Press Release 26 January 2006

Scottish Friends of Palestine welcomes the conclusion of the democratic process in occupied Palestine. We welcome this further opportunity for the Palestinian people, under occupation, to participate in the fruits of democracy.

We do have a number of concerns:

First and foremost is the fact that the elections took place under military occupation. Inevitably the process was flawed. The occupiers restricted campaigning, freedom of movement of campaigners and voters alike. Noteworthy were the restrictions placed on East Jerusalem. Not all parties were allowed to stand, campaigning was severely restricted and out of about 120 000 voters, only 6000 or so had the opportunity to vote in their city.

We express concern, but no great surprise, at the reaction of the principal players of power politics in the world at the election results. We observe, with a degree of wry amusement, the election of the Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, to power. Twenty five years ago, or so, the government of Israel encouraged the growth of Islamism as a counter to PLO nationalism.

In occupied Palestine we have a society where dispossession is a continuing process, a society which has been brutalised by decades of military occupation with over four thousand victims – men, women and children – killed. It is a society which, in many respects, has been forced back to mediaeval times – locked behind ghetto walls, denied economic opportunity and benefit. Yet within the international community hardly an eye is blinked. Indeed, by the lack of action, the world states have acquiesced to Israel’s actions.

That Palestinian society, under such conditions, can embrace the democratic process is testament to that society’s forbearance and thirst for freedom.

Scottish Friends of Palestine now looks forward to a period where the new government is allowed to find its feet and exercise its responsibilities. Over the years SFoP has campaigned for, and welcomed, the presence of delegations from the Palestinian Legislative Council to Scotland and the Scottish Parliament. We believe that such visits are important in nourishing democracy in occupied Palestine. We will encourage further visits.

In the longer term we look forward to the next Palestinian elections. We would encourage the Palestinian diaspora in Scotland and the wider UK to press for participation in these elections. After all, peace with justice for the all the Palestinian people is the ultimate goal.

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