A prisoner for president?
An out-of-touch and bland policy wonk vs. a populist candidate who’s a hero to the man in the street, who also happens to be an accused terrorist serving five life terms for murder in an Israeli prison. In the race for leader of the Palestinian people, it was the dour, distanced and worldly insider Mahmoud Abbas against the locally inspiring Marwan Barghouti, whom younger Palestinians believe more truly embodies their struggle and defines their collective character. Barghouti has, for the time being, dropped out of the race. He may be back if Abbas stumbles, or even if he doesn’t. And terrorists may not be viewed as ideal candidates in the USA, but doesn’t this match-up sound familiar?Aside from the incarceration, didn’t W. just trounce Kerry on the street credibility issue? Didn’t W.’s brush-clearing, evildoer-squashing manliness triumph over Kerry’s high-fallutin’ East Coast disdain for the uncultivated yahoos in flyover country? In Israel, Barghouti – though not accused of detonating any bombs himself – is considered a terrorist. And Americans hate terrorists – won’t talk to ’em, won’t deal with ’em. In many parts of the world – not just Paris and Berlin – W. is called a terrorist, though he hasn’t launched any missiles or killed any insurgents. Lots of people hate him, but everybody has to deal with him. In the living rooms in Gaza City and Galveston, in Khan Yunis and Keokuk, Barghouti and Bush are seen by their supporters as nationalist warriors willing to do just about anything to defend, over all other considerations, the domestic way of life. While W. may be defending a much higher tax bracket and level of prosperity and while some of Barghouti’s weapons are more lethal than mass family-values e-mailings to the FCC, the passions in Peoria and Palestine are ferocious. As Washington manages elections in Baghdad and Kabul, and observes one in Kiev, their buzz word is “legitimacy” – the key to Democracy and therefore, security and stability and victory in the war on terror. If this is the geo-political mantra, what use is Mahmoud Abbas if he can’t speak the lingo of the intifada? Only someone who speaks the language of war can convince a generation of blood-lusting martyrs to trade in theirs belts of explosives for campaign slogans. Just across the roadblocks, checkpoints and walls from the West Bank and Gaza, only someone as thoroughly versed in destruction as Ariel Sharon has a chance of convincing Israeli’s fanatical right wing that peace with the Palestinians – not self-destructive settlement building – is now a requirement for the Jewish state’s future as a democracy. Abbas may be the international fav’, but so what? Americans snubbed global sentiment in re-electing W., Cheney and Rummy. The world – especially the Europeans – for all its insistence on peace in the Middle East, has always has a skewed view of the problem there, a view that at times has been underhandedly anti-Semitic, haughtily self-serving and disastrously blind to the Arab world’s neglect of their Palestinian brothers and sisters. That’s not odd, from a world conned for decades by one of the Middle East’s leading thugs, Yasser Arafat. This dear leader convinced too many people he was a statesman and freedom fighter, when all he did was plant explosives in the national aspirations of those who adored him and fail spectacularly when he was offered his own country. And he supposedly had legitimacy. What, but even more disaster and death, can occur if the Palestinians are ruled by someone they don’t even believe in?City Editor Matt Zalaznick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 949-0555, ext. 606.Vail, Colorado