Can Terrorists Be Legislators?

With the Gaza withdrawal behind us, the big issue in the region is quickly becoming Hamas’ participation in the upcoming Palestinian Authority legislative elections.Israel has come out strongly against the PA’s plan to include Hamas candidates on January’s ballot: ‘We will never agree that this armed terrorist organization will participate in the elections. We will make every effort not to help them in their elections,’ Prime Minister Sharon recently stated.

You wouldn’t know it from media coverage, but this Israeli position on Hamas is, in fact, neither recent, nor specifically Israel’s position at all ? Hamas was rejected for a government role in the very foundational documents of the Palestinian Authority. A quick review of this important matter:

The Palestinian Authority was established in 1994, pursuant to the Oslo Accords between Israel and the PLO. Oslo Interim Agreement, Annex 2, Article III (1995) outlines eligibility for PA elected office:

The nomination of any candidates, parties or coalitions will be refused, and such nomination or registration once made will be canceled, if such candidates, parties or coalitions:

(1) commit or advocate racism; or

(2) pursue the implementation of their aims by unlawful or nondemocratic means.

Hamas clearly falls under both categories ? its official charter (calling for jihad against all Israelis and universal conversion to Islam) is as racist as they come, and its terrorist means are certainly ‘unlawful and nondemocratic’. Just yesterday (Sept. 18), a Hamas leader announced the group

will not rest and will not abandon the path of Jihad and martyrdom as long as one inch of our land remains in the hands of the Jews… We are celebrating our victory in Gaza and now we are headed toward Jerusalem, Nablus, Akko, Haifa, the Galilee and all of Palestine.

Yet media outlets have, across the board, presented the objection to Hamas in PA elections as a mere ‘Israeli demand’, with no reference to the legal barrier the Oslo Accords places before Hamas’ nomination to the PA:

? On Sept. 4, HonestReporting found the Associated Press finally began acknowledging the PA’s obligation to disarm Hamas under the roadmap agreement (a positive change HR had long called for). But in the same breath, AP began framing the Hamas/PA elections issue as a unilateral Israeli demand:

Israel has demanded Abbas disarm the group [Hamas] ? in line with Palestinian obligations under the US-backed ”road map” peace plan. Israel also opposes Hamas participation in parliament elections.

? All other media outlets have since taken AP’s lead ? recent articles from the New York Times (9/16), AFP (9/19), Los Angeles Times (9/18), Reuters (9/18) and Washington Post (9/16) all failed to acknowledge the fact that Hamas is ineligible for PA legislative elections under the PA’s own foundational rules. The journalist pack has taken the established principle of Hamas ineligibility and shunted it aside, associating it merely with current Israeli policy.

This is the legal problem with Hamas holding public office. Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom stated the more practical problem:

There is no place – nor can there ever be – in a democratic society for political parties which bear arms, for political parties engaged in terrorism and intimidation. No democratic regime can survive if it lets terrorism and politics proceed side by side.

And journalist Akiva Eldar offered comparisons to outlawed European parties:

The opinion of international law experts at the Justice Ministry… notes that the European Union’s court has disqualified way more moderate political parties from membership in European Parliament. In recent years Spain and Turkey have disqualified parties tainted by verbal terror, and the European Court of Justice rejected the claims of these parties that their disqualification was contrary to the Treaty on European Union.

Look for this issue to grow in importance in coming weeks. If your local paper publishes articles that mention only Israel’s opposition to Hamas-as-legislators, without noting the more fundamental legal barrier created by the PA’s own foundational document, or the absurdity of armed terrorists holding ‘democratic’ office, write an op-ed using the points above, or draft a letter to your editor.

Thank you for your ongoing involvement in the battle against media bias.

HonestReporting

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