In the midst of a decades-long struggle for independence, Palestinians have heroically embraced democracy in order to structure their political organizations, government, and even battle plans. The results of their democratic process have made the Western world including the Canadian government very uncomfortable. But why?
Western countries did not object when Israelis elected Ariel Sharon as prime minister, despite the Palestinian blood on his hands from brutal military campaigns in Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza; despite the fact that countless Palestinians lost their lives, loved ones, and whole families, with his full knowledge, approval, and complicity.
So why are both Israel and the West so upset that the Hamas movement won more seats than any other party in the recent Palestinian parliamentary elections?
To be able to freely and fairly elect those who will represent you in government is held as a sacred right in the West; but why not for Palestinians? Why do others — but not Palestinians — have the right to be free, the right to resist a foreign occupation, and the right to rebel against brutal oppression?
And why are Palestinians, who have suffered injustice for generations, not allowed to aspire toward peace with justice by electing — without fear — those who they believe will lead them closer to this goal?
Is it too much to ask or expect that Palestinians be able to count on the West’s support in their struggle for a future free from Israeli army killings, massacres, targeted executions, assassinations, bombings, terrorism, detentions, house demolitions, torture, and the dehumanizing segregation of an obscene Apartheid Wall?
The questions are not new, but their urgency grows by the day, by the minute. Palestinians are struggling for their independence against one of the cruelest occupation forces of modern times; an occupation force, which is unashamedly backed by the world’s only remaining super- power and supported by a Western media which believes "Israel can do no wrong."
That same Western culture raises moving and genuine emotion over the killing of a single Jew, but seems to have been programmed for cold indifference when it comes to the mass-murder — genocide, in fact –” of thousands of Palestinian women and children. How can we go on supporting such contradictory beliefs?
Was the West not historically responsible for giving European Jews Palestinian lands, displacing thousands of indigenous citizens from their homes and traditional livelihoods? What kind of justice was this? And now the West seeks to punish these people for the 9th time, by withholding even the few dollars allotted annually to every Palestinian — just enough so that he/she can subsist, but without much hope for dignity or freedom.
The West could make an enormous difference by changing its policy of uncritical and wholehearted support for Israel by instead exerting political and economic pressure to have the notorious "security" Apartheid wall dismantled; by discouraging the spread of more Jewish settlements; and by working to end Israel’s malevolent campaign of death, destruction and misery against all Palestinians.
There is no logical argument to condone the grossly unfair imbalance of military strength and wealth that exists between the occupying power and the people under occupation. How can Western powers — especially the United States — continue to pour the annual equivalent of $1000 for every Israeli man, woman and child into a country that still invites Jews from all over the world to come and settle on occupied Palestinian land?
And if that is not bad enough, the West has no ethical or moral qualms about finding ways to further compensate the current generation of Jews for atrocities committed against their European ancestors more than half a century ago. There is no doubt about their deservedness or entitlement, but do Palestinians — similarly robbed of culture, life, and homeland –” not deserve the same level of compensation and legitimate concern?
The basic problem here is not the election of Hamas, or even the destructive policies of the Israeli government. If the West is truly interested in resolving the tragic Israel-Palestine conflict, there must be an unconditional commitment to the overarching principle of peace with justice.
Note the phrase "peace with justice" — the two words, and all that they mean, are inseparably linked. This is not merely the absence of open conflict, not merely an improvement of conditions inside prison walls.
What is called for is nothing less than a massive paradigm shift in the West. The old rules of the game are no longer valid or safe, not for Israel, not for the Palestinians or for the rest of the world. The sooner the West including Canada gets the message, the better — for the good of everyone.