January 29, 2006
Palestine Is Not Like Canada
By David Warren
After the first TV reports that their party would win the Canadian election, Conservative campaign workers began smashing windows in the Parliament Buildings, and in government offices around Ottawa. They roved through the corridors, beating up clerks and civil servants suspected of having Liberal Party connexions. From St John’s to Victoria, both winning and losing Conservative candidates took to the streets, leading heavily armed supporters in ski-masks, followed by millions of happy, cheering, banner-waving CPC voters, dressed in toques and scarves. Merchants and homeowners raced to get Liberal and NDP signs out of view, as the Tory hordes marched through towns, firing their guns in the air, vandalizing post offices, and looting shops belonging to their opponents.
In his victory address, Stephen Harper read from the Loyalist Martyrs’ Creed, promising that “ten million martyrs will march on New York City”. He said there would be no more softwood negotiations with the United States. Suicide bombers would resume blowing up pizzerias and transit buses in Buffalo, Detroit, and Seattle, and the War of 1812 would continue until the Americans were driven into the sea. “They are illegally occupying territory belonging to our Queen,” he declared, to rhythmic chanting, whooping, and applause.
While admitting that the Conservative victory had harmed prospects for peace in North America, commentators on CNN and in the New York Times hastened to assure their audience that they had nothing to worry about. Mr Harper’s electoral triumph was merely a response to popular perceptions that Canada’s governing Liberals had been corrupt. Canadians had voted for a housecleaning, nothing more. President Bush made the same points in a Washington press conference. He praised the Canadian people for their commitment to democracy, and expressed hope that, despite losing the election, Paul Martin would remain in office so that the peace process could continue.
Now -- at some point, I hope, my reader guessed I was pulling his leg. I have transposed events in Palestine to Canada, substituting Ottawa for Ramallah and so forth. In doing so, I had to slur some comparisons. For instance, our Conservatives won only a tiny minority, whereas Hamas won an overwhelming majority in the Palestinian Assembly. For militant Islam, I had to substitute British Imperialism, which I admit has been stone dead for a while (whereas militant Islam is thriving). I also wantonly confused Israel with the United States. On the other hand, once this is allowed, the U.S. media, and President Bush, spoke roughly as presented.
Quite apart from amusing myself, my purpose was to bring home to my reader that Palestine is not like Canada. The word “democracy” can be used too glibly, and when we try to interpret a Palestinian election as if it were just any election, we necessarily enter a world of psychotropic illusions.
Hamas, the openly terrorist party, defeated Fatah, the closet terrorist party, in an election that -- our liberal media to the contrary -- had nothing to do with Fatah corruption. It had much to do with the Palestinian dream of driving Israel into the sea. And it clarified, beyond doubt, that the great majority of Palestinians hold and nurture that wish above all others.
As to the notion that corruption would be the election decider, among a people who have been accustomed to it from time out of mind, my friend Lee Harris explains: “We thoughtlessly pay our onerous taxes; they thoughtlessly pay their less extortionate bribes.” Efficiency might come into it somewhere. Hamas runs protection rackets that are more efficient than Fatah’s. And Hamas wisely invests more of their take in schools and clinics, so there is something to show.
But Fatah has been, from its foundation in the 1960s, as terrorist as Hamas. The difference between the parties is merely tactical. Yasser Arafat discovered that Western (including Israeli) liberals are boobs, who could be conned into believing he was a “peace partner” if he just said so -- in English only. In Arabic, Fatah has never concealed its project of driving Israel into the sea. Hamas, a little more honestly, thinks peace talks are all a sham. It’s the bombings that get results.
In a word, Hamas won the election by successfully claiming credit for the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza. In power, they will soon claim credit for the Israeli withdrawal of isolated settlements in the West Bank. That is how things are, how things were, and how things are going to be, and it is time for the West to catch on.
Copyright 2006 Ottawa Citizen