Wednesday, February 15, 2006

How the US supports democracy

Last month, Hamas won an outright majority in the Palestinian Authority elections. And surprise, surprise, the US and Israel are plotting to destabilise the new government and force new elections:

The United States and Israel are discussing ways to destabilize the Palestinian government so that newly elected Hamas officials will fail and elections will be called again, according to Israeli officials and Western diplomats.

The intention is to starve the Palestinian Authority of money and international connections to the point where, some months from now, its president, Mahmoud Abbas, is compelled to call a new election. The hope is that Palestinians will be so unhappy with life under Hamas that they will return to office a reformed and chastened Fatah movement.

Contrast this with President Bush's words in a speech last year. His goal for the Middle East was "two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, living side-by-side", and the US was

determined to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.

Unless of course they refuse to follow the American line. But this is nothing unusual for the United States - they have a long and dirty history of destabilising and overthrowing elected governments when the "wrong" people win. Iran, Guatemala, Chile, Venezuela... What's surprising is not that (once again) the US is attempting to undermine a democratically elected government - but that we take their professions of support for democracy seriously in the first place.


Let's have a look at a little more of the NYT article:

The officials said the destabilization plan centers largely on money. The Palestinian Authority has a monthly cash deficit of some $60 million to $70 million after it receives between $50 million and $55 million a month from Israel in taxes and customs duties collected by Israeli officials at the borders but owed to the Palestinians.

Israel says it will cut off those payments once Hamas takes power, and put the money in escrow. On top of that, some of the aid that the Palestinians currently receive will be stopped or reduced by the United States and European Union governments, which will be constrained by law or politics from providing money to an authority run by Hamas. The group is listed by Washington and the European Union as a terrorist organization.

Firstly, it dosn't just seem o be the US here, does it Idiot? Even those nice EU countries will be stopping funding. Now why should the American taxpayer fund organisations that are rampantly anti-American? I'd like to see US funding to corrupt regimes througout the Middle East slashed: Egypt, Pakistan - the lot. Surely America can decide who it gives its money to?

Posted by Anonymous : 2/15/2006 04:17:00 AM

1) the whole middle east problem is propped up by the fact that the rest of the world pays them millions of dollars. So stopping funding them might be a step in the right direction.

2) It is hard to justify paying the same amount of money to a Hamas country as to a Fattah/PLO country. The problem is that from a foreign affairs perspective hamas is the standard PLO with a little bit of killing innocent civilians.

If they don’t oppose it now they open themselves up to lots of criticism from the left and people like Chomsky in the future.

3) And since hamas doesnt like america you probably wouldn't get much return on investment either.

Posted by Genius : 2/15/2006 07:13:00 AM

For example when iraq started using chemical weapons the US was slow to react and people were critical about it and yet they are again slow to react regarding hamas and suicide bombing (similarly a "banned" weapon) and people say they shouldn't even be thinking about it.

Posted by Genius : 2/15/2006 07:22:00 AM

How about this form a radical idea: Give Hamas a chance! Mind boggling in its radical simplicity I know, but hey - it might even work. Instead of once again resorting to economic and military violence and aparthied to repress Palestinians why not give Hamas enough rope to hang itself? If it doesn't then we will be well on the way to democracy and peace. If they do, well, the Palestinians won't be able to blame anyone else.

Of course, this is dependent on assuming Israel, an apartheid regime now more addicted to violence and repression than even the old white racist regime in South Africa was, actually wants peace.

Posted by Anonymous : 2/15/2006 08:59:00 AM

"an apartheid regime now more addicted to violence and repression than even the old white racist regime in South Africa was"

Open to argument. See herefor example.

"actually wants peace."

Of course yes. The costs of the continuing conflict are enormous in every way. I cannot imagine what benefit you see accruing to Israel in the conflict continuing.

Posted by stephen : 2/15/2006 09:55:00 AM

Anon, Hamas has published children's story encouraging young boys to become suicide bombers. How much time would you like to give Hamas, and how many children will be indoctinated into Jihad in the meantime?

Youngsters and Jihad

Posted by Lucia Maria : 2/15/2006 10:53:00 AM

Stephen Judd: The answer to that is simple. The on-going war with the Palestinians and the Arabs gives justification to an entire, entrenched apparatus of security forces, secret agencies, a military-industrial bureacracy, weapons industries, political parties, etc etc. Also, by marginalising the plight of the Palestinian people behind a smoke screen of war Israel - and its backers - don't have to face the prickly question of the legal/philisophical basis of Zionist land claims, who owns what and compensation/restitution for the Palestinians.

Posted by Anonymous : 2/15/2006 11:40:00 AM

Anon, that's an answer that applies with equal force to the Palestinians; note the wreckers that emerge whenever a ceasefire seems near. In any case Israel would continue to have a large army and intelligence service no matter what; look how the US has (not) scaled back since the end of the Cold War. The weapons industry claim is stupid; weapons will be sold abroad whether or not there is peace with the Palestinians.

It just interests me that you can darkly mutter "if Israel wants peace at all" without a second thought for Hamas being constitutionally bound to war.

Personally I can tell you that the current state of affairs causes anguish to Israelis every day, and no one likes it. There may be institutional imperatives within the state to preserve the status quo but I am quite convinced that Israel (in the sense of the people who live there) wants an end to conflict very much.

Posted by stephen : 2/15/2006 01:26:00 PM

Stephen - the problem is in framing the question as what "Israel" ie some imaginary monolithic entity want. There is no single group or want, just conflicting wants.
What causes pain to Israelis on a daily basis causes enormous profit to the armaments industry and political power to specific groups (in the same way Dubya et al maintain their power through cultivating a fearful populace.

You're quite correct the US hasn't disarmed since the cold war.. it's in the interests of some narrow groups such as the military-industrial complex that they do not.
Not to mention the zombie-like idea of 'patriotism' (all that mindless flag-worship) that would not've seemed out of place in communist Russia. You've got generations of people bred on that stuff, who having won the cold war are happy to find or generate new conflicts to 'prevail' in.

As to whether Hamas have a political role to play.. a couple of decades back people refused to believe the IRA had a political role to play and yet they've (largely) forsaken armed conflict for political process. Who can say Hamas are not capable of the same?

And as to "the wreckers that emerge whenever ceasefire seems near", it is the Israeli targetted assasinations that have torpedoed any recent attempts at ceasefire.

Posted by Anonymous : 2/15/2006 03:16:00 PM

Given that the Palestinians are boycotting Denmark (and by extension the EU), they must have taken the loss of EU aid money into account - surely?

The part that I can't figure out is why anyone does take an American administration's quacking about supporting democracy seriously. They'll support it enthusiastically to the extent it gives them govts they feel they can work with, and no further.

The election of Hamas is pretty much a parallel with the election of Sharon in Israel - the electors got sick of playing nice and have decided it's time to kick ass instead. Of course, Bush didn't immediately start destabilising Sharon's govt.

Posted by Psycho Milt : 2/15/2006 07:24:00 PM

I don't see why the US, EU, and Israel would have to pay money to a party that has a stated aim to the destruction of Israel.

While I agree that Hamas have the right to govern they shouldn't expect money from groups that disagree with their views or actions.

Posted by Anonymous : 2/16/2006 02:56:00 PM