I laughed when Hamas swept the Palestinian elections. After all, President Bush and his gang of neoconservative ideologues have been preaching that democracy in the Middle East will lead to peace.
Oops. Now the president will once more have to expose himself as the hypocrite he is. Democracy is good, in Mr. Bush’s view, only if it elects the people he wants in office. The choice of the Palestinian majority, expressed in what all the observers said was a free and fair election, is not acceptable to Mr. Bush.
Hamas, you should know, has been around for a long time, and for most of that time, the United States did not label it a terrorist organization. Hamas has a military wing, but the majority of its efforts have been in providing welfare, medical care, and education to dirt-poor Palestinians who would have to do without but for Hamas. Unlike the corrupt Fatah, the Palestinian party Mr. Bush apparently wanted to win, Hamas has a reputation for being honest.
If there is anything American politicians fear, it is an honest man. More than one is even worse. How can the Bush administration bribe the Palestinian Authority into keeping quiet while Israel unilaterally consolidates its position if the elected people won’t accept bribes for selling out their constituents? No wonder the Bush White House is worried.
If I were the leader of Hamas, I would send President Bush a message that said essentially this: “Don’t worry about not talking to us. We have no desire to talk to you. For 39 years you Americans have talked about peace processes and have not recovered one square centimeter of Palestinian land. On the contrary, Israel has expanded into Palestinian territory while you prevented the United Nations from taking any action to stop it.
“The conflict in Palestine is quite simple. In 1967, Israel invaded and has since occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem. We lack the military power to eject the Israelis and therefore have zero influence on them. You, who have given Israel more than $90 billion, do have influence. So, instead of talking to us, talk to the Israelis. As soon as the Israeli occupation is ended, the problem in Palestine will go away. In the meantime, we have a lot of domestic problems to solve, which was the platform we ran on anyway.”
As for the suicide bombings Hamas has carried out, I have said before that the method of delivery is irrelevant. We and the Israelis deliver our bombs from airplanes, helicopters, and artillery tubes. Since the Palestinians are denied modern weapons, they have to walk or drive their bombs to the targets. Morally, there is no difference whatsoever between bombs delivered by air or by foot. It is an undeniable fact that we have killed a thousand times more civilians in Iraq, Panama, Libya, Serbia, Grenada, and Vietnam than Hamas has killed Israelis. Naturally, we dismiss the civilians we kill as “collateral damage.”
The death toll in the latest intifada, by the way, is 1,084 Israelis killed by Palestinians and 3,786 Palestinians killed by Israelis. Not all of those Israelis were killed by Hamas. Fatah also has a military wing, and there are other resistance organizations.
But back to the president’s strategic blunder. He should have read my column. I’ve said over and over that the largest group of people in the Middle East pushing for democracy is the Islamic parties, and the only “friends” we have in the Middle East are the rulers we pay to be our friends. You will notice that Egypt, Jordan, and the Saudis, all on our payroll in one way or another, were the first to call on Hamas to moderate its stand.
I doubt Hamas will do so. That’s the trouble with honest people of sincere faith. They believe they must answer to a higher authority, and their loyalty is not for sale. Palestinians, like everyone else on Earth, have an inalienable right to resist occupation of their homeland. It is to our shame and disgrace that we side with the occupiers. At any rate, Mr. Bush and the neocons had better be more careful about what they wish for.