The world resumes support for Palestinian Authority

Now that a new government in the West Bank has been established – one that does not contain members of Hamas – the rest of the world, even Israel, has said that it will resume political dialogue, international aid, etc. You can read about it at:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/israel/Story/0,,2105683,00.html

An excerpt:

“The EU said today it would resume financial aid to the new Fatah-led Palestinian government, as part of international efforts to isolate Hamas in its Gaza stronghold.

“The EU, along with other western donors, cut off aid after the Islamist movement won a general election in January 2006, maintaining the embargo even after ministers from the secular Fatah organisation joined a new unity government this March.

“As well as the EU resuming relations, Israel has said it will begin providing fuel for the West Bank again, and will release millions of dollars that it had seized when Hamas formed its government.”

I find this whole affair quite revolting. The “free” world makes much fuss over the idea of democracy – states that are undemocratic are internationally reviled (unless they have something that the USA wants – like oil – but that’s another story).

So, the Palestinian held elections that international observers concede was free and fair. Hamas, an organization denounced as “terrorist” and which is highly anti-Israel, won that election and formed a government. This was all free and fair and democratic – but the rest of the world declared that it would not deal with such a government and severed all links.

Even when they formed a “National Unity” government in partnership with Fatah, most of the world didn’t want to know. For instance, Israel said that it couldn’t deal with an organization that did not recognize their right to exist, that was committed to the Jewish state’s destruction.

Everyone was studiously ignoring Hamas’s statement that it would honour all treaties and commitments that previous Palestinian governments had made – a tacit recognition of Israel’s validity.

I’m not condoning the acts of violence committed by Hamas. But I am trying to draw attention to the hypocrisy with which the world has treated the Palestinian people. Because the Palestinians voted for Hamas – they wanted to be ruled by Hamas – but the rest of the world made it impossible for Hamas to do its job.

If the developed world are going to hold up democracy as the universal ideal, they must follow this belief consistently. It’s no good saying “Democracy’s the only way… as long as you vote the way we want you to.” That’s international dictatorship, neo-colonialism, and should be stamped out, ruthlessly, whenever it raises its head.

10 Responses to The world resumes support for Palestinian Authority

  1. Facts First says:

    So are you saying that whatever government is democratically elected must therefore be treated as if it is a moral equal? Hitler seized power on the back of democratic success, does this make him okay (and let’s not forget that after this article Hamas violently seized power in Gaza)? The Iranians elected their nutter of a leader (at least the first time round), does that mean we should trust whatever he says?

    Just because a government is elected democratically does not absolve it of moral responsibility. Israel is held to account whenever it does anything to affect the Palestinians’ lives or livelihood – and obviously quite rightly so – but why then shouldn’t the Palestinian government also be held to account for its extreme views? When a party’s central ethos is based around hate, it is only right that party should be ostracised by the rest of the world. This is how the democratic system can legitimately express its concern at a threat to global or regional stability.

    Essentially it boils down to the level of trust that you can have in another party. Trust should of course be fostered where it can – but sometimes the views of a government are too extreme, and you have to recognise the danger in not facing up to this.

  2. Martin X says:

    “Facts First”: when the idea of a Palestinian Authority was first floated, various international parties (including the USA, the UK and the EU) all said the PA would be acceptable only if its government was democratically elected. They were happy when Fatah won power. But when Hamas won the next election, suddenly a democratically elected government was no longer acceptable. Can you really not see the problem with that?

    What this “international community” is saying, is: “a democratically elected government is acceptable only if it agrees with us. If it disagrees with what we say is ‘right’, it is no longer acceptable and democracy must be abandoned.”

    Either you accept that the Palestinian people have the right to self-determination, or you don’t. What you seem to be suggesting is that Iran and North Korea have the right to attack the USA because they don’t like the US government’s policies. Is that what you believe? Would a North Korean nuclear strike on the USA be legitimate because the North Korean government doesn’t like what the US government says?

    The whole idea of democracy is that the will of the people is sacrosanct. If you believe that democracy is expendable, you believe in totalitarianism. I think you need to decide where you stand.

    Another point, of which you may be ignorant. While it’s true that Hamas’ charter of 1988 calls for “the obliteration of Israel”, the high-ranking Hamas official Khaled Meshaal subsequently stated that it was willing to cooperate with the United States on promoting a resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict which included a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders provided Palestinian refugees be allowed to return to Israel and East Jerusalem be recognized as the Palestinian capital. According to the Wall Street Journal, Meshaal’s exact words were:

    We along with other Palestinian factions in consensus agreed upon accepting a Palestinian state on the 1967 lines. This is the national program. This is our program. This is a position we stand by and accept.

    This statement explicitly declares a willingness to recognize Israel’s legitimacy according to its pre-1967 borders. And I certainly can’t see any reason why Hamas should recognize the legitimacy of the post-1967 borders. Unless you want to claim those borders are legitimate because of Israel’s “right to defend itself”. In which case, what’s happened to the right of the Palestinian people to defend itself? What’s happened to the democratically elected Palestinian government’s right to defend its own people?

    I stand by my statement that I hate hate. This includes the hate some Israelis have of Palestinians and the hate some Palestinians have of Israelis. This terrible situation will end only when the democratically elected representatives of both peoples sit down to negotiate without impossible preconditions. This was achieved in Northern Ireland, where most people thought there would never be peace. So I refuse to believe that the Israel/Palestine situation is hopeless.

  3. Facts First says:

    No of course I don’t believe democracy is expendable – but this doesn’t legitimise any government just because it is democratically elected. When you say that the will of the people is sacrosanct, this is a domestic truth – nothing must come in between the people and their right to choose a government. It doesn’t mean the government can behave how it wants to because it has the people’s endorsement.

    And no, no country has the right to attack another because of its views, it is their actions which they must account for. Hamas have a history of suicide bombings and rocket attacks against Israel, so it was hardly likely they would be welcomed into government with open arms.

    In any case, I really am not clear on what you believe was the affront to democracy. Is it because the unity government was formed with Fatah’s inclusion under international pressure? I do not see this as anti-democratic. On the other hand, Hamas’s seizing of power was certainly unconstitutional, and don’t forget that it was the President who reformed the government with only Fatah in it, which gives the new government somewhat more legitimacy than the violent coup that preceded it.

    In response to your final point about Hamas’s reasonableness despite having a death threat in their charter (what happened to hating hate again?) – the right of return for Palestinian refugees that you refer to so lightly is in fact the destruction of Israel by other (demographic) means. If you want to talk about impossible pre-conditions, you will not find a better example.

  4. Martin X says:

    I realize that in a debate like ours, some cherry-picking is inevitable, otherwise we could never stop typing!

    But I do think some of your cherry-picking is disingenuous. You write that a govt or people must be accountable for its actions, re Hamas rocket attacks on Israel; but you neatly avoid answering my question about the Palestinian people’s right to self-defense.

    You also seem to be suggesting that Israel has had to attack Gaza because of the rocket attacks. But you do not address the point that Israeli civilian deaths and injuries have been very low, and Palestinian deaths and injuries have been very high. This is true no matter whose figures you choose to believe.

    You talk of a right to return for Palestinian refugees as a way of destroying Israel by the back door. You seem not to realize (or have conveniently forgotten) that we are talking about post-1967 refugees, not the wholesale return of everyone rendered stateless in 1948. And this right of return would not cause the end of Israel: it would mean that Palestinians can return to their homes which are now in Israel. It would mean a shift in demographics, sure, but it still would be less damaging for Israel than is the harm caused to the Palestinian people by the forcible evictions, destruction of homes, and building of Israeli settlements on land that even Israel’s major ally the USA says clearly belongs to the Palestinian people.

    Nowhere have I said that Hamas doesn’t set difficult preconditions to negotiation. Both sides are guilty of that. I said they *should* avoid such preconditions. Please don’t make out I am on Hamas’ side. I see validity in both sides’ claims. I’m just sick of the way so-called defenders of democracy will only defend the democracy they think is nicest. The Palestinians have been crapped on for a very long time even though Israel has been guilty of very similar crimes. We should all accept that both sides have a legitimate claim on the lands of Israel/Palestine, and we should compel both sides to sit down to some *serious* negotiation.

    A (even *the*) major sticking point is East Jerusalem. That area belonged to Palestine for a very very long time – we’re talking about the times of the Christian “crusades” here. Israel’s claim stems from the fact they say “God said they can have it” backed up by the fact of military power. Not so very long ago Israel was happy to call Tel Aviv its capital. Now is it okay for Israel to use religious fundamentalism and military violence to back up it claims, but not okay for the Palestinians to do the same? Please note: *I* don’t think either side should use violence. But I also believe that what’s good for the goose is also good for the gander (English colloquialism – look it up if you don’t understand it).

    I want there to be a lasting peace in the region. But such a peace will not come about if Hamas puts its guns down and plays nice while Israel just gets on with business as usual. If you truly are interested in how such an old conflict can be resolved, I urge you to study the Irish Troubles and their resolution. It is possible. I know you think it’s just a smoke screen, but I really do hate hate.

  5. Facts First says:

    Indeed I did avoid answering your question on the Palestinians’ right to self-defence, and you could call it cherry-picking, but it was because I suspected that our opinions on that matter were just too diverse to meet!

    Also, I was not sure if you meant self-defence or resistance to occupation. Palestinian self-defence implies that Israel is the aggressor, whereas to me Israel’s violence is in response to the threat and the reality of Palestinian terror.

    Resistance to occupation is something different, but even so you cannot argue that it legitimises planned attacks against civilians. The shining examples of resistance to occupation have been pacifist, like Gandi’s.

    So no, I would not compare Israel’s attacks on Hamas and other terrorist groups and their infrastructure with Hamas’s deliberate targeting of Israeli civilians. The “numbers” argument is a red herring. Any death of an innocent person is an abomination, but the flaw in crudely counting up numbers of dead and injured innocents is in assuming that the guilt for them lies with the other side.

    I have never before heard of the Palestinian Right of Return referring only to those refugees displaced during the 1967 war. The UN Resolution which calls for it was drawn up after the 1948 war. Either way, Israel, already a pluralist society with over 20% of the population who are not Jewish, would not be able to absorb them and their descendants and remain a democratic Jewish state. I do not see how this could be “less damaging” to Israel.

    East Jerusalem belonged to Palestine during the Christian crusades? There was no Palestine as such, of course. And during the Crusades, it was conquered by the Christians, until it was taken back by Saladin, before falling to the Tartars, the Ayyubids and the Mamluks. Finally it fell to the Ottomans in 1517, who ruled until the British mandate.

    So yes, there are multiple claims on the city. But you cannot say that East Jerusalem was captured because of religious fundamentalism backed up by military violence. The war in which East Jerusalem was captured was not a war of expansionism for Israel but an existential struggle against a host of unfriendly neighbours, who once again pledged to drive Israel into the sea. It resulted against the odds in Israel capturing territory. Some of it was eventually handed back, in exchange for peace. The rest was not handed back because peace was not offered, and remains occupied to this day.

    I agree with you that the Palestinians have been crapped on for a long time and from a great height. I think where we disagree is in who is responsible, and who must pay a price. Yes, old conflicts such as these *can* be resolved – but not where the price you are asking of one side is the loss of the state and their security which for 2000 years they dreamt about and 62 years ago attained.

  6. Facts First says:

    By the way, you are wrong about Tel Aviv – it was never Israel’s capital, which has been Jerusalem since the birth of the state in 1948. Since 1967 it includes East Jerusalem (at least as far as Israel is concerned).

    Also worth pointing out that East Jerusalem includes the Old City, with holy sites for Jews, Christians and Muslims, and that it was previously annexed by Jordan in 1948 (also not recognised internationally). Under Jordanian control, Jews were not allowed access to their holy sites. Under Israeli control, the Dome of the Rock remains under Muslim authority.

  7. Martin X says:

    “Facts First”: you wrote:

    “So yes, there are multiple claims on the city. But you cannot say that East Jerusalem was captured because of religious fundamentalism backed up by military violence. The war in which East Jerusalem was captured was not a war of expansionism for Israel but an existential struggle against a host of unfriendly neighbours, who once again pledged to drive Israel into the sea. It resulted against the odds in Israel capturing territory. Some of it was eventually handed back, in exchange for peace. The rest was not handed back because peace was not offered, and remains occupied to this day.”

    I didn’t say the city of East Jerusalem belonged to the state of Palestine. My words were: “That area [East Jerusalem] belonged to Palestine for a very very long time – we’re talking about the times of the Christian “crusades” here. Meaning that at the time of the “Crusades”, East Jerusalem was in the hands of the people of that region we used to call (until very recently) “Palestine”. In fact, if my memory serves me right, it was the fact that East Jerusalem had “fallen into the hands” of “Islam” that served as an excuse for the Christians going on their crusades (at that time, the area we now call “East Jerusalem” contained the city of Jerusalem, the Temple Mount, the al-Aqsa mosque, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and other such holy sites. It then changed hands between Moslems and Christians. In more recent times, it was controlled by the British Mandate. But anyway,for a long time there was a mixed population of Jews, Christians and Moslems.

    But this all changed after 1949, when Jordan took the area and evicted Jews from the traditional Jewish Quarter and desecrated some Jewish holy sites. Then, in 1967, Israel gained control of the area (and the nearby West bank) in the Six Day War and started with their own brand of ethnic cleansing. Within a few hours they flattened the Moroccan quarter and killed a resident. They erected a security barrier to cut off the city from the West bank. And they changed the political shape of the city by requiring nearly all Arab residents of East Jerusalem to cast votes in West Bank elections rather than for Jerusalem municipalities. A 2009 EU report on the city states that Israel has successfully and illegally annexed East Jerusalem by evicting Palestinians and demolishing their houses,building settlements for Israeli Jews, creating a highly restrictive permit system, closing Palestinian institutions, reducing Palestinian influence on local politics, maintaining an illegal “security barrier” to ensure East Jerusalem is separated from the rest of the West Bank… Israel has changed East Jerusalem from being predominantly Palestinian to a Jewish area, which has resulted in Jerusalem as a whole becoming a city lived in and run by Israeli Jews. And Jerusalem is now capital of Israel. It is the Jewish capital of Jewish Israel. And this is not meant in any way to seem an anti-Semitic statement. I’m just spelling out the truth of the situation, to reveal that the statement of yours on the capture of East Jerusalem is simply not true – the seizure of East Jerusalem certainly *was* an act of expansionism. Israel is taking territory that is predominantly lived in and run by Palestinians, and changint them into Jewish areas. Israel seems to be engaged in a huge land grab, expanding to create more and more Jewish Israeli “lebensraum”. It’s so odd that the government of a predominantly Jewish nation should pursue policies so reminiscent of Nazi Germany. Is Israel trying to “beat its enemies at their own game”? Why is Israel so paranoid that it sees enemies everywhere, even in its own towns and cities?

    It seems you’re right and I’m mistaken about Hamas wants the right of return to be applied only to those who became refugees after the 1967 war. But my reading on the subject has brought to my attention a related matter that also covers your support for only democracies that you like.

    In a piece on Huffingtonpost.com, Mya Guarnieri questions the validity of a country that was founded on the ideal of protecting the rights of a persecuted people yet which thinks nothing of trampling underfoot the rights of others. There are possibly 3.7 million Palestinian refugees in the Middle East, and no one is really sure how many more there are around the world – all demanding the right to go home. This diaspora certainly rivals that of the Jewish people who roamed the world for some thousands of years before they took a homeland for themselves. The Jewish diaspora gained sympathy round the world after the Nazis’ attempt to annihilate them; if they hadn’t suffered that tragedy, it’s arguable that they would still be homeless. After all, for countless centuries the Jews had suffered abuse with barely a single Gentile voice raised in support for them.

    But now Israel treats the Palestinians with a cruelty that many people think reminiscent of the contempt and brutality the Jews suffered themselves until relatively recently. And when some Jewish Israelis do speak out about the way Palestinians are mistreated by the Israeli authorities, those sympathetic Israelis find themselves under an attack that the Gestapo might admire. Three Israeli human rights organizations that help seriously ill Palestinians in Gaza to access health care in Israel – Gisha, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, and HaMoked, have all been told by the Gaza District Coordination Office that they will no longer be able to secure exit visas. Many desperately ill patients, including children, will die because of this inexplicably heartless decision.

    Many Israeli NGOs who have been involved in protests against the treatment of Palestinians in the East Jerusalem district of Sheik Jarrah have also found themselves under investigation and funds withdrawn. In January 17 demonstrators were arrested, including the Executive Director of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Haggai El-Ad. Now many human rights activists in israel are concerned about what will happen to those who champion the causes of the dispossessed Palestinians.

    It shocks me how any right-thinking adult can defend the way Israel treats its victims. In the west we talk about democracy as if it is an all-important ideal. But the truth is, some of you don’t care at all. Especially if the victims of oppression pray in an unapproved fashion.

  8. Facts First says:

    Well, this really is getting longer and longer, and, dare I say it, wronger and wronger. In an effort to keep it short, here are some facts first:

    – Israel going to war in 1967 was not with expansionist aims, but defensive. The capture of East Jerusalem was opportunistic.

    – The flattening of the Moroccan quarter was not ethnic cleansing, it was to clear the site of the Western Wall, the holiest site in Judaism. The residents of the quarter were compensated and relocated. The destruction of a large part of the Jewish quarter by the Jordanians could, on the other hand, be called ethnic cleansing, the aim being to drive those residents out of the city.

    – Jerusalem was never in the hands of the people of that region. It was never in fact under self-rule since the last period of Jewish rule, ending in 70 AD. Since that time it was under the rule of occupying empires (Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman) or invading neighbours.

    – Distasteful as you seem to find it, Jerusalem has only ever been a Jewish capital. It has never been a Christian capital, an Arab capital, or anyone else’s capital except the Jews’.

    – First you called the capture of East Jerusalem “religious fundamentalism”, now you are calling it expansionism. It is neither. The significance of Jerusalem is that it is the ancient Jewish capital containing many of the holiest sites. It is certainly fundamental to the religion, but that is not the same as religious fundamentalism. Neither is it in any way comparable to expanding merely for the sake of gaining more space and resources.

    – I cannot believe a right-thinking adult can even dream of making comparisons between a conflict situation that has been going for over 100 years, with a history of wrongs on both sides, and the horrors of one of the worst events to occur to any people in history. If you really believe it, start a new thread and offer some evidence. I think the time spent studying the Holocaust might bring you some perspective on such ill-judged, and actually a little sickening, comparisons.

  9. Facts First says:

    Incidentally, an interesting fact on the Jerusalem page of Wikipedia (Demographics section) is that the proportion of the population of Jerusalem that is Jewish has actually declined since 1967, from 74% to 64%. If that’s expansionism / ethnic cleansing, they’re pretty bad at it.

  10. Martin X says:

    Facts First: Amongst some debaters, there’s a belief that the first side to mention the Nazis/WW2 has already lost. You brought up Hitler in your first comment (using him to debase the value of democracy, no less!), so you were on a loser to begin with. But I engaged with you anyway, as you seem to have amusing though stereotypical opinions. Anyway, you mentioned Hitler first, so don’t get all offended now when someone else utters the dread subject.

    You know I’m not going to “start a new thread” to argue that Israel and Nazi Germany are the same. That would be a ridiculous claim. But for you to say Israel isn’t expansionist is also daft. If you pay any attention to US-Israeli current affairs, you’ll have noticed that the US government is very disappointed at Israel’s renewed policy of establishing settlements in disputed areas. For some time now, the EU and international court have complained about Israel’s illegal settlements. That’s expansionism, no matter what you may like to call it.

    Expansionism. Suppression of groups along religious and/or racial lines. Suppression of domestic political activism through harsh summary procedures. Militarization of society. Forced relocation of unwanted populations by demolition of homes. These are all valid descriptions of what many governments in the world get up to. Most of the governments that do these things are criticized by democratic society. But it’s also done by governments who have a high level of international approval.

    You know who I’m looking at.

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