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Is democracy empowering Islamists?
The Palestinian vote was a win for democracy - but also for a radical group the US rejects.

Palestinian voters availed themselves of the time- honored democratic right to "throw the bums out" in their first legislative elections in a decade Wednesday - exactly the kind of action implicit in President Bush's push for democracy in the Middle East.

But by snubbing the Fatah Party of US-supported Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in favor of the radical Islamist group Hamas, Palestinians also put the Bush administration in a difficult spot.

The US might now seem hypocritical to many Arabs - encouraging democracy in the Middle East, while rejecting the choices that result from its exercise. At the same time, questions mount over whether Mr. Bush's campaign for democracy is encouraging the empowerment of Islamist militants across the region.

"This [election result] is really going to scare ... other governments in the region, and the Egyptians in particular are going to tell the US, 'We told you so,' " says Arthur Hughes, a former deputy assistant secretary of State for Near East affairs. "They'll see this as more evidence of what comes from our pressure to open up their societies, but they won't acknowledge that their hard-line tactics are what are leading to the growth" of Islamic extremism.

The "irony," Mr. Gerges adds, is that the Bush administration's championing of the Middle East's democratization has allowed the radical Islamists to "flex their political muscle" - from Egypt and Saudi Arabia to Lebanon and Iraq.

Comments

(Anonymous)

Yeah, this was quite a surprise to many people (Virgi has predicted this outcome for some time already, by the way). The question is: what now? It puts both the US and the EU in a very difficult position, as they have branded Hamas as a terrorist organisation, which don't want to have anything to do with. But can we afford not to talk to democratically elected governments, if we despise their actions? In principle, I think, we can. We should never have tried to make deals with Hitler, for example, and he was elected democratically in 1933. The problem is that Hamas has reconfirmed its aim of the destruction of Israel. This is a particularly hard issue for the US, as there are so many Jews there, and any election is at least partly decided by the Jewish votes. In optimistic comments on radio and tv here, it is said that now that Hamas is assuming government responsibility, they will have to mitigate their views and start talking about the peace process again. I'm afraid they are not yet ready to do so. OK, the US and the EU may stop supporting the Palestinians financially, but they are already looking for other sources of money in the region. Although I think that Israel, regardless of their present and past actions against the Palestinians, has a right to have a country of their own, I have said already for years that in the end, due to sheer numbers, Israel is going to lose and will, as a country, be wiped off the face of the earth. The Jews should start packing their suitcases and start thinking of emigrating to wherever. This is also a typical example of: Be careful of what you ask, you might get it. Wim.
Extremely difficult situation. I don't think Hamas will moderate their views/actions as a result of being elected. I have to admit though that I'm not a big fan of Israel. Their country was carved out of Palestine by Europe and the US and Israel has used terrorist tactics to maintain its existence. My feeling is that they have to negoitiate some sort of agreements or give up and pack.

(Anonymous)

Indeed, this may be what it boils down to and what I meant when I wrote that the Israelis should start thinking about emigration. I can't see Israel (and/or the US) negotiate some kind of agreement, which will more or less satisfy all parties involved, not with Hamas. When I wrote about the past of Israel, I was not only referring to the way the state of Israel was founded, but also to when the Jews came back from Egypt with Moses. They just invaded the country (claiming that the land was promised to them by God), but in fact just stealing it from the Philistines (nowadays called Palestinians; how appropriate, as they are the descendants of the Philistines. Just look at their name.) However, if the US, and this is regardless of having a Republican or Democratic President, believes that they have to protect Israel, this can only result in Armageddon, which particularly Bush may like. He wants to help the Lord fulfil the prophesies! Wim.
You've hit the nail on the head all the way around. Also right that both Repubs and Demos are tied into Israel. No difference between the two . . . only that for Bush it will fulfill his hopes of Armegeddon and the return of "Christ."

(Anonymous)

Yeah, this was quite a surprise to many people (Virgi has predicted this outcome for some time already, by the way). The question is: what now? It puts both the US and the EU in a very difficult position, as they have branded Hamas as a terrorist organisation, which they don't want to have anything to do with. But can we afford not to talk to democratically elected governments, if we despise their actions? In principle, I think, we can. We should never have tried to make deals with Hitler, for example, and he was elected democratically in 1933. The problem is that Hamas has reconfirmed its aim of the destruction of Israel. This is a particularly hard issue for the US, as there are so many Jews there, and any election is at least partly decided by the Jewish votes. In optimistic comments on radio and tv here, it is said that now that Hamas is assuming government responsibility, they will have to mitigate their views and start talking about the peace process again. I'm afraid they are not yet ready to do so. OK, the US and the EU may stop supporting the Palestinians financially, but they are already looking for other sources of money in the region. Although I think that Israel, regardless of their present and past actions against the Palestinians, has a right to have a country of their own, I have said already for years that in the end, due to sheer numbers, Israel is going to lose and will, as a country, be wiped off the face of the earth. The Jews should start packing their suitcases and start thinking of emigrating to wherever. This is also a typical example of: Be careful of what you ask, you might get it. Wim.

December 2008

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