IN THE long history of the Arab-Israel conflict, one very politically correct assumption has been that “people on both sides” always wanted peace, and the leaders were the one’s who frustrated that desire. If only democracy were to extend to the Arab world, all would be well.
I guess one need only look to the recent Palestinian elections to see that you have to be careful what you wish for. But why is anyone surprised?
Despite surveys by Palestinian researchers that showed the opposite, despite all the demonstrations of joy after each suicide attack, despite the glorification of terrorists, so many well-meaning people kept on saying that the ultimate wish of the average Palestinian was to live in peace, just as Israelis have wished for decades.
So many people convinced themselves that the Palestinian mothers who expressed pride that their sons killed some children out at a shopping mall was an aberration. But then the Palestinian people elected Umm Nidal Farhat, the mother of three suicide terrorists who said she was “proud to be a terrorist for the sake of Allah”.
So many said that the clerics who rant weekly diatribes against Jews were really outside the mainstream. But now these clerics will be sitting in the Palestinian Parliament.
Palestinian universities that featured exhibits honouring those who carried out the infamous Sbarro attack in Jerusalem were said to represent but a fringe element.
But the Palestinian people chose professors from these institutions to lead them forward in building the institutions of a civil society.
And now, many may want to believe that those who send children to kill children in the name of God will somehow submit to reason and become political pragmatists.
That an organisation that claims God’s will is for Israel to cease to exist will somehow be appeased by a withdrawal of Israeli forces to where they were in 1967. That someone who murders with impunity is someone who can be trusted if they somehow “moderate” after being elected.
Ironically, it is the democratic process, a key goal of United States policy, that allowed the voice of the Palestinian people to be heard in a way that may surprise many who felt that the ordinary Palestinian really wished to see a peaceful resolution of their conflict with Israel.
So while democracy may be a laudable goal, it is the essence of the democratic process, free elections, that allowed Hamas to state, in a campaign ad, “We do not recognise the Israeli enemy, nor his right to be our neighbour, nor to stay [on the land], nor his ownership of any inch of land. Therefore, we do not see [Israel] as an ally, not in policy, not in security, not in economy and not in any form of cooperation.”
By democratically voting for Hamas, what exactly are the Palestinian people endorsing? Peace, it seems, means different things to different people, and the type of peace Hamas, and many Palestinians apparently, see, is one that Israel cannot accept.
Hamas’s support among Palestinians is due, say observers, to the widespread corruption that was rampant among the ruling Fatah bureaucrats.
Frustrated with the dishonesty and incompetence of Yasser Arafat’s party, Palestinians turned to the “Change and Reform” that Hamas promised, hoping to better their lives as a result. Sort of like voting for the KKK because they promise to be honest politicians and provide jobs.
So the streets may be cleaner, the water supply may be more reliable, and the terrorists-turnedpoliticians may be “honest”, but with Hamas, Palestinians will no longer be able to say that peace is their greatest concern.
Dr Mansdorf is a psychologist and directs the Jerusalem Project for Democracy in the Middle East. www.JPDME.org and a member of SPME