No Palestinian Elections
The Palestinian Authority has canceled its planned January re-anointment of Yasser Arafat, euphemistically referred to as an election. Yasser, of course, blames Israel and the “occupation,” and the media duly – or dully – repeats the charge. Israel has, indeed, returned to areas that the PA, Hamas and Islamic Jihad were using to arm, train and propagandize, and where they built weapons factories, safe houses and military facilities amid the population.
The Palestinian Authority has canceled its planned January re-anointment of Yasser Arafat, euphemistically referred to as an election. Yasser, of course, blames Israel and the “occupation,” and the media duly – or dully – repeats the charge. Israel has, indeed, returned to areas that the PA, Hamas and Islamic Jihad were using to arm, train and propagandize, and where they built weapons factories, safe houses and military facilities amid the population. The fact that the Palestinians are waging an ugly war against Israeli civilians at a terrible cost to their own people as well as to Israel, NOT the fact that Israel has retaken the initiative on security in the territories, is the reason that no Palestinian election can be legitimate while Arafat and company remain.
Even if Israel stayed out of Palestinian Areas A and B of the Oslo Accords, an election in which Arafat is the prime candidate is antithetical to President Bush’s 24 June landmark speech on democracy. He called “on the Palestinian people to elect new leaders, leaders not compromised by terror… to build a practicing democracy, based on tolerance and liberty.” “Practicing democracy” is an interesting phrase, acknowledging that democracy requires practice.
Some people likened the building a Palestinian democracy to the experience of Central Europe after the collapse of communism. “Palestine” as the Czech Republic. We asked whether there existed among Palestinians a civic sense in the Western sense. “Is it possible that the constructive social and political energy that welled up in Russia and Central Europe after generations of communist repression exists in Palestine as well? To be honest, we are highly skeptical.”
We were, at least, premature. Who can be the opposition while Arafat has the money and the army and kills “collaborators” at the drop of a hat? Who would support an opposition candidate if doing so put him on Yasser’s hit list? If even the “free press” of the West is having trouble reporting honestly on the reign of terror visited by Arafat and his kleptocratic cronies on the Palestinian people, what hope is there for the Palestinian papers beholden to the PA for ink, paper and the freedom of their editors? Elections in the PA now would be more like elections in the Stasi’s East Germany than in Solidarity’s Poland. More like the referenda of Syria or Iraq or Egypt than like the Hungarian or Bulgarian elections.
So there won’t be any Palestinian elections. And Israel will be blamed for “ruining the chances of Palestinian democracy.” But “voting” under un-free conditions does not equal democracy. Democracy takes root in free air where people and their expression of opinion are protected by the laws of a civil society – as it is rooted in the United States, Israel, Taiwan, Turkey and far too few other countries. Or democracy takes root where un-free people rise up against oppressive government and demand it – as it is taking root in Iran among the students against the Mullahs.
Elections should follow, not precede the institution of tolerance and liberty in the PA.