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Hamas Victory and the Lessons to be Learnt - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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I tried to imagine what the European and American public would feel about Hamas winning the elections. International politics and media have always pictured Hamas as a “terrorist movement,” not a very surprising stigma, taking its animosity to the state of Israel.

Right after the election results became public, the majority of American and European officials seemed oblivious of their own preaching about “democracy,” “independence” and “freedom” in the Middle East. They immediately indulged in a series of threats starting with cutting off “aid” to the Palestinian people.

How could anyone who wakes up to the morning news in a Western democracy understand this paradox between the “international will” and the “will of the people?” The victory of Hamas is very exemplary of the history old relationship between the West and the Arab people. It is a living proof of the confused Western policies towards the Arab-Israeli conflict and the Israeli occupation of Arab lands.

The American and European threats that preceded Hamas’ participation in the Palestinian elections are based on a preconceived perception of Hamas as threatening to the security of Israel. In reality, it is Israel, the only nuclear state in the Middle East, who undercuts any shape of Palestinian security on a daily basis.

Israel occupies Palestinian and Arab lands. Israel terrorizes Palestinians on a daily basis. Israel, unquestioned, regularly assassinates Palestinian political leaders, men, women and children on basis of suspicion. Israel demolishes Palestinian houses, displaces Palestinians and confiscates their lands as suits its interests. Yet, the West calls Hamas a “terrorist movement.”

For long decades, Israeli aggression has gone unchecked, financed by the West and supported by Western silence. Since 1967, Israel has displaced millions of Palestinians and appropriated the most fertile lands in the West Bank. The ideological state of Israel denies Palestinians their most basic human rights. Palestinians can’t even pray at Al-Aqsa, if Israel decides they should not. Yet, both the United States and Europe accuse Hamas of extremism.

After its overwhelming victory, the American and European leaders embarked on a daily preaching for Hamas to unconditionally renounce “violence” and “disarm.” It might be enlightening to remember that the IRA ceased armed resistance only after an agreement was reached and not before.

It is quite puzzling that the democracy sought by the West in the Middle East is quite conditional. It is only the kind of democracy that brings to power elements liking. And even then, the Oslo Palestinian participants were called “cooperating” as long as they continued to meet Western and Israeli demands, otherwise were threatened with isolation.

It is not news to talk about the century old Western politics in the Middle East based on conceit and self-serving understanding. For decades, the West has been supporting oppressors and dictators who do not represent the public will, as long as they safe-guarded Western interests. This is a very important trait in the West-Arab relations that undermines peace, freedom and democracy.

One of the lessons learnt from the victory of Hamas is that the West does not want the Palestinians to “democratically” express their will. Queuing for the camera next to the voting boxes is “democracy” as long as the polls bring the party already chosen by the Israeli state.

Another lesson is a Western fallback into a total media blackout about the “democratic process” that brought Hamas to power. No one talks any longer about the “open and competitive” election process, described by Veronik Di Caiser, head of the European election observing team. No one mentions how the elections were carried out “freely and correctly” in spite of the “harsh restrictions imposed by Israel.”

Another lesson to remember is what ex-president Jimmy carter himself said in a press conference. The party listed as terrorist by Americans and Europeans, actually “runs” local politics “well”. Furthermore, it is “not involved in any form of corruption.”

The most important lesson we learn from Hamas victory is that Western biased politics are doomed to failure. Those labeled by the West as terrorist movements happen to represent the public longing for freedom, peace and democracy. This Western denial of true peace and democracy based on international legitimacy and public will only prolongs the vicious circle of violence.

Such erroneous American public diplomacy campaign in the Arab and Muslim worlds is futile. Rice’s decision to increase the number of American diplomats in Asia and make them more “proactive” than conventional is only reminiscent of their colonizing predecessors. The only way towards enduring “peace” and “democracy” is through just solutions that acknowledge the rights of the people.

Dr. Bouthaina Shaaban

Dr. Bouthaina Shaaban

Prof. Bouthaina Shaaban is political and media advisor to the Syrian presidency, and the former minister of Expatriates. She is also a writer, and has been a professor at Damascus University since 1985. She received her PhD in English Literature from Warwick University, London. She was the spokesperson for Syria. She was nominated for Nobel Peace Prize in 2005.

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