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U.S. and Israel denounce Hamas landslide
Threatened with war for winning an election

By Eric Ruder | February 3, 2006 | Page 12

THE U.S. and Israel reacted to Hamas' landslide victory in Palestinian elections last week with denunciations and threats.

Politicians and media commentators alike demanded that Hamas "renounce violence" before it could be recognized as a legitimate ruling party--without, of course, calling on the U.S. and Israel to renounce their far greater violence in Palestine and throughout the Middle East.

Acting Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert vowed that Israel would not establish ties to a Hamas-led government and said that Israel would immediately begin withholding monthly transfers of about $54 million that it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority (PA) at ports and border crossings.

Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz threatened that Hamas militants who engage in "terrorism" would be "liquidated"--which amounts to an open-ended threat against all Hamas members considering that Israel and the U.S. both consider Hamas to be a "terrorist organization."

At a meeting with European Union leaders about whether to continue foreign aid to the PA, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said, "You cannot be on one hand dedicated to peace and on the other dedicated to violence."

All of these statements are dripping with hypocrisy. "Of course, the Israeli government doesn't have to renounce violence in order to have U.S. recognition," wrote Dave Lindorff on the CounterPunch Web site. "One can argue about the tactics Hamas has employed, which involve blowing up Israeli civilians, but then, that's exactly what the Israeli government has its military forces do--blow up and gun down Palestinian civilians--only Israel has bigger weapons."

In fact, Israel has killed some 3,300 Palestinians, while the Palestinian resistance has killed about 1,000 Israelis. Israeli forces have killed nearly eight times more children and three times more civilians than Palestinian forces.

U.S., Israeli and EU officials insist that Hamas recognize Israel's right to exist as a condition for granting a Hamas-led PA international standing.

Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar has said that peaceful coexistence is possible if Israel withdraws to its 1967 borders and frees Palestinian prisoners. "We can expect to establish our independent state on the area [occupied since] 1967, and we can give a long-term truce," Zahar told CNN.

On the other hand, Israeli leaders spent decades denying the very existence of the Palestinian people, openly discuss the possibility of the mass expulsion of the Palestinian population, and have waged a relentless war on all aspects of Palestinian society.

Hamas won an overwhelming victory in the January 25 vote, taking 76 of the 132 seats in the Palestinian Legislative Council. With the support of four more independent candidates who were backed by Hamas, the organization won 61 percent of the votes cast in an election where turnout was very high--75 percent.

Hamas now has nearly double the 43 seats held by Fatah, the Palestinian political party once led by Yasser Arafat that sat at the head of the PA since its inception.

Fatah's powerlessness to stop Israel's unrelenting violence against Palestinian civilians, construction of illegal settlements, and arbitrary arrest and detention of thousands of young Palestinian men--as well as the corruption and repression that plagued its rule of the PA--drove the massive shift to Hamas.

The next day, the New York Times reported that the "Hamas landslide in Palestinian elections has stunned Israelis, but it may also have brought them a rare moment of clarity: With peace talks off the table, Israel will most likely pursue unilateral actions, drawing its own borders and separating itself from the Palestinians."

Of course, this is precisely the approach that Israel pursued before Hamas' victory--with its disengagement from Gaza, its building of a massive separation wall that cuts through Palestinian villages and farms in the West Bank, its further expansion of settlements, and its policy of "targeted assassinations" against Palestinian militants, including leaders of Hamas.

For the last few years, the Bush administration trumpeted its efforts to "spread democracy" in the Middle East, crowing about elections in Iraq and Lebanon. But the U.S. reaction to the Palestinian vote for Hamas exposed how all this was window dressing for the real aim of installing pro-U.S. governments.

In reality, the Palestinian election had more to do with democracy than those hailed by the U.S.

"The poll was a more impressive display of democracy than any other in the region, outstripping last year's votes in Lebanon and Iraq both in turnout and the range of views that candidates represented," wrote Jonathan Steele in Britain's Guardian newspaper. "Whereas in Iraq, parties that opposed the occupation had to downplay or even obscure their views, Palestinian supporters of armed resistance to Israel's expansionist strategies were able to run openly."

For most Palestinians, the main appeal of Hamas isn't its Islamist religious ideas, but that it has taken a tougher stand against Israel and the U.S., in contrast to Fatah leaders who bargained away Palestinian land and national rights during the Oslo "peace" process.

The Hamas victory represents the desire for an alternative to the worsening conditions of the last decade--and for a resistance to Israel's war on Palestine.

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