Palestinian election results: historic success for self-determination and progress

The problem is now before the international community and it is essential that its nature and dimensions be fully understood and appreciated.

Editorial Commentary by


(10 February 2006) -- THE HAMAS Change and Reform slate and the people of Palestine, especially the peoples of the Occupied Territories, are to be warmly congratulated for using the strength of their numbers and organization to elect their slate to the Palestine Legislative Council -- the first election to the Council in 10 years.

According to official results, the Hamas-sponsored Change and Reform political slate won 74 of the 132 seats in the general election on January 25. The turnout among the estimated 1.34 million Palestinian voters was 77.69 per cent.This is a great and valuable achievement for the Palestinian people, including holding what many commentators are citing as the most democratic election in the Middle East.

The legislative election process and the historic success of Hamas in it opens wide horizons for the incessant Palestinian Intifada to retrieve all usurped legal and political rights of the Palestinian people, to win a just peace free of domination, and the opportunity to rebuild their shattered country. A Hamas leader, Ismail Haniyeh, declared the resounding result a victory for the national liberation struggle of the Palestinian people. "This is a victory of the Palestinian people who voted against the occupation, who voted for resistance, who voted for a new political system based on political partnership," he said.

"As long as there is occupation and so long as our people's rights are usurped, our stand will remain as it is. We would resist the (Israeli) occupation to restore our rights," Moussa Abu Marzouk, deputy head of the Hamas movement, said in an interview with The Associated Press.

Fourteen of the elected lawmakers are political prisoners. Dr. Omar Abdul Razzak, a renowned professor at the Najah and Bir Zeit universities, in addition to being an economy expert, who was elected on the Hamas list, is being held in a cell in the Maskobeh prison near the occupied city of Jerusalem. He was subjected to exhausting interrogations and savage torture as the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) denied him any family visit since his detention in December last year.

Ahmed Saadat, the General Secretary of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), won a seat to the Legislative Council at the head of the PFLP list while detained in Jericho prison by the Palestinian Authority. Consistent with its pledge for an inclusive government, one of the first announcements made by Hamas following its victory was that it would release Mr Saadat.

A Palestinian woman casts her vote in Ram Allah


The candidates of the Change and Reform slate came from diverse backgrounds, including a Christian Palestinian candidate. Seventeen women are now part of the 132-member legislature (13 per cent). Eight women were elected from Fatah's national list, six from the Hamas slate, and three from the four remaining slates. Notably, all 17 women ran as part of political slates.

Hamas' victory is an indictment of U.S., European Union and Israeli Zionist policy. The electoral victory and the fresh prospects of a national unity government are a testament to the determination, maturity and skill of the Palestinian people to overcome long years of attempts under the Oslo peace process to incite factionalism and communalism, pitting Palestinian against Palestinian, to sabotage their resistance and independence. Having first encouraged Hamas as an alternative to Fatah, Israel then attempted to defeat Hamas through violence and selective extra-judicial assassination of its political and religious leaders. [1] Encouraged by previous impunity and fortified by the political support it receives from its sponsors, it did this without due legal process, frequently inflicting collective punishment on hundreds of thousands of Palestinians for crimes they did not commit. Time has revealed that Ariel Sharon's unilateral decision in early 2004 to disband Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip, widely greeted by West and its media as a positive gesture by a well-known war criminal, was to serve as simply the pretext for a renewal and extension of the scorched earth onslaught on Palestinian lives and property which was already underway in this part of the occupied territories.

The Palestinian electors defied the brazen U.S.-Israeli attempts -- which Canada has joined -- to dictate the results of the election, from the direct and mean-spirited threats by Washington that it would not recognize a Hamas victory to its condoning of the increasing military attacks by the IOF within Gaza and the West Bank since the New Year against Palestinian neighbourhoods.

The U.S. repeated the exact pattern of direct interference of divide-and-rule. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), an arm of the U.S. failed state to carry out its politics of annexation, mounted covert ops to divide the Palestinian polity by showcasing one party over another.

The statement by U.S. Secretary of State Rice that Washington's failure to predict a Hamas victory was due to faulty intelligence is thus mere deceit to cover up that the Washington was up to its ears in activities to subvert the election. It is established that, according to the Washington Post, "the plan's $2 million budget, although a tiny fraction of USAID's work here [an estimated $270 million], is likely more than what any Palestinian party will have spent by election day.... The plan was designed with the help of a former U.S. Army Special Forces officer who worked in postwar Afghanistan on democracy-building projects."

"Public outreach is integrated into the design of each project to highlight the role of the P.A. (Palestinian Authority) in meeting citizens' needs," said a progress report distributed in January to USAID and State Department officials. No USAID logos or US identification were to be used on the sponsored projects. "The plan is to have events running every day of the coming week, beginning 13 January, such that there is a constant stream of announcements and public outreach about positive happenings all over Palestinian areas in the critical week before the elections." [2]

Since Hamas' landslide victory, the United States, Canada, European Union and Israel have launched an intensive disinformation campaign against Hamas. In a hastily-called press conference just hours after the will of the Palestinian people had become apparent, U.S. President George W. Bush declared: "I've made it very clear that the United States does not support political parties that want to destroy our ally Israel and that people must renounce that part of their platform." He further stated: "I don't see how you can be a partner in peace if you advocate the destruction of a country as part of your platform. And I know you can't be a partner in peace if you have -- if your party has got an armed wing."

The same feeble pretexts were used by those with the greatest "armed wing" in the history of the world to demonize the late Palestinian president Yasser Arafat's peace intentions and give the US-backed Israeli government of Ariel Sharon free rein to impose colonization in the Occupied Territories. These reveal the very essence of U.S. aims in the Middle East and elsewhere -- which Canada has joined -- to impose the "democracy" and rule suitable to the interests of U.S. imperialism.

Amidst the present submission of the Arab regimes to U.S. hegemony, the Change and Reform slate and Hamas are entering a difficult stage. The Middle East now sits on top of a volcano and the world has come suddenly to realize that underlying this situation there exists a focal source of trouble: the U.S. is preparing to widen its "war on terror," using its occupation of Iraq, provocations against Iran, and other mechanisms such as the unacceptable theses of "axis of evil" and "clash of civilizations" manufactured by its paid Orientalists and Arabists. The problem is now before the international community and it is essential that its nature and dimensions be fully understood and appreciated.

What cannot be underestimated is that the cause of Palestine is recognized the world over. The struggle of the Palestinian people is now a byword for emancipation, enlightenment, progress and human dignity, regardless of all the demonization, vilification and mutilation heaped on them by their genocidal enemies. Why? Because the struggle of the Palestinian people to affirm their right to self-determination, to end the occupation, secure the right of return and to reunify their nation peacefully, without outside interference, is a just struggle, a noble ideal.

*An earlier version of this article appeared in TML Daily, February 9, 2006 - No. 12.

Endnotes

1 Dozens of Palestinian resistance leaders were killed in targeted assassinations by Israeli occupation forces in the West Bank and Gaza Strip between 2002-2006 as part of major state terror operations. The most prominent among them were Hamas spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, who was assassinated on 22 March 2004, and the group's co-founder, Abdul-Aziz Al-Rantisi, who was assassinated one month later on 17 April.

Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the founder and spiritual leader of the Palestinian resistance group Hamas, was born near Ashkelon in around 1937. His family moved to Gaza when their village was destroyed in the 1948 War. Paraplegic from childhood, he was almost blind and confined to a wheelchair throughout his adult life. Sentenced to life imprisonment by an Israeli court in 1989 on charges of ordering the execution of two captured Israeli soldiers, he was released in 1997 in exchange for two Mossad agents captured by Jordan. He was repeatedly placed under house arrest by the Palestinian Authority, but released each time following demonstrations by his supporters. On 6 September 2003, an Israeli F-16 dropped a quarter-tonne bomb on a building in Gaza City where Sheikh Ahmed Yassin was staying. The atrocity occurred midst negotiations between Hamas and Fatah for unity. He escaped with only light injuries. On 22 March 2004 in the small hours of the morning the Israeli occupation forces assassinated Sheikh Ahmed Yassin,triggering an immediate outcry across occupied Palestine. The air strike also killed one of his sons, as well as two bodyguards.

Abdul-Aziz Al-Rantisi was born on 23 October 1947 in the village of Yubna, close to Jaffa. He studied medicine in Egypt for nine years, returning to Gaza in 1976. He co-founded Hamas in 1987 with Sheikh Yassin. In December 1992 he was expelled to southern Lebanon. During the Oslo years, he was frequently arrested and detained by the Palestinian Authority, for his criticism of the PA and of Yasser Arafat. After Sheikh Yassin's release from prison, he assumed the political leadership of the movement. He survived a first attempt on his life on 10 June 2003: an Israeli helicopter launched a missile at the car in which he was travelling, killing several bystanders. Following Sheikh Yassin's assassination, Al- Rantisi was named leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip. He outlived his old friend and mentor by barely a month. On 17 April, he was murdered in an Israeli air strike, dying of his wounds in Gaza City's Al-Shifa hospital after his car took a direct hit from at least two rockets fired by an Israeli helicopter.The attack on Al- Rantisi left two others dead, including one of his bodyguards.

2. "U.S. Funds Enter Fray In Palestinian Elections; Bush Administration Uses USAID as Invisible Conduit," January 22, 2006.

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