Socialist ViewPoint and analysis for working people

March/April • Vol 6, No. 2 •

So You Say You Want Democracy?

By Mumia Abu-Jamal

The results of the recent Palestinian parliamentary elections, principally the surprise gains by Hamas, have sent shock waves throughout the world. The elections not only toppled the ruling Fatah movement from the majority in Parliament, it sent shock waves through Europe, Israel, and the United States.

What was most surprising is that the Hamas victories took place just hours after the corporate press cited exit polls showing Fatah winning a majority, and Hamas badly trailing them.

American reporters didn’t get it so wrong simply because they relied on the wrong exit polls; they also relied on the same, old talking heads, so-called experts and journalists alike, who in turn relied on primarily Israeli sources.

If they could be so wrong and so misinformed about Palestine, what does that tell you about the American/Western adventures in Iraq? It shows, as clearly as a red flag before a bull, that the Iraq misadventure is based on misinformation and wishful thinking.

The avowed purpose of the Iraq Invasion and Occupation was to bring democracy to the Middle East, starting with Iraq. Yet, once people are free to vote, especially in this repressive climate, who do you think they’d vote for? Will they vote for leaders that are bought and paid off by the West? Or will they choose representatives that are independent of Western influences?

What we have seen in Palestine and the Occupied Territories is a precursor of what is to come in Iraq. When Arab populations see their leaders wearing slick Italian suits, living like princes (some are princes!), and living in the lap of luxury, do you think this engenders trust?

Within minutes of the Hamas victory, American and other donor countries announced they would cut off subsidies to the Palestinian Authority if Hamas intends to participate in government. Statements such as these illustrate how compromised the former leaders were, dependent as they were on money from foreigners. It’s almost as if the West was offering to buy off Hamas.

The stunning victory at the polls is a harbinger of things to come. The consternation and eruptions of temper from western leaders shows us that they didn’t really care about democracy at all.

And what of “the peace process”, you ask? Simple. There never was a peace process.

There was a negotiated surrender, which used words like “peace” to disguise more land-grabs, more occupation, more lebersraum. The Hamas electoral victory, gives us some inkling of what “democracy” could mean in a future Iraq, one which becomes an Arab province of a vast Shi’a superstate.

Is there any real doubt that if a true “democratic election were held in Egypt, it would topple the Mubarak regime?

Islamic parties won a nice, new and improved chunk of Egypt’s parliament recently.

And what of the principates throughout the region?

How long do you think the royal houses would last, if the people were able to vote for democratic rule?

The Palestinian elections show us many people in the Arab regions long for a change. Who would’ve thought that the party once led by Yasir Arafat, so soon after his passing, would be so quickly swept from power?

The Bush Administration claimed to want democracy.

This is what democracy looks like.

And yet, truth be told, the Palestinians haven’t been freed by this election. Their lands are still occupied. There are over 5 million Palestinian refugees scattered in squalid refugee camps throughout the region. Their election may’ve given them a burst of national consciousness; it didn’t deliver sovereignty.

For millions of Palestinians, this is a day to be remembered, but it pales beneath the “Nakba” (Palestinian term for catastrophe’). They mark their days by the invasions, expulsions, and military actions of the Israelis.

Yet, though good days may be rare, they are still good days.

—Copyright Mumia Abu-Jamal, January 26, 2006

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