, the reasons for Palestinian voters choosing Hamas candidates is not at all clear to Americans.
We should, also, point out that Hamas has observed a cease fire with Israel since February 2005.
One the complaints of the Israelis is that Mahmoud Abbas has not been willing to combat "terrorist" groups. What Americans tend to forget is that, when the second intifada broke out, Israel, with its overwhelming military forces (paid for, incidentally, by you and me, American taxpayers!) systematically destroyed Palestinian police headquarters in many Palestinian towns, including, of course, police personnel. In response to this outrageous action, we heard from the U.S. government its usual refrain, "The Israelis have a right to defend themselves."
As an example, at the end of this column, I'll provide a link to a website where you will be able to see for yourself what Israel forces did to the Palestinian governmental compound. Amazingly, Yasser Arafat survived the onslaught.
Even if he had the military power, how could Abbas proceed as Israel and the U.S. insisted he should? As he said, he would not risk a civil war among the Palestinians.
If Hamas is a "terrorist" group, as the Israeli government claims, it should remember its own history. The earliest leaders of Israel were reformed terrorists. So, perhaps, Hamas will undergo a transformation now that it has 76 seats to Fatah's 43 in the new legislature.
One other point of importance. If Israel, indeed, withholds the $50 million that it has collected in taxes and custom payments - as it is threatening - it will not exactly pave the way for cooperation by Hamas.
Furthermore, if the U.S., as threatened by Secretary of State Rice, cuts off financial aid to the Palestinians because of the election of Hamas, it will just underline the hypocrisy of the Bush administration in preaching "democracy" and illustrate that it only accepts the results of elections that it likes! It certainly will be very unhappy, furthermore, when Iran and other burrs under the U.S. government's saddle make up the funds the U.S. cuts.
In one of the photos, you will see the most notorious of the many "check points" through which Palestinians have to pass daily, it often taking several hours. You will, also, see a photo of a "road block," of which most Americans are unaware. This particular one is in Hebron. A roadblock, as you will see, disrupts Palestinian movement of goods. Should an Israeli merchant seek to move goods on that road, the occupying army will kindly sweep the roadblock away, and, then, of course, put it back again to disrupt the lives of Palestinians.
I can only assume that the Israelis find satisfaction in making life difficult for the Palestinians in sort of repayment for the hundreds of years of the persecution that Jews suffered at the hands of European and other governments. It is sad, however, that the Palestinians should suffer for the sins of others.
I learned my Judaism from my dear friend Jackie Goldstein and his family in my school years. Jackie and I were not only chums, but, lying on the Goldstein parlor floor on Sunday afternoons, we would listen with his folks to the broadcasts of Hitler's speeches, and the weekly sermons of the Catholic priest agitator Father Charles E. Coughlin.
Later, I was particularly influenced by the late Rabbi Beryl D. Cohon (of blessed memory!) as we sat side by side for three days at the beginning of each semester at the course registration sessions in the Cousens Gymnasium on the Tufts campus. (This was in a day before computers changed things so radically.) Between signing up students for our history classes, he explained the differences among the various Jewish denominational groups, at the same time passing on some wonderful Jewish jokes. (Which I still repeat!) Now Rabbi Cohon, much to my surprise, was against the establishment of Israel, explaining that the Jews had made lives for themselves in many parts of the world, the U.S. being a good example.
Despite my respect - indeed, love for the Rabbi - I supported Israel. One can support a country and still lament its failings. On a visit to Israel and Palestine a few years ago, during which I snapped the photos I mentioned, our fact-finding group met with such leaders as Rabbi Arik Aschermann, Executive Director of Rabbis for Human Rights, and Jeff Halper, Coordinator of the Israeli Committee Against House demolitions (ICAHD) and a professor of anthropology at Ben Gurion University. It is such splendid examples of humanity that helps one keep a balanced perspective on Israeli-Palestinian affairs.
If you are interested in some of the Jewish and Christian religious sites, including the heart-wrenching sculpture at the entrance of the children's wing of the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem, you may visit this page:
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