There is a degree of surrealism in all of this. Hamas has
presented its choice of prime minister to President Mahmoud Abbas, as the
Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine says it has agreed in principle
to join a Hamas-led government.
In the Arab world, such political transformation (that of
Islamists and Socialists working together to create a transparent and
democratic Parliament) is only possible in political satire, not as an
attainable and healthy political process. But Palestinians -- as the Hamas
parliamentary victory sweep and the smooth transition of power have shown --
are proving to be quite exceptional in this regard.
It goes without saying that Palestinians, and those who have
genuinely supported their democratic insurgency, have many reasons to be proud.
Evidently, those who used democracy as a decoy to justify their grievous
foreign policies or to defend their unwarranted military occupation are now
being forced into an unpleasant era of 'soul searching' -- as proposed by the
Hamas, not knowingly, perhaps, has abruptly deprived
Washington of its last card in a Middle East foreign policy game, which was
already in tatters. Delivering democracy was -- until Hamas' political rise --
Washington's strongest, albeit murkiest pretext to justify its military
presence in the Middle East. Other pretexts also proved to be a sham; weapons
of mass destruction and all. Even the war on terror logic was turned
upside-down, as post-Saddam Iraq became a terror magnet, a term liberally used
by US policy makers.
Nothing was left but the good old democracy pretence, which
worked well, until Palestinians cast their vote on that critical day in late
January. The majority voted for Hamas, not because of its Islamic agenda, but
because of its uncompromising anti-corruption platform, its stance on
Palestinian rights and the Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank
and Gaza. Those who understand the intricacies of the Arab-Israeli conflict
must have also decoded the vote as a strong rejection of the US government's
dubious role in the conflict and in abetting Israel's defiance of international
law. According to the deliberately ambiguous terminology of pro-Israeli fan
clubs in Washington, the Palestinian vote reflected an emphatically
�anti-American,� stance, a most dishonest title indeed.
Chances are US foreign policy pundits will carry on with
their democracy media parade. However, as we have already seen, the democracy
rhetoric will begin to erode, losing its tangible associations and relegating
almost exclusively to rosy and indefinable assertions. In short: 'Think Again:
Middle East Democracy,' as an article headline in Foreign Policy sums it up.
The authors suggested, and rightly so, that the �US wants democracy in the
Middle East -- to a point.� However, it seems that Palestinians have somehow
taken democracy a little too far.
Prior to the Hamas victory, the Middle East democracy train
seemed to be chugging along at a calculated speed with fantastic speeches and
more or less favourable outcomes, from a US foreign policy perspective. From
the well-touted, grand democratic experiments in Iraq, Egypt and to the much
less popular, yet equally consequential local or municipal elections in various
Gulf states, the status quo -- with its pending US interests -- seemed well
preserved. Even the seemingly containable tremor caused by the Muslim
Brotherhood poll results in Egypt failed to bend the Bush administration's will
of carrying on tailoring democracy to the Arabs. But then Hamas' surprising
victory changed everything.
There should be no illusions that a Hamas elections victory
and its aftermath have not changed the parameters of the raging conflict:
Palestinians are still as ever an occupied nation and Israel is still the
occupier. Notwithstanding, the Hamas takeover of power underlines -- aside from
the limitation of military occupation -- the lack of sincerity on the part of
the US administration and the Israeli government in the former's 'push for
democracy' and the latter's boasting about its own being the one and only.
Needless to say, having Hamas in power places both the US
and Israel in a terrible conundrum. The Israeli one is obvious: never before
has Israel dealt with a Palestinian 'partner' so decisive in its demands and
objectives, and so unreceptive to bribery or intimidation. Even at the height
of its 'unilateral' jargon, Israel knows well that without a 'moderate' Palestinian
leadership, little can be achieved insofar as a state of security for Israel
while Palestinian rights and freedoms are shamelessly denied.
But the Bush administration debacle, in my opinion,
transcends the geographic boundaries of the Israel-Palestinian conflict to the
much more, far-reaching political and strategic setting in the entire Middle
East, to its quandary with 'political Islam' and the disgruntled, 'rascal
multitudes' -- to borrow a Chomsky term -- of the Arab and Muslim world; so fractious
and so eager to take charge of its own destiny -- perhaps through the ballot
Indeed, the Bush administration finds itself in a greater
political mess than thought possible. Weaseling its way out of its 'commitment'
to democracy in the Middle East is easier said than done. Every other pretext
to justify US imprudence in terms of foreign policy and unconditional financial
and military backing of Israel -- no longer the 'only democracy in the Middle
East' -- have long been exploited if not exhausted altogether. Until an
alternative policy is devised -- chances are a new US doctrine dealing with
unfavorable democracy outcomes in the Middle East is currently being concocted
-- the US and Israel will resort to every form of bullying, intimidation and pressure
to completely sideline the relevance of the new Palestinian government, or to
'oust' Hamas, as a joint plot, one recently leaked by US media. The hope is to
discredit, then overthrow a Hamas-led government without having to overhaul its
entire democracy 'project,' whose demise would be much more consequential than
the removal of a movement branded terrorist.
Only time and more media leaked plots will reveal what is to
transpire. However, the early signs -- that of Israel's intention to starve
Palestinians through sanctions, coupled with unequalled enthusiasm among US
lawmakers to punish Palestinians for electing Hamas -- makes the coming Israeli
and US foreign policy course even more predictable. While Israel sees little
harm in making Palestinians a 'whole lot thinner' as a result of its economic
sanctions policy, the US' rash response in chastising Palestinians will likely
scar US credibility, or whatever remains of it.
Baroud teaches mass communication at Curtin University of Technology and is the
author of forthcoming "The Second Palestinian Intifada:
A Chronicle of a People's Struggle." He is also the editor-in-chief of
PalestineChronicle.com. He can be contacted at: email@example.com.