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Hamas - for Democracy? By: Micah Halpern
MicahHalpern.com | Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Democracy. What is it all about?

Is democracy about total freedom for all at any cost, or is democracy about the ability to freely say "yea" or "neah" in order to preserve the best interests of the people?

Hamas wants to run its candidates in the Palestinian legislative elections scheduled for January. Palestinian leaders are saying that if the people want Hamas, let them vote Hamas. They are saying that if the people want Fatah, let them vote Fatah. The Palestinians are saying that by allowing avowedly terrorist groups to actively participate in their elections they are actively pursing the democratic rights bestowed upon their people.

Israel disagrees. Israel is saying that if Hamas stands for election they will offer no support, not even on the practical level. What does that mean in practical terms? It means that Israel will not allow Palestinians permission to travel, the permission they need to get to their voting booths and cast their ballots. Without Israel's assistance, it is unlikely that a real Palestinian election can take place.

The PA, in turn, is saying that Israel should butt out. Hamas says that Israel should be eradicated from the face of the earth and that the Palestinians should not be negotiating with Israel. No negotiations, no ceasefire, no trade, no work. War, they want an all out war with Israel.

Political tensions between Israel and the Palestinians are rising high and quick. Expect them to rise even more.

The Palestinians are standing firm. So are the Israelis. And so are some of the donor states upon whom the Palestinian government depends for sustenance and subsidies. The United States, for example, has said on more than one occasion that Hamas can run in democratically held elections ... but only after they publicly disclaim violence and actually disavow acts of terror. To do otherwise is to make a mockery of the democratic process. Americans and Europeans know that a true political party cannot hold arms. They know that political parties participate in the building of the state and in cultivating civil reform, not in military retribution.

But rather than forcing the issue, Palestinian leadership has decided to pacify Hamas and hide behind a self-deluding childish definition of democracy. The Palestinians, a society with no history of democracy, are attempting to teach a civics lesson to the world. The result of their warped analysis and fear-inspired sense of reality will be a situation that will set them years back at a time when they could be propelled eons ahead.

The precedent has been set many times over. The Palestinians need not fear that they would be making revolutionary history in the name of democracy. There are many democratic states that forbid certain movements and/or parties from running for election because they are blatantly racist or because the nature of those parties has been deemed destructive to the very nature of that society.

Germany after World War II is a prime example. Hitler was democratically elected to office. Following the War, however, when West Germany was being shaped into a democratically run government, the Nazi party was outlawed. They are outlawed even today and the logic behind this ruling is that when certain political ideologies come in contact with certain social proclivities the result can threaten the very democratic nature of society.

There are Northern European countries that do not allow parties to run in their elections if the parties have a racist plank in their platform. Spain and Turkey have recently forbidden political parties from standing for election. Both countries were challenged in the Court of the European Union for their decisions. In both cases the Court ruled in favor of preventing extremist parties from running and they ruled that way in order to preserve democracy.

Not coincidently, Israel has the very same rule. The United States, does not.

The Palestinians should be arguing that democracy allows them to say "no" to extremism. The Palestinians should take strength from the principles of democracy and control the forces that are trying to destroy them from within.

The Palestinians should not be choosing Adolf Hitler as their role model.

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Micah Halpern maintains The Micah Report.

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