Monday, November 15, 2004

What will democracy look like among the PLO and in Iraq?

Bariatwan in this this note raises the question of what democracy can mean for the PLO. The problem I have with Bush's plan to implant democracy in the Middle East is that it takes a whole generation of people educated into what it means for it to work. Rwanda, once it became a "democracy" simply turned into a country in which those in power could organize their own genicide against the minority population. Now the tables are turned and Rwanda again claims to be a democacy -- in which the latest elections gave over 98% of the votes to one side [??]. What kind of democracy will Iraq actually be, once there are elections? My fear is that the lust of the Shiites [the majority] to pay the Sunnis back for what they had to put up with under Saddam could actually result in another round of oppression and exploitation. RLC

Published on Sunday, November 14, 2004 by the Observer/UK

Why I Fear for the Dream of My Life

by Abdul Bariatwan

I was born 54 years ago in a refugee camp in Gaza. My parents were illiterate and, like thousands of others, were forced to leave their home town in 1948 to create space for the Jewish immigrants pouring into Palestine from Europe.

My parents' abiding dream was to go back to the farm and mud-brick house in Ashoud, their sleepy home town on the Mediterranean. But they spent their lives in transit, waiting for this dream to come true. Their dream lives on in me and in my children, too.

Yasser Arafat worked very hard for 40 years towards the independent Palestinian state he longed for, yet never saw. Despite his mistakes, he brought this dream closer. He brought the Palestinian cause into the global arena and the resolution of this struggle is now of enormous significance in determining the security of the world, not only the Middle East.

I was deeply saddened by Arafat's death, not only because I knew him personally, but also because Arafat, like my parents, spent his life in transit, from Amman to Beirut to Tunisia and thence to Palestine. What an irony it is that, even in death, his coffin is in transit, awaiting his final transfer to Jerusalem.

Last Friday, George W Bush and his closest ally, Tony Blair assured us that we would see such a state within the next four years - but we have heard this story before. Before the invasion of Iraq, Bush assured the world that an independent Palestinian state would be in place before the end of 2005.

The American project in Iraq is a fiasco. The war which was supposed to be over on 9 April 2003 has started all over again.

This is the climate in which Bush and Blair have revived the notion ofThis is the climate in which Bush and Blair have revived the notion of an independent Palestinian state - without a single indication of how this will be achieved.

Bush asserts that an independent Palestinian state must be a democracy. But what constitutes democracy in this lexicon? Will this concept simply become a useful tool, replacing Arafat as justification for Israeli atrocities, delays to the peace process and the establishment of a Palestinian state? In 1996, Arafat was elected leader in an election supervised by US and Israel, yet how easily he was written off three years ago when those same powers found him insufficiently yielding in the peace process.

The US insists it is enabling democracy in Iraq - a benefit that has cost 100,000 lives. If this is the kind of democracy Bush wishes to impose on the Palestinians, we have every reason to be afraid. Very afraid.

Abdul Bariatwan is editor of al Quds Daily Newspaper

(c) 2004 Guardian Newspapers, Ltd.

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