Democrats & Liberals Archives

A Thumb in the Eye of Democracy

President Bush tells us that it is really, really important to promote democracy in the Middle East. This cause is so vital we are spending hundreds of billions of dollars and sacrificing thousands of American lives in Iraq. So why is he holding the Israeli government’s coat while it assaults the Hamas government that the Palestinian people chose in free elections?

For those who are not familiar with the story, Israel has attacked the office of the Palestinian PM, as well as imprisoned eight cabinet members and more than fifty other Hamas officials. Are these actions even remotely compatible with the stated US goal of promoting democracy? To the people of the Middle East, who see the US and Israel as very much the same team, the message seems unmistakable: Future Arab democracies are free to elect any government they like, as long it is sufficiently "moderate" in our eyes.

Now, I am sure that many of you are going to tell me that it is just plum obvious that the Israeli leadership is good and the Hamas government is evil. "Moral clarity" is called for, right?

There are a couple of problems with this analysis. First of all, Americans and Israelis are probably the only people in the world who see the Israelis as unequivocally morally superior to the Palestinians. Secondly, the Israelis themselves unapologetically used terrorist-like tactics to get themselves out from under the thumb of the British in the 1930’s and 1940’s, including kidnapping and executing British soldiers (much as an Israeli soldier is now being held hostage).

As a Jew, I am quite sensitive to the fact that the world’s Jews were in danger at the time. But the Palestinian people have ample reason to feel persecuted themselves. The fact that the Israelis are not as bad as the Nazis is really academic to them.

Ultimately, whether the Israelis are superior to the Palestinians is beside the point. The question is, can Bush make a plausible case for Islamic leaders to support his vision of democracy? Based on recent events, it is hard to see how they could retain the respect of their people if they did so.

Posted by Woody Mena at July 5, 2006 11:43 AM
Comments
Comment #164930

You are conflating two issues — whether a government is democratic and whether its policies should be supported.

We support democracy because it usually produces a more stable and fair society. But, just because Hamas was elected democratically, it does not follow that we should simply accept Hamas’ behavior. Who thinks that Eisenhower’s decision to send in the troops to enforce Brown v. Board of Education was “wrong” simply because a democratic majority of Arkansans wanted to maintain segregation?

While various Islamic groups may try to extract propaganda value out of the overly-simplistic criticism you raise, that’s no reason to cede ground to terrorists.

Posted by: Homer at July 5, 2006 12:07 PM
Comment #164935

For Those not familiar with the story Hamas has been killing the Jews from Israel for many years.The leader of Hamas has said he wants to kill all Jews.For those not Familiar with the story Hamas sends suicide human bombs into Isreal every chance they get.For those not familiar with the story the Jews Want to live side by side with the Palestinians.For those who are not familiar with the story Hamas Are Terrorest.Those who feel sorry for Hamas are helping Hamas Destroy Israel.In short Hamas will get what Hamas Deserves.

Posted by: justwondering at July 5, 2006 12:29 PM
Comment #164938

Homer,

I am not saying that the US and Israel should uncritically accept the actions and policies of Hamas, just the legitimacy of their government. Otherwise, the Palestinian elections were a phony exercise.

Imagine that a group that claimed to be promoting democracy tried to assassinate Tony Blair because they disagreed with his foreign policy. That would obviously be ridiculous, right?! They can criticize Blair all they want, but if they try to do him in then they obviously have no respect for democracy. I think this is just common sense.

You imply that I am helping produce enemy propaganda, but I am just stating the obvious.

Posted by: Woody Mena at July 5, 2006 12:42 PM
Comment #164941

I agree that we should not support terrorists, but you’re forgetting one very important thing, that being that Israel is not innocent from shedding innocent blood. Neither the Palestinians nor the Isrealis are innocent, so with that in mind, supporting Israel is no different than if the U.S. became best buds with Hamas. Israel continued to take more and more land from the Palestinians despite being repeatedly told not to by the UN. And to force the Palestinians out, they have resorted to the same tactics that the Palestinians have used. So why is it okay for one group to use terrorist tactics, but not for another? It’s not. That’s a double standard. The only thing that can be said for sure is that it is when you look at both groups’ past, you can see the vantage point from them both. But, you still cannot ignore that Israel’s reputation is far from being spottless.

Posted by: joenathn at July 5, 2006 12:56 PM
Comment #164944

Woody-

Just because a government is “democratically” elected does not give it legitimacy. Hamas has for it’s ultimate goal the elimination of Israel. They do not want peace or reconciliation, they want destruction. I believe the majority of Palestinians have little or no problem with Israel. However, Hamas, Iran, and other countries in the region do. Hamas has escalated the level of violence to the point where Israel felt the need to strike back hard. And, they have.

Does Israel come to the table with clean hands? No. Should we support all that they do in the name of self defense? No. Should we help to broker a peace accord like Carter and Sadat did with Israel and Egypt? Yes. Do I think such a deal would work? Not in this lifetime! Is there an answer? Tes, the total destruction of one side or the other.

Posted by: John Back at July 5, 2006 1:01 PM
Comment #164945

Woody,

Your article needs to much more clearly distinguish between Israel’s specific tactics in the conduct of their war against Hamas and Bush’s alleged support (tacit, at best) for those tactics.

If you want to criticize Israel, do so, but that’s a different article. I don’t think Bush is compelled to come to the defense of Hamas to help Hamas out of a creation of its own making.

Regarding Israel’s tactics, that’s a tough question (and one on which I do not know enough of the facts leading up to the specific decision to fire missiles at the PM). Certainly, at some point, it is permissible to go after leaders. (Nobody objects to targeting Osama, for instance.) Was it OK to go after Hamas before its election, but, magically, no longer OK afterwards? What if Osama got 500 Afghanis together and engineered a favorable “election”? Would that make Osama automatically immune from being targeted? Obviously, there’s a prickly line to draw. But, at a minimum, it requires a much more thorough analysis of the pertinent factors than what you’ve given your readers.

Posted by: Homer at July 5, 2006 1:02 PM
Comment #164946

John,

We probably agree more than we disagree. The US should try to broker a deal.

As to your point about the legitimacy of the Hamas government, what about the US government? Are we not openly interested in overthrowing the regimes in Cuba, North Korea and other places? Making decisions that other people disagree with doesn’t make our government illegitimate.

Posted by: Woody Mena at July 5, 2006 1:08 PM
Comment #164947

Homer,

I don’t think Bush is compelled to come to the defense of Hamas to help Hamas out of a creation of its own making.

It depends on what you mean by compelled. If he stands by in silence, I think it makes a pretty strong statement to the Muslim world about what we think about democracy.

Was it OK to go after Hamas before its election, but, magically, no longer OK afterwards?

Only if you sincerely believe in democracy. If you think that democracy is just another way of choosing a government, then, no, there is no particular reason not to attack the Hamas government now. If you think that democracy is that cure for what ails the Middle East, as Bush apparently does, then I think you have to recognize the legitimacy of choices you disagree with.

The scenario you give about Bin Laden staging a phony election is nothing like what actually happened.

Posted by: Woody Mena at July 5, 2006 1:15 PM
Comment #164951
If he stands by in silence, I think it makes a pretty strong statement to the Muslim world about what we think about democracy.

Maybe that strong statement is, “Even democracies won’t be allowed to support terrorists.”

Posted by: Homer at July 5, 2006 1:36 PM
Comment #164954

There are so many issues when it comes to how to treat the Palestinians. The biggest problem was that elections were the result of pressure applied by terrorists, thereby legitimizing them as a valid entity. Their campaign worked. Now, they are no longer an outlaw group, they are a government. No longer terrorists, they are an army. The only possible outcome is that they become a sovereign country. This is why terrorists cannot be negotiated with.

But I agree that a closer look needs to be taken at Israel and their actions. Most notably, their little “fly-over” stunt in Syria. Can you imagine what our reaction would be if Canada buzzed a couple of F-15s over the Whitehouse just as a warning? That is an act of war, plain and simple. If Israel decides they want to take on the entire Muslim world, we need to cut and run, pronto. The only reason Israel feels they can pull such posturing is because we have their back. Maybe its time to let them stand on their own two feet.

Posted by: David S at July 5, 2006 1:49 PM
Comment #164959

Woody,

As a rule, and because we see eye to eye more times than not politically, I agree with your views, but in this case I must quibble a little bit…both Israel and Palistine have elected democrattically the governments each wants to lead them. We are not announcing against the democrattically elected Hamas…we are announcing against the terrorist group Hamas. Israel is at war with its enemy…shuld we now choose to side with terrorists against it?

Posted by: Marysdude at July 5, 2006 2:29 PM
Comment #164961

woody,

I always find it interesting what kind of democracy the left chooses to support and extol. Terrorists always get the benefit of the doubt don’t they? Hamas is fully democratic but Bush stole the election, right?

This is my main contention about the anti-americansm of the left. The good are called evil and the evil are called good.

Though I suppose it is ironic that the election that Hamas won was probably the freest palestinian election in it’s history. What with Arafat controlling the media and polls in order to be ‘president-for-life’.

Posted by: esimonson at July 5, 2006 2:34 PM
Comment #164963

Can I ask you guys a question? I know that Israel was made a country in 1945 after WWII and the Holocaust, but how did this happen? Did the countries that used to occupy this land give it away for Israel to be created or was it taken away by the Allies after WWII? I’ve had history classes in High School and College, but all of my information was up to 1945 and the end of WWII, but not any type of reconstruction material. Just Curious.

Posted by: Lisa C. at July 5, 2006 2:41 PM
Comment #164964

>>I always find it interesting what kind of democracy the left chooses to support and extol. Terrorists always get the benefit of the doubt don’t they?
This is my main contention about the anti-americansm of the left. The good are called evil and the evil are called good.

Posted by: esimonson at July 5, 2006 02:34 PM

es,

I always find it interesting that es can keep a straight face, while lumping all liberals as supporters of evil terrorism…now THATs awesome!

Posted by: Marysdude at July 5, 2006 2:42 PM
Comment #164974

First, the government of Israel is no more the Israeli people than the government of the US is the American people.

The Palestinians deserve their own country, and Israel deserves to exist. This can only happen with negotiations.

The recently elected Israeli government was willing to do this, and continues to be willing to negotiate, but the recently elected Palestinian government will not, and as one of its basic philosophies wants Israel to cease to exist. And Hamas sends terrorist bombers into Israel to blow up Israeli civilians on a regular basis.
Israel retaliates and fights back by lopping weaponry into the Palestinian territories.

So, we are dealing with a relativistic situation, not a black and white one. Ambiguity is the way of the real world. Refusing to see this, and sometime arbitrarily assigning the roles of good and evil is the behavior of the small minded, the under educated, and the religious true believers.

As an unmistakable liberal, and another American Jew, I see neither side as Good or Evil. Tactically, the appropriate role for the US is to push/broker negotiations, as the Clinton administration so valiantly attempted.

If anyone thinks Israel is totally under thrall to the US, they have no appreciation of either history or the psyche of the Israeli government.

Posted by: dana at July 5, 2006 3:16 PM
Comment #164975

To All who Participate with this cite.Is there Anything in the past five years that you can say positive About the United States Of America?If so please enlighten me and Other Patriotic Americans that read this Blog.I would like to hear from those who write Anti-America Propoganda on this cite Every single Day.Then tell me what the Terrorest have done for you lately.

Posted by: justwondering at July 5, 2006 3:17 PM
Comment #164993

Woody, Democratic elections in foreign nations are only valid if certified by President Bush. Didn’t you get the memo? It is the new world order. Damn, I thought everyone got that memo. Or, is this a case of selective memory?

Posted by: David R. Remer at July 5, 2006 4:02 PM
Comment #165002

—justwondering I see a great deal of propaganda and spin on this site, an can’t recall any form of anti-American statements, other than the uninformed remarks by just a few on this site, making those false statements!

Posted by: DAVID at July 5, 2006 4:32 PM
Comment #165011
I always find it interesting what kind of democracy the left chooses to support and extol. Terrorists always get the benefit of the doubt don’t they? Hamas is fully democratic but Bush stole the election, right?

There is no double standard here. If a foreign leader tried blow up the White House or Capital I would denounce that action as quickly and as fervently as anyone. Believe it or not, I do like the GOP better than Hamas, but my personal preferences are really beside the point.

No leftist or liberal worth the name would advocate lobbing a missile at Bush, which is what we are talking about in Palestine.

As a rule, and because we see eye to eye more times than not politically, I agree with your views, but in this case I must quibble a little bit…both Israel and Palistine have elected democrattically the governments each wants to lead them.

I am not questioning the legitimacy of the Israeli government. Both sides should be recognized as legitimate. It is obviously hard to separate Hamas the terrorist organization from Hamas the government, but I don’t think Israel has any choice.

Posted by: Woody Mena at July 5, 2006 4:44 PM
Comment #165012

—A trick question I was just wondering if a right-left-up-down Republican comes to an all Democratic web site such as this one , would have the best interests in mind for said website?

Posted by: DAVID at July 5, 2006 4:47 PM
Comment #165016

>>I was just wondering if a right-left-up-down Republican comes to an all Democratic web site such as this one , would have the best interests in mind for said website?

Posted by: DAVID at July 5, 2006 04:47 PM

Of course. Because they are morally superior people…didn’t you know that?

Posted by: Marysdude at July 5, 2006 5:22 PM
Comment #165028


George Bush is the anointed one. Re-elected with the help of God to save America from all it’s enemys both foreign and domestic. That means us liberals. Welcome to the New Knighted States of America.

Posted by: jlw at July 5, 2006 6:00 PM
Comment #165032

—Marysdude—If you had said (immoral an kinda dumb in some cases) Of course I already knew that!

Posted by: DAVID at July 5, 2006 6:03 PM
Comment #165038

Woody,

An interesting post, but I have to side with Israel here.

Historically, I believe Israel is an aggressive and beligerent nation who has started nearly every conflict she has been in. Perhaps this is the legacy of the final solution. The Palestinians have been pushed around by both Arabs and Israelis for decades. I sympathize with their plight.

I understand the reasons for the formation of the PLO and Hamas. That being said, how much is Israel supposed to take? Hamas and the PLO are organizations who thrive on conflict. Hamas was elected probably as much because of the corruption of the PLO as anything. They choose not to behave as a moderate government. They choose conflict. They choose to further drag the Palestinians through another bloodbath. I cannot sympathize with a government, elected or not, that makes these choices.

Posted by: gergle at July 5, 2006 6:16 PM
Comment #165039

To believe that the US is in the business of promoting democracy is to indulge in Orwellian doublethink.With few but notable exceptions we have been anti-democratic,often agressively so, in our forign policy. Examples: Viet Nam(see Pentagon papers), Chile(Allende assasination and military coup), Nicaraugua,El Salvador,Haiti,Iran(Cia installation of the Shah). These are just some of our more overt anti-democratic actions. There are many more. Our past and continued support for dictators around the world also shows our true nature. Support for the Sauds,Musharriff (military dictator),Marcos,even Saddam at one time belie the supposition that we are in fact pro-democracy.It just aint so. There are many more examples. How much money and resources do we spend influencing the outcomes of forign elections. We will never know. That is a secret burried deep in the secret CIA budget. It is logical to assume we spend a great deal. Wether these actions were or are in the best interest of America is subject to debate. That is not my purpose here. What I am attempting is to remove the blinders off those that actually believe we are seeking democracies in the Middle-East or anywhere else for that matter. The rest of the world knows this already. It is just not our policy. Especilly this administration. Had GWB stood shoulder to shoulder with Gore in 2000 and demanded a recount of Florida ,I might have been able to give him the benefit of a doubt on this.

Posted by: BillS at July 5, 2006 6:17 PM
Comment #165042

Lisa C.

Your question sems to be getting ignored. I can help with some of it, others can chime in and help too, I hope.

Isreal was called Palestine pre-WWII. It was a part of the British empire. There were a small number of Sefardic jews living there who began fighting for the right to form a state of there own. They recieved immense and growing support from Jews all over the world but most notably from the U.S. There movement was a minor one before that but there was a growing sense in the U.S. and in Britain that the establishment of a Jewish state was necessary in light of what happened to the Jews during WWII. The odd thing is, modern Isreal is mostly an Ashkenazi Jewish State, not Sefardic. It is the Sefardic who have the most legitimate claim. they were there all along. The Ashkenazi are the descendants of those who left Isreal many centuries ago.

However, the moral authority for the establishment of Isreal is a good one. considering what the Jews have suffered at the hands of the rest of the world over the centuries. Ought there not be a Jewish state where jews can find a home free from persecution and strife? …unfortuneatley, the Palestinians have also been there, or in the area at least, for a millenia or more. Their claim is also legitimate. The only moral or ethical alternative is for the two peoples to find to a way to peacefully co-exist. In light of current events and trends, that seems more and more far-fetched a hope.

Consider some of the problems:
Isrealis are not raising as many children so they are opening the door and even subsidizing the immigration of Jews from all over the world while simultaneously not budging an inch on the issue of not allowing the return of Palestinian refugees who fled past conflict to other parts of the world. Isreal is afraid of being overwhelmed by superior numbers and Palestine sees the beligerence of Isreal as proof that they will never deal fairly with them. Meanwhile, Isreal uses every moment of peace to build encroaching settlements and then only partly concedes later. Palestinians are not the only ones who are being hopelessly violent and beligerent about the problems they face. There are sins on both sides.

Further exacerbating the problem, Germany pursued alliances and influence in the region during WWII in an effort to seek the raw materials it needed during the war. The modern bath party has connections to WWII Germany. When the Germans were there they sought foment the same venom against the Jews that were part of their adopted evil philosophy at the time. WWII served to help polarize the Jews and the Arabs, who had co-existed peacefully throughout history in the middle east and in Moorish Spain.

The U.S. altetnately seems to pursue peace in the region and then help foster the same beligerence that is fueling the horror, violence and strife. It is a mess and our involement is less steady than perhaps it should be.

Does that help?

Posted by: RGF at July 5, 2006 6:28 PM
Comment #165051
Isrealis are not raising as many children…

This is a huge problem that is not widely appreciated: it isn’t Palestinians in the occupied terrorities who are a threat to the continued existence of a Jewish state; the Arabs in Israel proper are. Sooner or later, the majority of Israel’s citizens will be non-Jewish. Then it will not be possible to be both a Jewish state and a democracy. As tough as Israel’s choices seem now, they are only going to get worse.

Posted by: Woody Mena at July 5, 2006 7:11 PM
Comment #165085

If I was half as moral as George Bush I would be in prison.

Posted by: chris at July 5, 2006 9:42 PM
Comment #165140

chris - Great intention! If you were twice as moral as George Bush, you’d still probably be in prison.

Posted by: DOC at July 6, 2006 1:55 AM
Comment #165206

Gergle writes…

Historically, I believe Israel is an aggressive and beligerent nation who has started nearly every conflict she has been in.


If you believe that you’re either a Muslim, or ignorant. You might try reading something other than Islamic propaganda.


The Palestinians have been pushed around by both Arabs and Israelis for decades. I sympathize with their plight.


Maybe if they just said no, especially to their Islamic bretheren, their plight would improve. The problem was, is and always will be Islam.

Posted by: JerryK at July 6, 2006 11:27 AM
Comment #165265

RGF - yes, thank you, that explains a lot. I knew that it was called Palestine, but I didn’t know that it was part of the British Empire. That makes sense. I could never figure out who gave up land for Israel to become a country.

Posted by: Lisa C. at July 6, 2006 4:42 PM
Comment #165289

Paul, I thought it was interesting when I was watching the 6th season West Wing dvds with French subtitles, that the West Bank is translated as Cis-Jordanie. Of course they are only referring to the river, but I thought it was a more appropriate name for what was formerly a part of trans-jordanian palestine, now usually referred to as Jordan.

Posted by: ohrealy at July 6, 2006 7:00 PM
Comment #165364

I concur, the Palestinian people elected Hamas and it has a right to rule. It DOES NOT have the right to attack another sovereign nation’s military, much less its civilians (a favorite Hamas tactic) and thus until it begins to act like its own sovereign government and leave Israel alone, Israel has the right to defend itself and its people. If that includes imprisoning leaders of Hamas, so be it.

Posted by: Silima at July 7, 2006 1:59 AM
Comment #165372

If you believe that you’re either a Muslim, or ignorant.
You might try reading something other than Islamic propaganda.
Posted by: JerryK at July 6, 2006 11:27 AM

Like Jewish or Christian propaganda, ugh?

Posted by: expatUSA_Indonesia at July 7, 2006 4:15 AM
Comment #165393

justwondering,

Is there Anything in the past five years that you can say positive About the United States Of America?

Americans became well aware of their oil addiction.

Then tell me what the Terrorest have done for you lately.

Nothing.

PS: what’s a “terrorEst”, again?

Posted by: Philippe Houdoin at July 7, 2006 10:00 AM
Comment #165404

gergle,

They choose to further drag the Palestinians through another bloodbath. I cannot sympathize with a government, elected or not, that makes these choices.

So you agree about punishing all palestinians, including the one who didn’t vote for this government? Does palestinians kids deserves such punishment?

There is a difference between sympathizing with a government and considering it a democratic elected one which we *have* to negociate with.
I think it’s called realpolitik.

Posted by: Philippe Houdoin at July 7, 2006 10:29 AM
Comment #165766
Like Jewish or Christian propaganda, ugh?

Posted by: expatUSA_Indonesia at July 7, 2006 04:15 AM


Spoken like a true Muslim :-)

Posted by: Jerry K at July 8, 2006 11:22 AM
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