Democratic thinking

Articles on democracy in the independent online media

February 06, 2006

Washington's Calls for Democracy Exposed

The US, self-styled promoter of democracy in the Middle East, is threatening to punish the Palestinian people for exercising their democratic rights.

The United States is spearheading pressure on international donors alarmed by the win of the Islamic resistance movement Hamas in the Palestinian parliamentary elections to cut off aid. Washington, in effect, is threatening to bankrupt the future Hamas-led Palestinian Authority (PA).

Some analysts think Hamas can survive the new onslaught though US threats, if fulfilled, will drain the aid money that has sustained the Palestinians for the past few years.

The World Bank estimates that foreign donors gave the PA $1.1 billion in 2005, about half the PA's budget. Washington says it contributed $400 million in direct aid, and several million more through UN charities, to the PA last year.

The majority of US funding, however, goes not to the PA directly but is filtered through US and local non-governmental organisations and contractors. It is used for capacity building, to promote democratic reform and economic liberalisation, to empower women and finance higher education.

International financial institutions, like the World Bank, report that even with foreign aid nearly one-half of all Palestinians live below the poverty line and as many as 600,000 people are unable to meet their basic needs in food, clothing and shelter. Such facts could not matter less in the US, which was so visibly "shocked" and "awed" by the Hamas win that some officials argue that Washington's only possible response should be to sever all aid.

Washington argues that it does not see how it can help fund an organisation that has not renounced armed struggle against Israel, its main ally in the Middle East. Hamas says it will continue to fight Israel as long as it occupies Arab land, an issue that gets scant attention here. The loudest sabre-rattling came from the corridors of Congress, where Israel lobbyists are most active. Senator John Thune introduced a non-binding resolution calling for an end to US assistance to the PA if the ruling majority party within the Palestinian Legislative Council insists on the right to take up arms as a means to liberate Palestinian land.

Full article.

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