Abdul-Aziz Duwaik, the new Hamas parliamentary speaker recently told Al-Ahram Weekly... “We are being punished. Is this democracy?” The West has replied: “yes.” That is because democracy carries with it consequences and like freedom, it comes at a price.
Leaders of the Arab world have denounced the decision by many Western nations to suspend international aid to the Hamas government, a move, they say, that is leading to a humanitarian crisis in the Palestinian territories (a rather difficult feat given that the Palestinian Authority, since 1994, has squandered more per capita humanitarian aid on weapons and a culture of hate than any other group in history).
President Bush may have underestimated the importance of tribalism, authoritarianism, the power of radical religious Islam, decades of repression and the lack of democratic traditions in the Arab Middle East, but for their part, the Hamas-led Palestinians have failed to fully comprehend the consequences of democracy. While democracy holds leaders accountable to those who elect them (or should), it also holds those who elect such leaders accountable for their decision. Had the Palestinians possessed a better understanding of democratic concepts, they would have realized that the West has accepted their choice of Hamas as the legitimate expression of their will, and is now responding accordingly.
A major national bipartisan U.S. poll undertaken by The Israel Project recently disclosed that eighty percent of Americans agree that the U.S. should not fund the Palestinian Authority until the Hamas-led government renounces violence, recognizes Israel and ends terrorism. Ninety-four percent agree that Palestinian leaders must disarm terrorists and ninety-three percent agree that Palestinian leaders must end their culture of hate that encourages children to become suicide bombers. If this poll accurately reflects the general attitudes of the American public, it should come as no surprise to the Palestinians that their election of terrorists would carry predictable and unfortunate results.
By electing Hamas, the Palestinians freely voted for an organization committed to the destruction of another nation in defiance of any and all international laws. It willingly and freely elected a regime that calls for the genocide of Jews, conducts suicide-training summer camps for Palestinian children, teaches anti-Semitism as an integral part of its educational system, extols the virtue of martyrdom in its media and from its pulpits, considers Jews to be the descendants of pigs and monkeys, and demands Islamic observance from all Palestinians. They have turned their failed state over to terrorists and by so doing they have created an even sorrier mess for themselves. Now they are paying the price.
And Hamas has learned nothing from the experience. It is not attempting to escape its international isolation by recognizing Israel's right to exist (not that it would be believed in any event) or by accepting previous agreements made with Israel and it couldn’t be less interested in the Quartet's road map. On the contrary, Hamas is using the suffering of those who elected it to seek Western aid without giving up any aspect of its genocidal ideology. It has never wanted an independent Palestinian state living peacefully beside Israel so its talk of hudna (truce) and acceptance of Israel's pre-1967 borders merely clouds its true intentions. Hamas demands an Islamic State in place of Israel - a State that is either judenrein (Jew-free) or that tolerates Jews, Christians and other infidels as dhimmis (protected subjects who can only live in Muslim lands under humiliating restrictions, obligations, and prohibitions including paying a jizya or “head tax”). It cannot accept a lasting peace with Israel simply because it cannot accept the presence of infidels on lands it claims as its own unless they agree to be subject to shari'a (Islamic law)......so any society that elects such a regime must be prepared to suffer the consequences.
Democracy is more than just voting and elections. What we term "the democratic tradition" is a vast complex set of informal bonds and understandings that evolved in Europe over three centuries of religious wars, civil strife and regicides. Lacking any true understanding of the concepts or consequences of democracy beyond its most basic trappings (voting and elections), the Palestinians have opened Pandora’s Box and in doing so they have brought disaster upon themselves. Led by Hamas, they have expressed their contempt for international law by voting for terrorists and now seek rescue from the consequences of their decision. They have cast themselves into the role of the victim who murders his parents and then asks the court for mercy because he's an orphan. Neither democracy nor justice works that way. The fact that the Palestinians have freely chosen to be governed by terrorists does not mean that the West is obligated to support their decision. As Diana West has written: "They (the Palestinians) are not voiceless victims" as are the Darfurians or the Rwandans. They knew exactly what they were doing when they overwhelmingly elected an Islamic government. When Secretary Rice says: "Hamas' policies and actions should not deprive the Palestinian people of their legitimate humanitarian needs", one can legitimately ask, "Why not. They elected them!"
It is regrettable that both Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Amir Peretz have announced some degree of willingness to resume tax revenue transfers to the Palestinian Authority rather than to support a total ban on direct and indirect assistance. It will be seen as yet another Israeli surrender and another victory for the Islamists. If there is any light at the end of the Palestinian tunnel, it is the hope that this crisis will bring Palestinian society to the tearful, agonizing realization that the route they have chosen will only lead them into the abyss.
Just as America has come to the realization that it cannot lay out "democracy" in the Arab world like so much Astroturf, so the Palestinians must realize that there is a price to be paid for exercising their democratic rights in favor of terrorists. As a spokesman for Fatah's Abu Rish brigades threatened recently, if Western money doesn't start flowing soon, the Palestinians will open a "new intifada" against Israel that will be a "merciless intifada that will destroy everything." If more violence and retribution is their solution to this self-made crisis, then they will reap the whirlwind. Intimidation and threats will not solve their problems. They have brought this catastrophe upon themselves and they must now correct it if they wish Western support. If we intervene to save Hamas and those who elected it, we will not only assure its success, but we will be making the Middle East safe for shari'a (Islamic law).
Mark Silverberg is a former member of the Canadian Justice Department, a past Director of the Canadian Jewish Congress (Western Office) based in Vancouver, and served as a Consultant to the Secretary General of the Jewish Agency in Jerusalem during the first Palestinian intifada.
If Hamas is able to re-arm, re-train and re-group despite U.S. and Egyptian assurances to prevent it from doing so, then a more dangerous confrontation is assured. In that eventuality, if Morsi, Obama and EU leaders line up against an Israeli ground invasion (even though Hamas is an internationally recognized terrorist organization), Israel will face a Hobbesian choice. It will have to choose between a limited air operation with limited security goals along the lines of Operation Pillar of Defense or re-conquering Gaza and returning it to the status quo ante. If it chooses the latter, it may not only incur the wrath of the U.S. and Europeans, but facilitate Egypt’s revocation of the Egypt-Israel Treaty that has kept the peace between Egypt and Israel for over three decades. As Barry Rubin writes: " If the idea of Israel going in on the ground into the Gaza Strip provoked so much international horror, imagine the reaction to Israel overthrowing Hamas altogether." The moment for making that choice may not be far off.
Much has been written of the Israeli moral commitment not to leave a wounded or dead soldier in the field, but of late, many are beginning to question the wisdom of trading a thousand terrorists for a single Israeli hostage. While the release of Gilad Shalit after five years in Hamas captivity is indeed a moral issue for Israelis, it is also an emotional roller coaster that has triggered national soul-searching over whether to negotiate with a terrorist organization (Hamas), and how high a price must be paid for one soldier's freedom given the strategic, national and security implications that arise from such an exchange.
The shadow of Shari’a law is descending on Gaza. In November 2009, Shin Bet (Israel's internal security service) issued a Report describing how Hamas has begun instituting Islamic law and thought in all areas of Gaza life since its violent takeover of the area in June 2007. Should Israeli security forces withdraw from Judea and Samaria, it is a safe bet that the implementation of Shari’ a law would follow a Hamas take-over there as well.
With a new President assuming control of Middle East policy, Israeli forces withdrawing from Gaza, and the Europeans and the Egyptians discussing ways and means to restrict Hamas’s ability to re-arm through the Philadephi corridor bordering Egypt, there is rising optimism in Washington diplomatic circles that such actions will preempt future conflicts between the Israelis and the Palestinians in Gaza. Scant attention, however, is being paid to the continuing role the UN is playing in sowing the seeds of future discord. Separate and apart from the strategic error of leaving Hamas’s missile launching capability intact in the wake of the conflict, a far greater problem continues to fester in Gaza – a problem which, if not resolved, will inevitably lead to future conflicts.