Christian candidate on Hamas ticket elected
The news media portrays the recent Palestinian election in religious colours, and masks the significance of the Change and Reform electoral slate of national unity sponsored by Hamas (Islamic Resistance Movement). Christian candidate Hosam al-Taweel explains the basis of unity: "We are all - Christians and Muslims - united for a free Palestine. Our ancestors fought with the Muslim leader, Salah al-Din, against the crusaders."
By MOTASEM DALLOUL*
He is competing for one of six seats specially designated for the Christian community in the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC).
He worked as a volunteer at the YMCA in Gaza for more than 30 years, serving on its board three times. He is also a regular columnist in the Palestinian daily newspaper, Al-Quds.
Al-Taweel says his family is deeply involved in the cause of the Palestinian people. His grandfather was a member of the General Palestinian Government in 1948 which refused the UN resolution partitioning Palestine into Jewish and Arab sections.
Israel, the US and the EU have pressed the Palestinians to bar Hamas from participating in the elections.
Aljazeera.net spoke with al-Taweel in Gaza.
Aljazeera.net: How would you describe your relationship with Hamas?
Al-Taweel: I am eager to tell the truth about this point which has produced unwanted controversy. I have discussed my electoral programme called Addressing Minds with all the Palestinian national and Islamic parties and got all of their support.
My programme isn't specifically for Christians only, but designed for all Palestinians.
What we have in common is keeping the national Palestinian struggle for rights and freedoms alive. We are fighting for the right of return of displaced Palestinian refugees and fighting corruption in Palestinian governance.
The slogan of my campaign is unity-return-justice-independence.
We are all - Christians and Muslims - united for a free Palestine. Our ancestors fought with the Muslim leader, Salah al-Din, against the crusaders.
We also share a common suffering under Israeli occupation.
Each of us has reciprocal respect towards our religious beliefs.
What is the Church's opinion of your running on a Hamas ticket?
I said that I am a Christian (Greek Orthodox) and I have a great loyalty to my Christianity. I am proud of that. But, here, we are speaking about political issues. I could win the support of all the Palestinian parties as I have done with Hamas.
This doesn't bother the Church. But I have no different speeches, one designed for Muslims and another for the Christians. I have only one speech for all of the Palestinians, all together.
I say to them: Let's go united to the PLC elections to practise democracy and to say our word by choosing the right people to the right places. Then, we will be able to solve our problems and change our reality and create a hopeful future for all Palestinians.
Does the Church support you more than other Christian candidates?
No, it has a neutral position towards all of us.
How do you view Palestinian resistance?
All occupied peoples have to fight for freeing their lands. Freeing your occupied land is an internationally legitimate right.
I say to the Palestinians to use this right under the umbrella of the UN, but they have their own right to decide how, when and where to resist the occupation in order to get the ultimate political benefits of their resistance.
What about bombing operations?
Frankly, I am against involving civilians from both sides in the conflict.
But the Israelis also must not involve civilians, which is what they unfortunately did when an F-16 targeted the home of Shaikh Salah Shehadi and killed about 18 civilians, children and women among them. And they called that a security operation.
But when Palestinians carry out an operation in which civilians are hurt or killed, they call it a terrorist act. I prefer that both sides leave civilians aside.
Do you believe peace plans - like the 1993 Oslo Accords - signed between the Israelis and the PLO, will work?
I do believe in fair and comprehensive peace which is built on the concepts of justice and freedom.
But Oslo is too old and it has been rendered null in the past. If we look at current trends, the Israeli new party, Kadima, is calling for the discrimination wall to be recognised as an official border and united Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
They also seek to cancel the right of return of thousands of Palestinian refugees and say no more withdrawals from the West Bank and Jerusalem.
All these positions will ensure the destruction of all peace initiatives and the process itself.
I advise the Palestinians to engage in serious talks to map out a common Palestinian political national programme in order to struggle for it in full loyalty.
Why were elections almost postponed several times in the past few weeks?
I was always against any postponement of the elections. The elections have become the best way for Palestinians to voice their common national demands. They all seek a chance of changing their current reality and building a better one.
Simply, some in the international community are fearful of a new PLC that will be comprised of all Palestinian colours - all Palestinian factions and affiliations.
Who do you think will win the elections?
No one can tell the final answer now. The ballot box knows the answer to that question.
But what I am sure of is that the new PLC will be formed of all the Palestinian colours. And I hope that the elections will be conducted smoothly and freely, without any interruption.
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