Thursday, December 21, 2006

From Spain in '36 to Palestine in '06, history repeats itself

Reading a piece about the Spanish civil war recently, I was struck by the similarities with the current situation in Palestine, in particular in the way in which the West is once again betraying democracy.

In 1936, a democratically elected government in Spain faced a revolt by the military. The government appealed to its fellow democracies, France and Britain, for help. France was amenable but was dissuaded by a conservative British government which saw the republican Spanish as too left-wing. The Soviets, however, saw an opportunity and offered military assistance. The Spanish, now desperate, accepted. The rebels meanwhile received support from the Italian and German war machines. The latter proved decisive, the government was overthrown, democracy was lost, and Mussolini and Hitler greatly encouraged.

In 2006, the Palestinians elected a government but, as in 1936 Spain, not one of which the West approved. Not only did the West decide not to support this government, it decided to strangle it at birth by cutting off its revenues. The Palestinians have been reduced to seeking help from whoever is willing to provide it. As Stalin and the Soviet Union saw an opportunity in the '30s, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran sees an opportunity today and is providing the Palestinian government with desperately-needed funds.

Predictably, Western leaders like Bush and Blair accuse the Iranians of trouble-making, yet it is their rejection of the democratically elected Hamas that has invited Iran into Palestine, just as their rejection of the democratically elected Spanish government in 1936 invited in the Soviets.

History repeats itself only roughly, yet the lesson here is clear. When we lose faith in democracy, when we treat it as a convenience to serve our interests and reject it when it doesn't, we not only betray our own principles, we invite disaster.


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