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The Mideast Democracy Scorecard By: Ariel Natan Pasko
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, June 05, 2003


Scorecard: Israel 1, Arab States 0. That about sums it up. Israel had elections at the end of January 2003 and three Arab-led parties won 9 seats in the Knesset - Israel's parliament. Democracy, I was told when I was growing up, meant majority rule with respect for minority rights. Israel, more or less qualifies. Let's take a look at a few other examples.

Iraq while still under Saddam Hussein, had elections in October 2002 and guess what, Saddam - running unopposed - was elected by 100% of the electorate. Even people in the hospital, 'deep in coma' came out to vote for him.  Same thing for Syria's Hafez Assad a few years ago, running unopposed, he garnered 99% of the vote. Gee, they sure love those Arab despots, don't they?

Take Lebanon for example. Poor thing, they 'invited' Syria in to 'help' them during the civil war in 1976, and it never left. Sort of like an obnoxious guest who overstays his visit, not sensing when its time to leave. The Christians in Lebanon feel that way. That's Syria, well-known 'champion of democracy,' respected member of the UN Security Council, and rapacious occupier of Lebanon in violation of UN Resolution 520 - telling them to get out - I might add.

Syria, that's that country run by the Alawis - a heretical offshoot of Shiite Islam - of which Bashar and the rest of the Assad clan are members. Although they make up only 10-12% of the population, about the same amount as Christians, and far fewer than the about 75% Sunni Muslim majority, they rule with an 'iron fist.' The Sunnis might be the majority, but when the now deceased Hafez Assad destroyed a town (Hama, 1982) killing 20,000 people, to root out his political opposition - a few hundred members of the Muslim Brotherhood - well hey, so who cares about being a majority, right? Although about 90% of the population is ethnically Arab, with the remainder Kurd, Armenian, and a mix of others, Alawi affirmative action proves, minority rights are doing fine in Syria.  Democracy is democracy!

Iraq wasn't much different before Saddam's ouster. It was run by the Tikritis. Sons of the town of Tikrit, as most everybody whose been following the Iraq adventure probably already know. Saddam Hussein, his advisors, top Baath party leaders, and most military and security leaders all come from there, a town of about 200,000 out of a country of 23 million. Talk about a company town, this one was a town-run country. Saddam and his cronies are Sunni Muslims, that make up only about 35% of the population, in contrast to the about 62% Shiite majority of Iraq. Minority rights win again.

Or look at Jordan that well-known 'modern' Middle East kingdom. Parliament was suspended and political parties were banned for over three decades. Political parties were first re-legalized in 1992. After years of promised 'creeping democratization' under the now deceased King Hussein - friend of Yitzhak Rabin, ‘friend of peace' and former builder of latrines in Eastern Jerusalem out of Jewish gravestones - his son the enlightened, western educated King Abdullah II (who became king in 1999), suspended parliament in June 2001.  Elections have been postponed ever since. Over 100 emergency regulations - i.e. anti-democratic laws - have been enacted, including the suspension of press freedoms. But don't worry; everything's been done according to the constitution. Right?

The ruling Hashemite Dynasty I remind you, decedents of Abdullah I, are natives of the Hejaz not Transjordan. The Saud family booted them out in the early part of the 20th century. So, they moved to the Palestine Mandate area and under British perfidy established a new kingdom in Transjordan.  

Then there's Egypt, a nice place, as long as you're not a Coptic Christian. For over 50 years, Egypt has been ruled by only three presidents. Nasser and Sadat were members of the Free Officers Movement revolt of 1952.  Mubarak was Sadat's vice president from the National Democratic Party that Sadat established in 1977. In Egyptian 'democracy,' the president is nominated by the NDP-dominated People's Assembly, and then ratified (unchallenged) by popular referendum. Mubarak was re-elected in 1999 by about the same amount, 95%, as he's 'won' by for three previous 6-year terms. Surprised?

Elections might not be all that free in Egypt, but there is plenty of media freedom. That is, for anti-Semitism and Israel-Bashing, all in violation of the 1979 Peace Treaty with Israel. But what can you do, democracy is democracy.

Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, and several North African states don't even try to pretend. They are honest in their opposition to western-style government. Usually taking the position that democracy, pluralism, and tolerance is alien to their Arabic cultures and Islamic inclinations.

All joking aside, with the war over, the United States is promising a democratization process in Iraq. The Bush Administration wants to promote democracy throughout the Middle East; it dedicated $145 million to a project called the Middle East Partnership Initiative in December 2002. President Bush for example has called for democratic reforms in the Palestinian Authority before statehood. Taking the cue before the war, Syria publicized a withdrawal, 'cosmetic redeployment' to some, of troops in Lebanon. Even Saudi Arabia hinted that after another Gulf War, reform is on the way. We are still waiting to see any real changes in the region. But for some thinkers in the US, the real question being debated is whether the US should forcibly export democracy, to the Middle East, instead of waiting for the Arab regimes to institute it on their own.

There are plenty of minorities in the Arab world, North Africa and the Middle East, that await real democracy. There are Lebanese who suffer daily occupation under a vicious Syrian regime. There are Kurds throughout the Middle East and Assyrians in Iraq, who aspire to independence. There are Berbers - the pre-Arab indigenous population - in North Africa who after 11 centuries, still resist Arabization. There are Christians in Egypt who are attacked by Islamic radicals and persecuted.  There are Christians and Animists in the Sudan who resist slavery or Islamicization.  And so on and so on, all are non-Arab or non-Muslim minorities, who long for the United States to bring regime change to their area too. See, "Minorities in the Middle East: A History of Struggle and Self-Expression" by Mordechai Nisan, and "The Dhimmi: Jews and Christians under Islam" by Bat Ye'or, to get a better sense of the problems.

Which brings us to the most serious measure of how committed to democratic reform in the Middle East anyone is, the Israeli-Palestinian issue. The Quartet - United States, EU, UN, and Russia - is promoting a 'roadmap' to peace, with the promise of Palestinian statehood. In February 2003, their Task Force on Palestinian Reform met in London, but only the US demanded any real democratic reforms in the Palestinian Authority, and only half-heartedly, at that. The Europeans seemed to be more interested in financial accountability for their aid money than democratic political reform in the PA. They did call for the appointment of a prime minister to limit Arafat's power. Hand picked by Yasser Arafat, Mahmoud Abbas - Abu Mazen - is a founding member of Arafat's 'Fatah' and has been Arafat's second-in-command for almost five decades. Arafat putting Abu Mazen in charge is like putting the kid in charge of the cookie jar.

That's Abu Mazen Holocaust denier. He received his PhD in history at Moscow Oriental College. His doctoral dissertation claimed the number of Jewish victims in the Holocaust was less than one million, rather than six million, and that they were victims of a joint Zionist-Nazi plot. In 1983, he published his dissertation as a book, "The Other Side: Secret Relations Between Nazism and the Leadership of the Zionist Movement". In 1984, he added an introduction to this book in which he raised doubts that gas chambers were used by the Nazis for the murder of Jews in World War II.

That's Abu Mazen financier of the 1972 Munich Olympic massacre. According to the mastermind of the Munich attack, Mohammed Daoud Oudeh - Abu Daoud - Abu Mazen provided the funds to carry out the 'Black September' (a Fatah group) terrorist attack. Daoud made that charge in his 1999 French language memoir, "Palestine: From Jerusalem to Munich," and again in an August 2002 interview, with Don Yaeger of Sports Illustrated magazine.

That's Abu Mazen, who in a March 3, 2003, interview with the Arabic language Al-Sharq Al-Awsat newspaper - just before being appointed prime minister - called for the killing of Jewish 'settlers.' Four days later, terrorists murdered Rabbi Eli and Dina Horowitz in Kiryat Arba. Recently Mrs. Bernice Wolf, Dina Horowitz's mother filed a complaint with the Israeli police against Abu Mazen, charging him with incitement to murder.

To prove his credentials as a 'moderate' and democrat who didn't want to exclude any group from political involvement in the PA, Prime Minister-designate Abu Mazen, called on the terrorist group Hamas to join the authority. He offered two cabinet positions to them, including control of the Ministry of Education, meaning that Hamas would have controlled what is taught to all the children in Palestinian schools. Maybe they would have started teaching suicide-bombing 101? They turned him down. So much for those who thought 'moderate' Prime Minister Abu Mazen would bring an end to incitement against Israel. So much for a changing of the guard at 'Terror Central'!

But the Quartet has accepted Abu Mazen as a democrat and moderate. Even Israeli Prime Minister Sharon has met with him. After another wave of bombings recently, that murdered over 10 people and injured over 50 within a few days; the new line heard in some quarters in Israel and coming out of capitals around the globe is that Arafat is 'blocking' Abu Mazen's attempt to stop the terrorists.  Everyone is waiting for Abu Mazen to rein in the terrorists already.

According to the text of the 'roadmap' released by the State Dept. on April 30, 2003, "The government of Israel immediately dismantles settlement outposts erected since March 2001. Consistent with the Mitchell Report, the government of Israel freezes all settlement activity (including natural growth of settlements)."

During Phase II -The Transition - June 2003-December 2003, an international conference is to be convened by the Quartet for the "Creation of an independent Palestinian state with provisional borders...As part of this process, implementation of prior agreements, to enhance maximum territorial contiguity, including further action on settlements..." What 'action' exactly?

According to reports, the American CIA will be used to see to the implementation of the 'roadmap'.  There will be a 'Special Operations Committee', whose main purpose is to see that 'settlement' activity is 'frozen' and 'outposts' are 'evacuated' - i.e. expel Jews, including American Jews from their homes. Speaking at a recent American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference Sec. of State Powell blankly stated, "Settlement activity is simply inconsistent with President Bush's two-state vision," quoting the latter's recent statement, "as progress is made toward peace, settlement activity in the Occupied Territories must end."

According to 'global common knowledge', Jewish 'settlements' in Judea and Samaria - the 'West Bank' and Gaza - will have to be abandoned, and Jews transferred, voluntarily or forcibly, back to the new borders of the State of Israel.

I ask a simple question, WHY?

Ethnic cleansing has been condemned throughout the 1990's. Bosnia's power sharing government is a case in point. After the breakup of Yugoslavia and the war that followed, the EU, NATO and the US did not help to establish an exclusively Muslim state in Bosnia, but one where Croats and Serbs were included. The 4th Geneva Convention - meant to protect residents from forced expulsion - was adopted after World War II, with the Holocaust in mind. How could the US or Europeans be thinking of making parts of the historic Jewish homeland JUDENREIN?

If the Palestinian state in the making is to claim the mantle of DEMOCRACY; no better test of its tolerance of minorities would be the granting of citizenship to Jews who would choose to remain in their towns, villages, and homes in Judea and Samaria - the 'West Bank' - and Gaza. Without extending full, equal rights and privileges to Jews in Palestine, including the possibility to be elected to parliament and serve in the Palestinian government - rights Arab citizens of Israel have - democracy and peace become empty expressions.

So what will it be? Are we going to stop hearing calls for the closing down of Jewish 'settlements' - i.e. Jewish cities, towns and villages - as called for in the 'roadmap'? Are we going to stop hearing calls for the expulsion of several hundred thousand Jews from their homes? Or will we now know, that 'regime change' and DEMOCRACY IN THE MIDDLE EAST are just empty slogans bereft of all meaning?



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