Hamas’s Win

The reactions to Hamas’s win in the Palestinian elections last week have been both depressing and amusing. Depressing because some people have acted as though the sky had fallen and the earth had stopped turning. How could it happen? they wondered. (Let me tell you how it could. When you have to live under a corrupt authority for ten years, when you watch your leaders build mansions and drive benzes while the humanitarian aid that was supposed to go to you goes to line their pockets, you’re going to hit back at them with the only weapon that voters have: votes. From where I sit, Hamas’s win is unsurprising.)

The reactions have also been amusing because, with Arafat gone and the Palestinians finally able to have elections, Bush was cornered into having to admit that “democracy” was on the move. Except that the result he got wasn’t the one he was hoping for, so he’ll look for a way to delegitimize it. Writing in Salon, Juan Cole makes this point rather clearly:

In a mystifying self-contradiction, Bush trumpeted that “the Palestinians had an election yesterday, the results of which remind me about the power of democracy.” If elections were really the same as democracy, and if Bush was so happy about the process, then we might expect him to pledge to work with the results, which by his lights would be intrinsically good. But then he suddenly swerved away from this line of thought, reverting to boilerplate and saying, “On the other hand, I don’t see how you can be a partner in peace if you advocate the destruction of a country as part of your platform. And I know you can’t be a partner in peace if you have a — if your party has got an armed wing.”

So Bush is saying that even though elections are democracy and democracy is good and powerful, it has produced unacceptable results in this case, and so the resulting Hamas government will lack the legitimacy necessary to allow the United States to deal with it or go forward in any peace process. Bush’s double standard is clear in his diction, since he was perfectly happy to deal with Israel’s Likud Party, which is dedicated to the destruction of the budding Palestinian state, and which used the Israeli military and security services for its party platform in destroying the infrastructure of the Palestinian Authority throughout the early years of this century. As Orwell reminded us in “Animal Farm,” some are more equal than others.

Please also read Jonathan Edelstein’s thoughtful reaction to the elections, and the interesting discussion in the comments section.

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