Press Release 4 January 2005

With January 9th, election day for the Palestinian people under occupation, looming closer, Scottish Friends of Palestine expresses its concern at recent events in occupied Palestine.

We believe that the events undermine the democratic process in this part of the Middle East where the people have long yearned for democracy.

We believe that the events foreshadow a situation where, if the successful canditate does not meet the demands of the occupier, then it will be business-as-usual for the occupation with the democratically elected Palestinian president under continual threat and marginalised by the occupier.

– Around 25 Palestinians have been killed by the occupation forces since the start of election campaigning on 25th December

-On 30 December 2004, Riziq Ziad Musleh, a 17-year-old Palestinian high school student,wasplacing posters on a wall near his home for Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi’s presidential campaign when he was shot dead by an Israeli snipAround 8 000 Palestinian detainees in Israeli custody are denied the vote

-The occupation authorities have refused to allow presidential contenders to campaign at the Haram al Sharif in East Jerusalem

-In East Jerusalem the occupation authorities refused to allow the registration of about 120 000 voters, they have been obstructive at every opportunity, refusing to increase the number of polling booths for those 5,000 or so allowed to vote in their own city. It is estimated that about 100 000 will be required to run the gauntlet of checkpoints and separation walls to exercise their democratic right, under the occupier’s designation of “absentee voter”

-Mustafa Barghouti, an independent candidate, was arrested while preparing for an election rally in East Jerusalem. In December Barghouti was assaulted and briefly detained by the occupation forces when he identified himself as a presidential candidate at a checkpoint outside the West Bank city of Jenin. Bassam al-Salhi of the communist People’s Party, was briefly detained after trying to enter Jerusalem without the permission of the occupiers

-The occupation forces have arrested large number of candidates for municipal elections in the southern part of the West Bank. Most have alleged Islamic links including Shaikh Nayif Rajub, imam of Dura’s Grand Mosque, and Shaikh Fathi Amr, a high-ranking official in Hebron’s Islamic endowments department, Abd alJalil Katalu, a librarian, local businessman Husain Amr, and Ghassan Sharaha, a jewellery dealer. All but one were undeclared candidates in forthcoming municipal elections.

The exercising of democratic rights under occupation was never going to be easy. Under a brutal occupation regime which, for decades has spurned international law, it may turn out to be impossible. However those members of the international community who have adopted the cry of “democracy for all people – particularly those in the Middle East” cannot ignore current developments.

With Tony Blair and his proposed conference leading the way, it is a matter of priority that Britain, in cooperation with the rest of the EU states, should make it clear to Israel that respect for democracy, respect for the human and democratic rights of the Palestinian people, is the only way that Israel, itself, can remain within the community of nation states which declare themselves to be “democratic.”

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