by Khaled Abu Toameh
It is the Fatah and Hamas leaders, and not Israel, who do not want to see reforms and democracy in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. But the anti-Israel spokesmen in the U.S., Canada and Europe are not going to let facts get in their way.Is it true that Palestinians cannot hold new elections because of Israeli security measures?
This is a claim, often made in the U.S., Canada and parts of Europe, is that the Palestinians have not been able to hold new presidential and parliamentary elections for the past five years because of Israeli army checkpoints in the West Bank, and that it will be impossible for the Palestinians to hold new elections in the future so long as Israel maintains checkpoints in various parts of the West Bank.
Another claim is that Israel is responsible for the fact that Palestinians enjoy no democracy in their two separate entities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
First, it is worth noting that such claims are often made by people living in the West, and not by Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
These people in the West like to think they are pro-Palestinian, but by their consistent distortion of facts, they seem in reality to be more anti-Israeli than pro-Palestinian. They never advocate against the repression and corruption that are actually stifling the Palestinians. Instead, they prefer to ignore the reality on the ground and often blame Israel for all that goes wrong in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Not surprisingly, many Palestinians seem to be much more pragmatic and realistic than the anti-Israel spokesmen sitting in Washington, New York and London.
The Palestinians know, for example, that were it not for the continued power struggle between Hamas and Fatah, they would have had free elections several years ago.
The Palestinians, moreover, know that Israeli checkpoints have nothing to do with restricting freedom of expression and voting. They are fully aware that the checkpoints are there to stop terror attacks and not democracy or reforms.
In the past, despite Israeli security measures and checkpoints, Palestinians did have free and democratic elections for the presidency and parliament.
Israeli "occupation" did not prevent Hamas from winning the January 2006 parliamentary election.
Not only did Israel freely allow Arab residents of Jerusalem to run and vote in that election, but for the first time ever, Israel opened its post offices in Jerusalem so that Arab voters could cast their ballots in the 2006 election, and permitted a number of Hamas candidates from Jerusalem to contest the vote.
Since then, Palestinians have held different elections for various bodies in the West Bank, including municipalities, university campuses and professional unions.
Needless to say, these elections were all held despite the presence of Israeli checkpoints.
Israel has never stopped Palestinians from holding free elections or implementing administrative and financial reforms, and there have never been any complaints from Palestinians about Israeli attempts to obstruct these elections or prevent them.
The Fatah and Hamas leaders are the only ones to blame for ongoing divisions and rivalry in the Palestinian arena. It is these leaders, and not Israel, who do not want to see reforms and democracy in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The checkpoints are there to stop suicide bombers and other terrorists, and not to prevent anyone from running in an election or forming a new political party.
Hamas and Fatah do not tolerate competition. When a Palestinian religious figure, Sheikh Tayseer Tamimi, recently announced his intention to run in the next presidential election, Palestinian thugs in the city of Hebron torched his car. Palestinian Authority security forces in the West Bank have also been harassing Tamimi supporters in a bid to deter him from participating in the election.
Similarly, Hamas has been cracking down on Palestinian activists who have openly been challenging the radical Islamic movement's rule in the Gaza Strip.
It is worth reminding those people who profess love the Palestinians that there are no Israeli checkpoints inside the Gaza Strip to foil either Palestinian elections or democracy, and that those in the West Bank do not foil elections or democracy, either.
But the anti-Israel spokesmen in the U.S., Canada and Europe are not going to let facts get in their way. They seem determined to continue spreading lies that are harmful not only to Israel, but also to Palestinians, who want see an end to tyranny and corruption in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Khaled Abu Toameh
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