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Arab democracy is exposing the blind spot of US policy

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  • Arab democracy is exposing the blind spot of US policy

    The resurgent Palestinian rejectionism of Hamas can only be halted by checking the persistent rejectionism of Israel

    So, with Hamas taking control of the Palestinian Authority and its institutions, the destiny of the Palestinian people is once more in the hands of a party that believes in the dissolution of the Israeli state and in violence as a way of achieving it. Israeli, American and in good measure European governments remain appalled and perplexed at this political earthquake. Indeed the Israelis, who are now applying the first of their economic sanctions, and Americans - planning the same - hardly disguise their ambition to subvert it. This is despite the fact that, retrogressive though it may have been, it has impeccable democratic credentials. It comes, as Ghassan Charbel put it in the pan-Arab newspaper al-Hayat, "from inside the logic of the new world order". That is to say, from the very democratisation that is the central mission of the Bush presidency, from its "war on terror" and all those sicknesses, such as despotism and religious extremism, which nurture it. This democratisation is also meant to contribute mightily to that other strategic US purpose, Arab- Israeli peace, because democratic states are said to automatically make good neighbours of other democratic states.

    Yet nothing like this electoral triumph of the Hamas "terror organisation", and America's reactions to it, could have so dramatically illustrated the blind spot at the centre of the US's Middle East policies. Ever present, this blind spot has been brought to its apogee under the Bush administration, with its proselytising zeal on the one hand and unsurpassed devotion to Israel on the other. What US administrations seem habitually unable to see is that Palestinians, and Arabs in general, happen, like other peoples, to possess national or patriotic feelings. When these feelings are transgressed they react more or less aggressively in response. Since Palestine is the place where those feelings are most systematically flouted, it is also where democracy, as both reflection and instrument of the popular will, is most likely to be belligerent rather than peaceable....

    Arab democracy is exposing the blind spot of US policy

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