Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Europe And
United In
Of Hamas

For now:

The US and the European Union, often at odds over Middle East policy, now appear united in their stance: If it wants the world's assistance, Hamas must change.

Germany's new chancellor, Angela Merkel, presented that message during a visit here Monday. She asked Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, leader of ousted Fatah, to press Hamas to forswear violence and recognize Israel.

"As a president, he should urge Hamas to respect certain principles," Ms. Merkel said. If Hamas holds to its hallmarks - calling for Israel's destruction and using suicide bombers - the EU would be unable to continue funding the PA, she said.

But in a statement Monday, the EU backed away from saying it would completely cut funding to a government led by the militant group. EU foreign ministers said they expected the new Palestinian Legislative Council to back the creation of a government "committed to a peaceful and negotiated solution of the conflict with Israel.... On this basis the EU stands ready to continue to support Palestinian economic development and democratic state-building."

Since last week's election, in which Hamas took a remarkable 76 out of 132 seats, the militia-cum-political party has been sending mixed messages.

Analysts here have long delineated differences that are developing within the organization, between extremists and the more moderate forces in Hamas. What's more, the message from the top Hamas figures in the West Bank and Gaza differs from the tone being struck by the "outside," the Hamas spokesmen living abroad, primarily in Damascus, Syria.

Ismail Haniyeh, the No. 1 on Hamas's electoral list in Gaza, called on foreign donors Monday to continue to their aid.

"We confirm to you this income will be used to pay the salaries of [government] employees and fund daily running costs and infrastructure. You can confirm this through a mechanism that can be agreed upon," Mr. Haniyeh told reporters. "We call on you to understand the priorities of our Palestinian people at this stage and continue the spiritual and financial support in order to push the region toward stability rather than pressure and tension."

Haniyeh asked the EU to understand the "Palestinian reality" and not ask Hamas to disarm. Doing so would "increase the suffering of our people who are looking for freedom, right of [refugee] return, and independence," he said.

In Damascus, where the "outside" leadership is based, the Hamas message has struck a more belligerent tone. There, top Hamas spokesman Khaled Meshal said over the weekend that Hamas would look to form its own army now that it is in power.

In an interview aired on Al Arabiya television, another Hamas official, Mohammed Nazzal, said that cutting off funds would amount to punishment of the Palestinian people; another Hamas official called it blackmail.

"If the European Union countries and the American administration see this as a means that could lead to a change in Hamas's strategic position, then they are dreaming and are mistaken. Hamas will never accept that," Mr. Nazzal said.

One proposal being floated is the possibility of Hamas appointing a moderate prime minister who is sympathetic to Hamas, but not a member of Hamas itself.

Amid the controversy, many Palestinians have grown critical of US and European demands that Hamas change its position vis-à-vis Israel. They point out that the region has been under pressure to democratize, in particular by the Bush administration.

"Aid to the Palestinian Authority is aid to the Palestinian people: either they are still in need of this aid or not, they should not be subject to hardship because of whom they elect," says Mustafa Abu-Sway, a professor of Islamic Studies at Al Quds University in East Jerusalem.

"When we look at the region, we see that if there are open and free elections in all these countries, I'm sure that Islamists will rise to power in most if not all of them," he adds. "This is where people are casting their votes, and so you can't ignore the will of those people and not agree to deal with their leaders."

I'm weary of this whole Democracy meme.

Let's be clear, when we say Democracy, we do not mean the people can vote in Hitler. The problem is we haven't been clear on what we mean by Democracy. To Westerners a Democracy means the people govern themselves through the vote, yes. But, more specifically, a Democracy is a Democratic Republic, which is a form of government which has a charter establishing human rights for its people.

Sharia, Jihad, and Burqas are all violations of human rights.

The fact that we have not been clear about this has led to all sorts of confusion, and may lead to the loss of what little Democracy has been established in Iraq and Afghanistan.

What the people have created in Gaza is not a Democracy, but is, instead, a sort of BDSM dungeon posing as a government.

The sooner our leaders make clear the distinction between a Democratic Republic, and the Muslim mob rule of Palestine, the better.