Tuesday, August 30, 2011

No Democracy for Palestine

by Khaled Abu Toameh

The arrest this week of a Palestinian university professor by Palestinian Authority security forces serves as a reminder that the Palestinian state that Mahmoud Abbas is seeking will not be much different from most Arab dictatorships.

The 122 countries that have promised to vote in favor of a Palestinian state at the United Nations need to ask the Palestinian leadership whether the new state would be free and democratic and respect human rights and freedom of expression.

The Palestinians want a political system that resembles the one in Israel and other Western democracies. They do not want regimes like the ones in Syria, Libya, and many other Arab countries.

The fact that hundreds of Palestinians are being held in Palestinian-controlled jails without trial and are being subjected to various methods of torture shows that democracy and respect for human rights do not exist in the Palestinian Authority's lexicon.

The last thing the Palestinians want is a repressive regime that harasses political opponents and journalists, and throws people into prison without trial -- especially not at a time when Arab masses are demanding an end to dictatorships.

The Palestinians want their own Knesset, where any member of parliament could express his opinion without fear. They want a free media like the one in Israel, where journalists, columnists and editors feel free to write anything they want. They also want an independent judiciary system where judges do not receive intimidating phone calls in the middle of the night from the "president's office" or senior security officials.

These are all things that the Palestinian Authority has failed to provide its constituents. Members of the Palestinian parliament who are supposed to enjoy immunity have been intimidated by the Palestinian Authority, and journalists are afraid to report anything that might anger their leaders in Ramallah.

Atlthough the judiciary system in the Palestinian Territories has indeed improved in recent years, it is still far from being independent.

The political science professor, Abdel Sattar Qassem, was arrested after he wrote an article criticizing the administration of An-Najah University where he works. He was released a few days later following strong protests.

Such practices are not uncommon in the Palestinian Authority-run territories.

Several journalists, because of their work, have also been targeted in recent months by various branches of the Palestinian security forces.

The most recent case was that of Majdoleen Hassouneh, a female reporter from Nablus, who was summoned for interrogation for reporting about a sit-in protest in her city.

When she refused to report for interrogation, the Palestinian Authority security services arrested her two brothers, forcing her to go into hiding.

Unfortunately, the way things look now the new state of Palestine will not be a democratic one.

Khaled Abu Toameh

Source: http://www.hudson-ny.org/2389/palestine-democracy

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

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