Palestinians have been demanding democracy for 80 years

Statement from BADIL Resource Center for Palestinians Residency and Refugee Rights*

BETHLEHEM (16 November 2004) -- PALESTINIANS have been demanding democracy for more than 80 years and now the world is demanding democracy from the Palestinians. What do the British, the Americans, the Israelis and others want? Do they mean by "democracy" elections that give them the result they want?

Before and after the death of Yasser Arafat on 11 November 2004, there were many questions about the ability of a new leader to emerge and whether a transition was possible. Palestinians had set up a number of mechanisms many years ago to make such a transition quick and transparent along with its demands for an open, democratic system.

Yasser Arafat was elected in a democratic election declared free and fair by election monitors from all over the world. He might have been re-elected but maybe others didn't want this result. Many in the world did not want the result of the recent US election but they accepted it as the will of the majority of the American people.

The election for President of the Palestinian Authority on 9 January 2005 will not represent, in the words of British PM Tony Blair (12 November 2004), the "first beginnings of democracy to take hold on the Palestinian side." The Palestinian people have a long-standing demand for an independent and inclusive democratic state based on rule of law.

Palestinians have demanded independence and a constitution from the League of Nations and the British Mandate ever since the early 20th century. After 1948 Palestinians continued their quest for democracy and sovereignty based on the rule of law via the institutions of the PLO in exile and a vibrant civil society engaged in popular struggle against the Israeli occupation. Limitations on Palestinian democracy continue to be imposed by Israeli and foreign policy interests -- the demand for a democratic Palestine is a Palestinian one.

All this makes Palestinians and others wonder exactly what kind of democracy George Bush and Tony Blair speak about when they publicly commit themselves to the realization of democracy, reform, rule of law and the establishment of a Palestinian state in the next four years. International efforts in the neighborhood do not give much confidence. When it comes to democracy in Palestine/Israel, the international community has been decades behind the Palestinian people.

Endnote

For more on the history of the Palestinian quest for democracy see:
BADIL Bulletin N. 21, November 2004
www.badil.org/Publications/Bulletins/Bulletin- 21.htm

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*BADIL Resource Center aims to provide a resource pool of alternative, critical and progressive information on the question of Palestinian refugees in our quest to achieve a just and lasting soluton for exiled Palestinians based on their right of return.

PO Box 728, Bethlehem, Palestine;
Email: info@badil.org;
Website: www.badil.org;
Telephone/Fax: 02-2747346
From outside of Palestine: 972-2-2747346


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