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Jeremy Brier: After Hamas' 'victory'

Brier_jeremyJeremy Brier, a barrister and blogger, examines last week's Hamas election victory.  Jeremy is a supporter of Conservative Friends of Israel and World Debating Champion for 2004-5:

"There are few issues on which you can trust a BBC Question Time audience to get it more wrong than on the Middle East. In Thursday night’s discussion on Hamas’s recent “triumph” in the Palestinian Elections, the audience clapped with particular earnestness at Claire Fox’s assertion that “if we in the West promote democracy, we can’t complain about the result”. But why do we accept such nonsense disguised as a truism? Whilst democracy does entail the holding of a free election and the fair counting of that vote (which appears to have happened in this case), it is about far more than just an administration of an election. It is also about the values which the elected government upholds. Such a government can only count as democratic (as opposed to, say, an elected dictatorship) when such values are based upon on the rule of law, the notion that governmental authority remains checked at all times by established written laws or procedures. These are, as Aristotle told us, the system of rules inherent in the natural order. They cannot include the arbitrary and unjust killing of innocent people; nor can they include a refusal to accept the existence of democratically formed neighbours.

It is therefore perfectly possible (indeed, it appears to have happened yesterday) that an undemocratic party takes part in a democratically conducted election. A party built on pillars antithetical to democracy – the armed and violent struggle against a nation state would certainly count as such in the case of Hamas – may still be the most popular amongst the electorate. However, that in no way means that true believers in democracy should feel they cannot bemoan the results, or that they have to accept the result as morally and politically equivalent to the election of a truly democratic party. The democratic election of an undemocratic party essentially is symbolically equivalent to a positive and a negative cancelling each other out.

It is rather the responsibility of democratic standard-bearers like the U.K, the U.S.A and the E.U, to use all forms of political and economic leverage to cajole Hamas into renouncing violence and terror and accepting the existence of their neighbouring democracy. Before this happens, on no account should Hamas be supported through words or funds, and to the contrary, it should be loudly pressurised into change. 

Claire Fox might get a loud clap on Question Time for implying that the result of any election must be accepted by the world at large. However, she has failed to grasp that the struggle for worldwide democracy is a much grander and more beneficial vision than simply the struggle for worldwide democratic elections. It is what happens in the period between polling days that political parties, and their commitment to democracy, should be judged on."


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