Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Editorial: the U.S. Assault on Palestinian Peace and Democracy - Ryan Acuff

Campus Times (University of Rochester), February 5, 2009 - As the smoke clears on the most recent phase of the Israel-Palestine conflict in Gaza, we find that more than 400 children perished under U.S. manufactured and supplied helicopters, jets, gunboats, missiles, bombs and other lethal weaponry. Thirteen Israeli and over 1,300 Palestinian lives were taken. Over 5,000 people remain injured and 50,000 are newly homeless in a Gaza strip already suffering from a humanitarian crisis before the war rocked the region. In the wake of this catastrophe, UR Students for a Democratic Society would like to highlight the larger context of the conflict which allows for these tragedies to occur. Specifically we would like to focus on the U.S. government’s role in supporting (or thwarting) the basic principle of SDS: participatory democracy....

The United States supports the occupation by giving Israel, a swath of land the size of New Jersey, more political, military and economic support than any other country in the world ($2.5 billion a year in direct handouts, according to Congress). The United States clearly has the leverage to end the occupation and the power to completely transform the Israel-Palestine conflict peacefully.

We call on the Obama administration to apply the same standards to Israel and Palestine by supporting both Israelis’ and Palestinians’ right to self- determination. In addition, we call on the Obama administration to stop its threats of Hamas without simultaneously ending support of the Israeli military occupation of Palestine which, according to President Obama’s statements, remains the elephant in the room.

In January 2006, the Palestinian Territories was internationally certified as having the first free and fair elections in the history of Palestine. The Palestinians spoke overwhelmingly in favor of Hamas by means of the ballot. Founded in 1987, Hamas is a multi-faceted Sunni Muslim grassroots movement in the territories that provides education and social welfare (its social wing), engages in armed resistance of the Israeli occupation (its military wing) and has political representatives who run in elections and create policy (its political wing).

Hamas, which is infamous internationally for engaging in suicide bombings in Israel, officially ended this terror tactic in 2005 due to its unpopularity in the territories. According to polling in the territories at the time, the reason for Hamas’ popularity in 2005 and 2006 was on account of its perception of incorruptibility in contrast to the deeply unpopular ruling elite of the Fatah party.

How were the Palestinians rewarded for their display of democracy? The United States immediately cut off aid to the Palestinian government.

But that wasn’t enough. According to recently declassified internal U.S. documents, the U.S. along with Israel, planned and backed a coup of the Hamas government in the summer of 2007 which degenerated into a Palestinian civil war. A meaningful and lasting peace in Gaza and the larger conflict will be impossible if the United States continues to systematically undermine popular democratic movements in Palestinian Territories....

Ryan Acuff is a graduate student at the University of Rochester.

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