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Facts and Logic About
the Middle East
P.O. Box 590359
San Francisco, CA 94159
June 29, 2005
few weeks ago, we posed thorny questions about what would happen if
Hamas became a big winner in Palestinian elections or if Hizbollah did
the same in Lebanon---both plausible scenarios. On the one hand, we
Americans believe in the idea of a liberal democracy---in which every
one can participate, everybody is treated equally, and any friend of
a fair election is a friend of ours. On the other hand, what happens
when well-meaning citizens elect totalitarians---people whose goal is
to eliminate fair elections?
Weve just seen so-called elections in Iran in which hundreds of
candidates (an overwhelming majority) were eliminated out of hand by
ruling clerics before the election. Both Hamas and Hezbollah, like Al
Qaeda and Irans ruling party, are dedicated to Islamic totalitarianism
and the eventual overthrow of Western democracies. Does it really make
sense to support elections in which these people can be elected? Or
would that be a form of democratic suicide?
George Bush and members of his administration, in an attempt to seem
open minded and consistent with their commitment to democratizing the
world, have recently made cavalier statements about welcoming Hamas
to the polls and to elected office. The article below---Can Hezbollah
and Hamas Be Democratic---by commentator Daniel Pipes, questions
the wisdom of such an invitation. Pipes confronts the contradiction
head on, concluding that people with avowedly evil (anti-democratic)
purposes shouldnt be allowed to participate in democratic elections.
While this notion may seem strange to those of us reared in an open
democracy, it has merit given the alternative---which is the possibility
that a naïve populace could literally vote away their right ever
to vote again.
Perhaps democracy is not as simple as we once thought it was. Could
it be that all comers should not be welcome? Maybe there should be a
litmus test for participation in the democratic process---say, pledged
allegiance to democratic institutions? While politicians have been known
to lie in the past, at the very least, perhaps, a candidate should have
to commit to democracy before theyre allowed to take part. In
any case, to their credit, both Hamas and Hezbollah have been lucid
as to their purposes: They stand squarely against democracy and squarely
for the defeat of Israel and the United States.
want to remind you to use the FLAME website as a resource---it houses
more than a hundred concise articles and position papers on the
most important issues surrounding Israel and the Middle East. This
fact-based information can help you explain the truth about the
current situation to your friends, synagogue and church members,
and political colleagues. Of course, youre welcome to reprint
any of these materials and distribute them as you see appropriate.
To explore this treasure trove of information, just go to www.factsandlogic.org.
by Daniel Pipes, NY Sun, New York Sun, March 22, 2005
If Al-Qaeda renounced terrorism, would the U.S. government
welcome its running candidates in American elections? Had the Nazis
denounced violence, would Hitler have become an acceptable chancellor
for Germany? Not likely, because the tactics of Al-Qaeda and the Nazis
matter less than their goals.
Similarly, Hezbollah and Hamas are unacceptable because of their goals.
These organizations are important elements of the Islamist movement
that seeks to create a global totalitarian order along the lines of
what has already been created in Iran, Sudan, and in Afghanistan under
the Taliban. They see themselves as part of a cosmic clash between Muslims
and the West in which the victor dominates the world.
Washington, trying to be consistent in its push for democracy,
prefers to ignore these goals and instead endorses involvement by Hezbollah
and Hamas in the political process, pending their making some small
These signals began last week when President Bush stated that although
Hezbollah, a Lebanese group, is "a terrorist organization,"
he hopes it will change that designation "by laying down arms and
not threatening peace." White House spokesman Scott McClellan then
elaborated on this comment by specifying the two alternatives: "Organizations
like Hezbollah have to choose, either you're a terrorist organization
or you're a political organization."
Bush himself explained further what he meant a day later, presenting
elections as a method to shed the terrorist designation:
I like the idea of people running for office. There's a positive
effect when you run for office. Maybe some will run for office and say,
vote for me, I look forward to blowing up America. I don't know, I don't
know if that will be their platform or not. But I don't think so. I
think people who generally run for office say, vote for me, I'm looking
forward to fixing your potholes, or making sure you got bread on the
Hamas a Palestinian organization, Secretary of State Rice then noted,
could also evolve in the right direction once it enters the democratic
When people start getting elected and have to start worrying about
constituencies and have to start worrying not about whether their fire-breathing
rhetoric against Israel is being heard, but about whether or not that
person's child down the street is able to go to a good school or that
road has been fixed or life is getting better, that things start to
The theory implied here is that running for office with
its emphasis on such mundane matters as fixing potholes and providing
good schools will temper Hezbollah and Hamas.
Count me skeptical.
The historical record does not support such optimism. When politically
adept totalitarians win power democratically, they do fix potholes and
improve schools but only as a means to transform their countries
in accordance with their utopian visions. This generalization applies
most clearly to the historical cases (Adolf Hitler in Germany after
1933, Salvador Allende in Chile after 1970) but it also appears valid
for the current ones (Khaleda Zia in Bangladesh since 2001, Recep Tayyip
Erdo_an in Turkey since 2002).
Then there is the matter of their undemocratic intentions. Josef Goebbels
explained in 1935 that the Nazis used democratic methods "only
in order" to gain power. Looking at Islamists, then-assistant secretary
of state for the Middle East Edward Djerejian explained in 1992, "While
we believe in the principle of one person, one vote,' we do not
support one person, one vote, one time'." Khomeini's Iran
indicates that Islamists do manipulate elections to stay in power.
Washington should take a principled stand that excludes from
the democratic process not just terrorists but also totalitarians using
the system to get into power and stay there. It is not enough for Islamist
organizations to renounce violence; being irredeemably autocratic, they
must be excluded from elections.
In a famed Supreme Court dissent in 1949, the eminent justice Robert
H. Jackson argued for the arrest of a neo-Nazi rabble-rouser in Chicago
on the grounds that not doing so "will convert the constitutional
Bill of Rights into a suicide pact." The same imperative for self-protection
applies also to international politics.
Even if Hezbollah and Hamas promise a change in tactics, America
or for that matter, Israel and other Western states should not
accept them as legitimate political parties.
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