Thursday, January 26, 2006

 

An amazing election day!

During the day of the election yesterday, I was posted at the largest polling stations in East Jerusalem. All the polling stations in Jerusalem were at post offices because the Israeli government didn't want to recognise Jerusalem as being part of Palestine. The post office polling stations were set up so the Palestinian people could "postal absentee votes" that would be counted in the West Bank.

There were hundreds of Palestinians surrounding the polling station as well as international observers- from former US President Jimmy Carter to different NGO's and peace groups- making the crowd outside the polling station number well over a thousand. Teens handed out election material, something that was actually in violation of election regulations however given the ban by the Israeli government on campaigning this seemed like a good thing. People were ecstatic. The place being a Fatah strong hold had several people chanting. Occasionally a candidate would come to the polling booth and there would be cheers from various sections of the demonstration.

Talking to people there was a real enthusiasm. The people I talked to were planning to vote for individual candidates rather then a list from a particular party. A man showed me a voting card for Fatah with 6 names in Arabic. He said "of these only two are good. The rest corrupt."

The crowd grew even more as a Palestine Peace Coalition (PPC) staged a hundred strong rally outside the polling booth. The rally was non-factional criticising the Israeli government for only allowing 6,300 Palestinians in East Jerusalem to register in this election.


A women was applauded for waving the Palestinian flag, illegal in Jerusalem under Israeli law. Yet the police stayed at bay and barely went past the polling both.


There was a large police presence about 500 meters away with a Zionist rally of 20 people congregated with Israeli flags saying that this land was Israel and the Palestinians had no right to vote for the PA if they wanted to live in Jerusalem. When I approached to ask why the rally was so small, an organiser told me that there were only 20 people because the police said they could only have 20. Yet it didn't look like they had any supporters near by and they packed up pretty early.

The voting went on till 7pm thankfully undisrupted. I went to the ISM office in Ramallah before checking out what celebrations were being had. I went past a place in Old Ramallah that was the headquaters for Hamas. I talked with them for a bit and they were relatively friendly. I talked at length with one of their leaders.

One of the things that concerns me about this election, which was backed up by my conversation with this Hamas leader and backed up by a conversation I had with a Palestinian ISMer, is that there really doesn't seem to be a strategy for how to resist the occupation. Fatah and Hamas had lots to say on the occupation but nothing on the types of demonstrations, negotiations, boycotts, warfare etc that they feel are needed to defeat the occupation.

What he said next scared me even more. I tried talking to him about some of the criticisms of Hamas that I had heard during the election about them being just for the Muslims and not relating to the Christian Palestinian population. He didn't seem to think that it was relevant and he talked about America being run by the Jews. I tried saying that in Australia many Jews are opposed to the occupation and many feel that after the holocaust that happened. He then tried to deny that the Holocaust had ever happened and that there could have been only 100,000 at most Jews killed. I asked him if it matters and didn't he think that was a lot anyway but I didn't get much of a response. All I can say is I hope if Hamas does end up running the PA that we hear more about resisting the occupation and less about holocaust denial.

After fleeing that quite uncomfortable situation I ended up in the centre of Ramallah watching the post election celebrations. Cars with different Palestinian flags drove around central Ramallah firing machine guns in the air. Whilst I think the PA is not going to do anything major hopefully the inspiration of this election will help build the actual activist movement in Palestine. With Hamas negotiation is less likely to occur. The Palestinian people have nothing left to negotiate with and so the resistance will need to find its own way.

One person said they voted for Fatah because if Hamas wins the US and Israel will not accept it. However as another person pointed out Israel wanted the Palestinians to elect Mahmoud Abbas, they did and there has been no progress so now they plan to do the opposite.

Harry
[Feel free to write feedback, questions etc.]

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