Participation of Hamas
The 2006 Palestinian Legislative Council elections face a unique challenge in that they include the participation of a group, the Islamic Resistance Movement, or Hamas, that defends violence (including the killing of civilians) as a means to achieving a political end, refuses to give up arms or to declare a permanent ceasefire and is committed to the destruction of a United Nations member state, Israel. While it is in the long term interest of Palestinian democratic development and likely in the long term security interests of Israel that a wide spectrum of groups participate in lawful and peaceful political processes, Hamas’ current political participation, while simultaneously advocating violence, undermines a fundamental principle of democratic elections. In an August 2002 pre-election assessment, NDI, the International Republican Institute (IRI), and the International Foundation for Election Systems (IFES), recommended the adoption of candidacy requirements for the expected 2003 PLC elections. The 2002 report also suggested that a code of conduct be developed and enforced which committed all parties to transparent and democratic principles, disallowed election related violence and restricted individuals engaged in, or advocating violence from becoming candidates.
A code of conduct was developed by the Arab Thought Forum in conjunction with NDI in late 2005, which went some way toward this goal. While stopping short of disallowing certain candidates, the code does contain important undertakings that will help enforce peaceful and fair campaigning and promote a peaceful acceptance of the results of the polls. Most political parties have signed on to the code of conduct, and Hamas, as of January 5th, also accepted and signed the code. The international community and domestic observers should be vigilant in watching for violations.
The code is a necessary but incomplete step toward ensuring that elections are about peaceful means to achieve political ends. The Palestinian Authority and newly elected PLC should, as a priority, amend the election and party laws to ensure that political entities participate in elections fairly and peacefully and do not advocate the use of violence as a political tool. This prohibition should apply equally to all groups.
Noble words indeed. Too bad it ignores the reality of Hamas in favor of what they hope Hamas is.
Addressing a Hamas rally in the southern city of Khan Yunis in the Gaza Strip, Zahar reiterated his movement's opposition to any form of economic and security cooperation with Israel.
"To all those who claim that Hamas has abandoned the resistance option because of its participation in the election, we say that we remain committed to the resistance," he declared.
"Israel is an enemy, not a partner or a friend or a neighbor. We won't negotiate with them and this is our final position. Palestine, all of Palestine, belongs to the Muslims and the Arabs and no one has the right to give up one inch of its land."
Fathi Hamad, a Hamas candidate from the Gaza Strip, said his movement would continue to develop its armed wing, Izzaddin al-Kassam, by recruiting more members and manufacturing more rockets and bombs.
I'm sure that the Carter Center will duly register its "concern" over such "unfortunate" statements, and then go ahead and certify the election anyway - while castigating Israel for limiting Hamas campaign activity in "East Jerusalem."
I have been unable to find this "code of conduct" explicitly, although many articles on the Arab Thought Forum talk about it. An Al-Jazeerah article summarized it as follows:
1-Full abiding by the provisions of the Central Election Committee;Not a word about terror, violence or accepting Israel's right to exist. This is what Jimmah thinks is important - the fact that Hamas won't publicly show weapons for a few weeks.
2- Respecting the role of the national and the international observers, and cooperating with them;
3- Committing to the privacy of vote casting, and to the right of the voters to choose the electoral register freely;
4- No arms to be displayed or used during the pre-election publicity;
5- Committing to the decisions of the judiciary concerning the electoral process; and
6- Accepting the final official results of the elections which will be issued by the Central Election Committee.
Hamas, by waiting until January to sign this "code", allowed itself maximum time to show arms during rallies during most of the campaigning anyway.