"The best argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter." "It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried."
These two somewhat surprising statements by Winston Churchill - the savior of democracy in the Second World War - need to be revisited as civilian populations in the Arab world rise up to be allowed to exercise their right to determine their own futures - freed of the dictators and dictatorial rule that have dominated their lives for decades.
These people thirst for something better - but in doing so run the risk of ending up with something far worse than they rejected. No better example serves to illustrate Churchill's viewpoint than the stark political differences between Israel's Government and the Government of Hamas in Gaza.
Elections were held in the West Bank and Gaza on 25 January 2006 and were generally acknowledged as being fair and free by international observers. These elections followed Israel's disengagement from Gaza in August 2005 and the evacuation of all 8000 Jewish civilians who had lived there for many decades. The Gazan Arabs and 95% of the West Bank Arab population were then under the direct administrative control of the Palestinian Authority - which was responsible for conducting such elections.
Gaza and West Bank 2006 Electoral Voting Districts (green)
Edward McMillan-Scott, the British Conservative head of the European Parliament's monitoring team described those elections as:
"…extremely professional, in line with international standards, free, transparent and without violence."
That was the blessing. The curse was soon to follow. Hamas won the election with 74 seats to the ruling Fatah Party's 45 - providing Hamas with the majority of the 132 available seats, and the ability to form a majority government on its own. The people had spoken but they had made a disastrous choice that has since brought them nothing but suffering and misery for the last six years - with no subsequent free and transparent election yet in sight to give them the opportunity to either confirm or correct the wisdom of their choice in 2006.
Hamas has made it clear during the past week that it will refuse to take part in the well overdue elections promised for next September by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Decisions have consequences - not only for those who make and have to live with them but also for those who are otherwise affected by them. Hamas - a declared terrorist organization openly calling for the destruction of Israel - was not everyone's cup of tea. For others it was - as they hailed this unexpected victory.
Many nations of the world were not prepared to deal with Hamas. These nations considered their own national interests as paramount when refusing to deal with this democratically elected Government. Israel, the United States, the European Union and several Western states imposed sanctions suspending all foreign aid until Hamas fulfilled three demands:
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