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Bush: Hoist by his own petard

Second Bush Inaugural Speech, January 2005

So it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.

This is not primarily the task of arms, though we will defend ourselves and our friends by force of arms when necessary. Freedom, by its nature, must be chosen, and defended by citizens, and sustained by the rule of law and the protection of minorities. And when the soul of a nation finally speaks, the institutions that arise may reflect customs and traditions very different from our own. America will not impose our own style of government on the unwilling. Our goal instead is to help others find their own voice, attain their own freedom, and make their own way.

Hmm, that’s interesting. Sounds great, doesn’t it? But I’m having a problem here. According to the reliably informed BBC website “US, Israel vow to support Abbas” who is part of the party that just lost the democratic elections in Palestine. Their report says:

US President George W Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert have offered strong support for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Calling Mr Abbas “the president of all the Palestinian people”, both men pledged to work with his new emergency government, which excludes Hamas.

Hamas of course won the democratic elections of 18 months ago, but have been prevented from taking over effectively by outside forces. Now, I’m no fan of extremists, but Pres Bush can’t have it both ways. Either he believes in democracy, or he doesn’t. We know what he says he believes in, but his actions speak differently.

When Hamas won the elections, it was because most people were tired of the corruption that seemed endemic in Fatah. What little money was going into the Palestinian Authority was being skimmed off by officials who were decorating their bathrooms with gold taps, amongst other things, as Robert Fisk said in the Independent of Saturday 16th June while their countrymen were starving and struggling.

The fact that Hamas actually took part in the elections at all shows that they were, like the IRA once did before they gave up violence altogether, moving away from violence and towards peaceful solutions. Instead of being rewarded – even recognised – they and all the Palestinian people in the occupied territories were punished by having all funding cut off, diplomatic ties cut, and even humanitarian aid rationed. Taxes that were collected by Israel on behalf of the PA were withheld.

So Hamas, the elected government of Palestine, tried to build bridges with Fatah by having a National Unity government, but even this was spurned. Finally, after they had tried the peaceful path and gotten nowhere, Hamas took control in Gaza by force. The BBC website goes on to say:

Mr Abbas dismissed the government on Thursday after it seized control of the Gaza Strip.

Err, excuse me, but aren’t elected government’s supposed to have control over the lands they were elected to govern? That’s like Her Majesty the Queen dismissing the Labour Party as the government because they control Northern Ireland. Hello! I smell hypocrisy here.

Now, suddenly, Fatah and Abbas are a “Partner for Peace” according to Ehud Olmert. The Palestinian Tax monies that were withheld by Israel for 18 months and that amount to some $800 million are being hurriedly transferred (“officially”) to the PA, Israel is allowing humanitarian aid into the Gaza strip, and Condo Rice has said the US will establish “full diplomatic relations” with the Palestinian Authority immediately.

The message this sends out to the world is: “The US punishes your people if you choose democracy and rewards them if there is violence”. Everyone in Gaza who receives the new help will know it must be related to something Hamas did and support them more, and those in the West Bank will also know. People aren’t stupid.

Just the odd President.

What seems clear to me though, is that anti-Western terrorism will persist until the Middle East question – let’s be honest and use its real name, the Palestinian question – is sorted out. What is also clear is that while the Christian Zionists and neo-Cons in the US and their counterparts in Israel persist in believing that they have Biblical Rights to the land of the West Bank – rights which allow them even to break some of the Ten Commandments (Thou shalt not Kill, Thou shalt not Steal, Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house) then how can there be peace in Palestine?

There is a lost opportunity here. Hamas showed an olive branch by taking part in elections. By insisting on an ever-expanding Jewish State, peace has been rejected by the Israelis. As Ghandi once said:

There is no path to peace: Peace is the path!

But what do I know? I just want everyone to coexist in peace and harmony, leave egos, greed and vengeance behind, and end the hypocrisy of modern politics. Those going to the ballot box should be encouraged, not punished. Isn’t one of the principles of democracy that we have to sometimes allow someone we don’t like to win? Or isn’t the will of the people really that important?

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