Friday 3 December 2004

What is wrong with these people?

This is largely good news, it seems.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Thursday described Prime Minister Ariel Sharon as the Palestinians' best chance for peace ...

This is fantastic, really. Call me a warmongering neocon, but I don't think this would have happened without Saddam's ousting. Credit where it's due, though: in describing Sharon as Palestinians' best chance for peace, Mubarak made himself a pretty damn good chance for peace as well. Could it be that Arabs start competing with Israelis over who can be the best chance for peace? That'd be nice.

However, Mubarak also said

... that [the Fatah leader] Marwan Barghouti's decision to run in the elections for Palestinian Authority chairman had damaged Palestinian unity.


"Fatah has nominated Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] and Abu Mazen, I think, will be the one to win," Mubarak said, referring to Abbas by his nom de guerre.

"There is Marwan al-Barghouti. ... It splits the Palestinian line and we urge the Palestinians that there should be one voice and no differences at a time when we need to stay clear of differences," Mubarak said in comments broadcast on state television.

Here, Mubarak demonstrates very clearly both his understanding of and his attitude towards democracy. Why does poisonous crap like this never meet with outrage; why is it received as if it's just routine diplomatic opinion? Let's just paraphrase it a bit, shall we?

Kim Jong-il said that Michael Howard's decision to run in the British general election had damaged British unity.

"Labour have nominated Tony Blair, and Blair, I think, will be the one to win," Kim Jong-il said.

"There is Michael Howard. It splits the British line and we urge the British that there should be one voice and no difference at a time when we need to stay clear of differences."

Suddenly sounds a tad less diplomatic, doesn't it? I think we all know why a dictator might not think that now is the time for opposition candidates — for any given value of "now".

The Palestinians have demonstrated before that they have a pretty good grasp of democracy: there were loads of candidates who stood against Arafat, many of whom didn't routinely kill anyone. Arafat rigged his election, surprisingly enough, and that is largely what led to the problems the Palestinians now face: they have been suffering under an uncompromising, violent, and thoroughly corrupt dictatorship, when they could have had genuine democracy. Their dictator's dead now, and they've got another chance. Let them have it, I say. I don't want to see the Palestinians speaking with one voice. No population of more than about four people ever speaks with one voice; even a jury of twelve has difficulty. Show me a large group of people speaking as one, and I'll show you rule by terror. It's the Tirana Index.

So, please, Palestinians, ignore Mubarak: you don't want your country to end up like his. Let al-Barghouti stand, even if he is a murdering bastard whom I sincerely hope the Israelis will never allow out of his cell; and let a dozen or a score or a hundred other Palestinians stand, too. Have a few debates. And good luck to the lot of you.


Stephen West said...

Indeed surprising words from Mubarak (the ones about Sharon). Regarding the words that you didn't like so much: granted that it's not easy to draw such parallels, but since Abu Mazen has been chosen by Fatah as their candidate, isn't al-Barghouti's decision to stand more like Ken Livingston standing against Tony Blair, given that al-Barghouti is a Fatah leader? I agree that the idea that there can only be one voice for the Palestinian people is ludicrous, but isn't Mubarak simply trying to preserve unity in Fatah? (This assumes, of course, that there are viable political movements besides Fatah for Palestinians to exercise their democratic rights in; if there aren't, that's not really Mubarak's fault.)

Squander Two said...

For that reason, I pointedly didn't mention the various representatives of Fatah quoted at the bottom of the article, all of whom were essentially complaining that Barghouti is a splitter and a traitor. That's fair enough: as you point out, our political parties do the same thing. Neither did I take the piss out of Colin Powell, who commented, rightly and trivially, that Barghouti's being in Israeli custody for the rest of his life makes his candidacy problematic. But Mubarak is a skilled enough politician with enough experience of diplomacy that we should give him credit for saying what he means to say. And what he said was that the Palestinians, not Fatah, should express no differences in the upcoming election — which is the polar opposite of what an election is supposed to be, but exactly what dictators like Mubarak want elections to be.

In the last election for PA leader, which Arafat "won", there were lots of candidates, and they weren't all parts of major political organisations like Fatah: some were just individuals who stood for election. It happened then; it can happen now. And it should.

Stephen West said...

Yeah, you're right: no need to give Mubarak the benefit of the doubt on his democratic record: in fact his mindset reminds me of the SA Government approach to Mugabe - the fact that he has become a dictatorial tyrant isn't nearly as important as the need to support a black liberation hero and show a united front to the evil colonial powers.