Monday, February 06, 2006

Sharanky Comments on Palestine Democracy

Natan Sharansky contributed an insightful article, ”The Price of Ignoring Palestinians’ Needs” to the International Herald Tribune on February 1. He is very well known for his book, The Case for Democracy. He will run for the forthcoming election in Israel from the Likud Party. In the article, he argues as follows.

Hamas won the last election because free world, including Israel did not care Palestinian grassroots. This is a natural result. The international community and Israel assisted Palestinian “moderates”, like Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas with billons of dollars, but marginalized extremists like Hamas. America, Israel and the EU were afraid of pressing too hard for Palestinian reform, because they did not want to weaken the Authority and invigorate Hamas. However, their attitude disillusioned Palestinian people.

To the outside world, Palestinians chose the party of terrorists over the party of peace. But the difference to Israel between Hamas and Fatah does not make much sense. Actually some Fatah satellites, like Tanzim and Al Alsa brigade were responsible for terrorism against Israel. A terrorist like Marwan Barghouti received a lifetime sentence in Israel.

The choice between Fatah and Hamas is the choice between self-absorbed and corrupt terrorists and honest terrorists. Palestinians hope Hamas to eliminate corruption, restore law and order, and implement real reforms. In fact, Hamas chose an election slogan ”Change and Reform,” instead of “Throwing the Jews into the Sea.”

Hamas must satisfy the following two requirements to win support from the international community. First, Hamas must abandon the goal of annihilating Israel, and articulate their position to denounce terrorism. Second, Hamas must dedicate itself to build a free Palestinian society. If they fail to do so, Israel and the free world must confront Hamas. However, as long as they are willing to make efforts for these requirements, we must help them.

The world should not be skeptic to the whole concept of democratic reform in the Middle East, simply because of the result of this election. The election itself does not guarantee democracy. If there is no law and order, and no democratic institution, elections will bring the worst elements of power.

The policy of promoting democracy in the Middle East has not failed. If Palestinians hope for a better future, the free world must help them. Otherwise, the West and Israel will endanger themselves.

What Sharansky said in the article can be applied beyond Palestine. During the Cold War, the United States and Western allies were tolerant to repressive regimes to contain communist threats. The war on terror needs completely different policies. In any case, it is necessary to watch Hamas very carefully.