In January 2006, the Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement Hamas won a landslide victory in parliamentary elections, winning 74 of 132 seats. Its main rival, the secular Palestinian National Liberation Movement, Fatah, won 45 seats. According to Hana Naser, the head of the Central Election Commission, 77 percent of eligible Palestinians voted in that historic election, which was monitored by various international bodies.
The Emory report reported that: “The Carter Center, in conjunction with the National Democratic Institute, sent an 85-member team to observe the election, which was found to be peaceful, competitive, and truly democratic.”
Carter Center observers have included former US President Jimmy Carter, former Albanian President Rexhep Meidani, former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt, and former Spanish Foreign Minister Ana Palacio. “[They] witnessed an orderly and peaceful election day, with residents showing a clear preference for Hamas candidates, even in historically strong Fatah communities.”
Many other observers declared the election transparent and democratic – “free and fair” – but Israel, the US and the West refused to accept the result. They accused Hamas of being a terrorist organization that used violence to achieve its goals.
The US and the international community placed three main conditions on the recognition, which were really just a pretext to continue their boycott of the democratically elected Hamas. The Middle East Quartet – the US, EU, UN and Russia – spearheaded these conditions: recognition of Israel; abide by previous diplomatic agreements between Israel and the PLO; and renounce violence. Legitimate Palestinian resistance to Israel’s military occupation continues to be denounced as “terrorism” and “violence.”
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In fact, Hamas has not rejected these terms. It said that if Israel also respected the previous agreements; rejected violence and stopped killing Palestinians daily; and allowed those Palestinians forced from their homes from 1948 to return under international law, it would take them into consideration. To this day, the movement urges reconsideration of its policies if Israel respects Palestinian rights and shows its commitment to international legitimacy.
Instead, Israel and the international community helped the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority oust Hamas in the occupied West Bank. When it failed to do the same in the Gaza Strip, the occupying state imposed a strict siege and since then launched several major military offensives against the Palestinians in the enclave in an attempt to get the people to turn against the de facto government, Hamas. to turn. This strategy has also failed so far.
The response to Palestinian democracy is very different from what passes for democracy in Israel, where the 20 percent of the population who are not Jews are treated as second-class citizens. When an Israeli extremist, convicted of criminal charges related to racism, fascism and violence against Palestinians and even secular Jews, won a seat in Israel’s parliament – the Knesset – and joined a coalition government with a corrupt prime minister, the congratulations from abroad.
The last Israeli government has been described as the most far-right government in history; the bar for extremism was already very high before Benjamin Netanyahu cobbled together his new coalition. His ministers include Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich, two far-right extremists who have openly defended the killing and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.
Ben-Gvir is associated with the organization founded by US-born Jewish extremist Rabbi Meir Kahane, which openly advocated the violent expulsion of Palestinians from their homes in occupied Palestine. He was a member of Kahane’s Kach party, which was banned by the US under anti-terrorism laws (and was even banned in Israel for being too extreme), and currently heads the Jewish Power party, which is made up of many Kahanists. .
Smotrich and Ben-Gvir, said the Middle East Institute, “are considered radical, even by the standards of Israel’s right-wing … They have demanded that the rules of engagement be relaxed to make it easier for Israeli forces to put Palestinians down …Ben-Gvir repeatedly promised Bedouin and Palestinian-Israeli citizens to relocate to neighboring Arab states.” What is this but terrorism?
The terrorism advocated by these mainstream Israeli politicians and their parties violates international law, the resistance of Hamas and other factions is called “terrorism” by the US and the West, yet is perfectly legitimate under international law. Despite this, there is no question of a boycott of the Israeli government in which these right-wing monsters do their evil business.
On Tuesday, US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides denied that the Biden administration has imposed a boycott of Ben-Gvir. “There is no boycott. I don’t do boycotts… We are going to work with the Israeli government,” Nides told the Israeli government. Can public broadcast Corporation. “We will work with everyone [in the Israeli government]… It is a democratically elected government.”
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak congratulated Netanyahu, who built his coalition only by winning the support of the extremist parties. “On behalf of the UK, I would like to congratulate @netanyahu on his victory in the Israeli election,” Sunak tweeted. “In areas such as trade, security and technology, our countries are doing a tremendous amount together and I look forward to working with the returning prime minister.”
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell ignored everything we know about the Israeli government and its ministers’ terrorism and extremism. “Israel,” he stressed, “is one of the EU’s closest partners in the Middle East.”
However, Simon Tisdall had this to say in the Guardian on the Israeli government: “It obstructs a two-state solution to the Palestinian conflict and despises the UN and international law. It refuses to support sanctions against Russia over Ukraine. It rejects the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and threatens war. It sells spyware and arms to authoritarian regimes that violate human rights.
Worse, perhaps Netanyahu’s band of bigots is actively undermining Israel’s democratic institutions and civil rights, such as peaceful protest and LGBTQ rights. Many Israelis, both Jews and Arabs, passionately oppose the government. Senior politicians warn of ‘civil war’ .”
As for Sunak, however, he simply urged Israeli ministers to “abstain from inflammatory language and demonstrate tolerance and respect for minority groups.” US and EU officials reiterated his call. When I compare these reactions and positions with the reactions to the 2006 Hamas elections, I see nothing but injustice.
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When Hamas won in 2006, Jimmy Carter advised the US government and the West: “When you sponsor an election or promote democracy and freedom around the world, and when people make their own decisions about their leaders, I think all governments should recognize that administration and let them form their government.”
Carter’s advice on Hamas fell on deaf ears. However, the movement told him it would be moderate and change its policies. Current Israeli ministers persist in their extremism and violence, and have an appalling track record, yet they are accepted by the West.
Why is Israeli democracy important but Palestinian democracy not? We are told that Israel has values and culture in common with the US and the West. If so, it tells us more about the West than Washington, London, Berlin and Paris will ever admit.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect Middle East Monitor’s editorial policies.