Thursday, December 09, 2004

 

This guy can't get a break

Talk about a tough campaign. The same week that he gets held up at a checkpoint at gunpoint and refused entrance to Hebron (see here), Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi, Palestinian presidential candidate, was beaten by Israeli soldiers at a checkpoint outside of Jenin. What's next, the First Intifada Veterans for Truth? Seriously, though, folks, this is hardly what you'd call a free and open election. Indeed, yesterday Barghouti held a press conference to talk about these issues, leveling charges at Israel and others:
"The Israeli occupation authorities have been barring me from travelling to the Gaza Strip. How can we conduct an effective and orderly election campaign if one is unable to meet one's supporters?" he said....

"There are certain sides that have already declared the winner even before the organisation of the election," he said.

Al-Barghuthi pointed out that the international community and Israel were giving Fatah's official candidate, Mahmud Abbas, preferential treatment, which he said constituted a tacit interference in the election process.

"He can travel both inside and outside Palestine unfettered, but I can't reach Gaza." (from al-Jazeera)
A statement on PalestineMonitor.org, a website affiliated with Barghouthi, also leveled charges directly at the US as well as Israel.
Only last month US Secretary of State Colin Powell promised Palestinians full American support for elections, and Israel made assurances that it would aid the elections by easing travel restrictions. On November 22nd Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom stated that it was in Israel’s interest to see that the Palestinian elections go forward, that “Israel will do everything in its power to ensure their smooth running,” and that Palestinians would have “freedom of movement.”

Today’s events clearly show Israel’s blatant efforts to obstruct the Palestinian democratic elections, once again demonstrating their disregard for human rights. If the presidential candidates themselves are forced to endure such violence and humiliation, it is unlikely that the remaining Palestinian population, who face these hardships on a daily basis, will be granted the necessary freedom to vote.
Both of these statements are essentially indictments of the democratic nature of the upcoming Palestinian elections. Barghouthi is absolutely correct that there is a vast difference between the capabilities of Abu Mazin and himself (not to mention Marwan Barghouti, whose ability to campaign is, how shall I put this... limited - although I expect that he will soon withdraw his candidacy). I think that Israel and the US are to a certain degree genuine about wanting to have a Palestinian election. But to what extent are they interested in fostering democracy and openness and in general strengthening the political and civil society in Palestine? Well, maybe not that much. It could be they just want to be able to get Abu Mazin in there (and he is expected to win the election) and go from there. It's about the ends, not the process. Whereas I think to somebody like Mustafa Barghouthi, somebody who is really interested in having a democratic society in Palestine, the process is maybe even more important than the results. And the process doesn't work under occupation.

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