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When jihadis win elections

Hamas refuses to commit itself solely to peaceful means. Was it appropriate to allow its participation in a democratic process in Palestine, asksDavid Danieli.

india Updated: Feb 05, 2006 04:50 IST

True democratic nations and societies know well that democracy doesn't end with elections. Democracy represents a complex of substantive values such as tolerance, pluralism, the sanctity of human life, the negation of violence as a political tool, and respect for the rule of law. There have been several anti-democratic movements, which, over the course of history, took advantage of elections to gain strength and legitimacy to further their destructive goals. Those goals included doing away with democratic values altogether as soon as they were powerful enough to do so. Perhaps the most striking example is the rise of Adolf Hitler, who swept into power in perfectly democratic elections in January 1933, with catastrophic consequences.

The Hamas, a terrorist organisation which won the elections in the Palestinian Territories last week, has made no secret of the fact that it is part of the global jihad movement, based upon an extremist religious ideology, whose goals include, as a priority, the annihilation of the State of Israel. Hamas declared that it will continue using violence to further its goals. Respect for human life runs counter to Hamas' jihadi philosophy of using human bombs to kill as many civilians as possible.

Hamas has already carried out more suicide bombings than any other Palestinian terrorist organisation. It is responsible for the deaths of more than 500 Israelis in the past five years alone, and is deliberately running its terror operations from deep inside densely populated Palestinian cities, using the local civilians as a 'human shield'. Hamas' religious dogma leaves no room for any democratic principles.

It is not for Israel to interfere in the Palestinian elections. We are left to wonder what could have happened had Mahmoud Abbas, the head of the Palestinian Authority, with the backing of the international community, taken a clear stand that Hamas must accept the most basic democratic principles as a pre-condition to its participation in the elections: that it must respect the rule of law and renounce terror and violence.

Hamas never recognised the legitimacy of the Palestinian Authority and its laws, even though it was elected just as democratically. It ran its own parallel apparatus and did a U-turn in entering the election process itself. But could that U-turn have been used to get Hamas to finally accept democratic basics? And if Hamas refused to commit itself solely to peaceful means, would it have been appropriate to allow its participation in a democratic process?