Firstly, in an opinion piece entitled "Ballot box or bust", Saudia Arabian anthropologist Mai Yamani claims that although 2009 "was the year that democracy appeared to take root in the Middle East", the "region continues to have the highest concentration of dictatorships in the world — and the future looks as bleak as ever."
She kicks off with the Palestinian territories where:
Gaza's democratically elected Hamas government and the democratically elected president of the Palestinian Authority are locked in a seeming death grip, which has seen Gaza fall into an economic black hole and become paralysed as it also allowed space for Israeli intransigence. All the while the supposed political saviour, Marwan Barghouti, sits in an Israeli prison with a life sentence.Yamani conveniently forgets that the so-called "democratically elected" Hamas government holds exclusive power in Gaza as a result of a putsch which removed any semblance of power once held there by the so-called "democratically elected" PA president. One of the methods used by the Hamas "democrats" to achieve this absolute power in Gaza was to throw its opponents off very tall buildings. During the 2008/9 war with Israel they took the opportunity to murder about 100 of their Fatah opponents and more recently they flexed their muscle against another opposition group by blowing the living daylights out of its mosque and butchering thirty of those gathered inside. These things don't seem to bother the world's human rights industry which also doesn't care much about the fact that Hamas openly advocates genocide. How many democracies does Yamani know that hold kidnapped soldiers hostage? Other than the democratically elected Hamas, none comes intantly to mind.
As for the PA, it maintains its hold on the West Bank with strong arm tactics against any opposition over there. And Yamani forgets to mention that elections are due right about now but nobody seems to have started campaigningin either the West Bank or Gaza for that matter. The PA hasn't bothered to call the elections and neither Hamas nor Fatah are in a hurry to contest them.
My theory is that all this is due to the fact that Jimmy Carter isn't available to observe the election process. Could it be that the peanut farmer who wants to apologise for offending his last remaining Jewish friend has lost his appetite for mooching about Ramallah while dead voters cast multiple votes right under his nose. Many claim this practice is common to most Middle East elections - excluding those held in Israel.
Speaking of Israel, it's strange how Yamani fails to recognise the only true, vibrant democracy in that part of the world. She mentions Israel only to define it by its supposed "intransigence". On the other hand, I happen to read the Israeli media on a daily basis and not a single day goes by without at least one Israeli leader calling for the Palestinians to return to the peace table without preconditions. And on a daily basis, the PA refuses to accept the offer (for some unkown reason the story keeps on escaping the Age Jerusalem bureau chief). Yet Yamani can only bring herself to write about Israeli "intransigence" - go figure?
Then there's the "political saviour" Marwan Barghouti sitting in an Israeli prison with a life sentence. Yamani writes as if Barghouti is there because he overlooked a parking fine so let's put his imprisonment in its context which is something rare in Yamani's piece.
Marwan Barghouti sits in prison because he's a killer who was found guilty after a fair trial in a democratic country of multiple cold blooded murders of civilians including that of a Greek monk. It seems that Yamni considers the way to show our democratic tendencies is by releasing every Hannibal Lechter who sits in our prisons, a suggestion that would no doubt please relatives of our Port Arthur victims immensely, not to mention our friends in the human rights industry.
As if Yamani wasn't enough, the letters section brought out this absolute doosie from a resident of our own capital territory:-
Food for thought
WHILE I appreciate Will Schmidt's concerns (Letters, 31/12) I can't help but look at two vouchers I received for Christmas. One was for chooks, but they came with food. The other was for vegetable seeds. I imagine the chook poo could fertilise the ground the vegies grow in while discards from the vegies could be used to feed the chooks — a lovely micro-cycle.
I'm equally chuffed by another present — a street named after me in the West Bank. The money raised by street namings provides education and health care for Palestinian kids. More importantly, I think it provides hope. I suggest that a more nuanced approach is needed, rather than deeming all institutionalised development aid as negative.
Wendy Akers, Pearce, ACT
What a piece of chicken shit! Assuming she's not the victim of one of the many flim flam scans that abound in this part of the world (and that's a very brave assumption), can you imagine Wendy Akers Avenue in Nablus at the point where it intersects with Sirhan Sirhan Street? The latter was named by the Palestine Authority after a terrorist who infiltrated an Israeli kibbutz inside the green line and massacred five people including a mother and her two young children. Akers is in good company.
Meanwhile, the West Bank economy currently is experiencing one of the world's largest growth rates thanks to Israeli co-operation and international donations with almost no thanks to the Arab world including Yamani's home country of Saudi Arabia which is neither democratic, nor an observer of human rights.