just over 6% of the Palestinian electorate in occupied East Jerusalem
were granted the opportunity to vote in their city in the second
Palestinian parliamentary elections - a total of 6,300 out of a
population of nearly a quarter of a million (including children). Yet
even the lucky 6,300 - the number permitted by Israel to vote is
entirely arbitrary - faced a campaign of intimidation to discourage
Israel tried to score points internationally by allowing
elections in East Jerusalem, while trying to choke the life out of
them. As well as severely restricting the number of Palestinians
allowed to vote, Israel photocopied registration lists. A refusal to
give a previously issued letter of assurances that voting would not
affect residency and other rights added to the atmosphere of fear.
International discussion about these elections has been almost
exclusively about Hamas, a welcome distraction for Israel from the
suppression of the democratic rights of the Palestinians of Jerusalem.
In the past two years, Israel has surrounded its settlements in East
Jerusalem with an 8m-high concrete wall, cutting off the Palestinian
city from its hinterland in the West Bank. Ramallah and Bethlehem -
once suburbs of East Jerusalem - are now as remote as foreign countries
on the other side of international-border-style crossings.
94% of Palestinian Jerusalemites barred from voting in their city have
to travel to the other side of Israel's wall to vote, passing
barbed-wire fences and the nervous teenagers armed to the teeth at
Israeli checkpoints. Israel knew few Palestinian Jerusalemites would
choose to spend an entire day on this arduous journey, and was thereby
trying to deprive almost the entire Jerusalem electorate of its
democratic right to vote.
In order to create the fiction that
Jerusalemites were participating in elections from "abroad", those
Palestinians permitted to cast their votes in their own city had to do
so in post offices. Last year, Palestinian negotiators tried to open
talks on expanding the Jerusalem voting arrangements to include the
entire electorate. Israel ignored their requests until the last minute,
despite its obligation under the Road Map to facilitate "free, fair and
open" Palestinian elections. Under international pressure, the two
parties sat down to discuss arrangements a week into the three-week
campaigning period. In few democratic societies would election experts
and lawyers be negotiating the right to campaign with secret policemen
and soldiers. Such is the absurdity of building Palestinian democracy
under the boot of Israeli occupation.
So arrangements fell into
place at the last moment after many Palestinians had been arrested for
crimes such as putting up an election poster or attending a rally. The
west tells us we must reform and build democracy - what has taken place
is the best possible campaign material for those opposed to a
Occupied East Jerusalem has the same legal
status as Jenin, in the West Bank. East Jerusalem is not "disputed
territory", it is illegally controlled and occupied by an Israeli state
that claims the Palestinian half of the city as Israeli.
wins nothing from its tactics of intimidation and obstructionism. By
3pm yesterday, 100 Palestinians had voted at Jaffa Gate: nearly six
times more than in presidential elections last year, when Israel mixed
up voter lists. Yet if only one had voted, that individual would alone
have represented the fact that East Jerusalem remains Palestinian.
will Israel's scorn for Palestinian democracy serve its interest in
peace and security. There is only one way to end the conflict and that
is to negotiate a just solution based on international law.
· Hind Khoury is the Palestinian Authority's minister of state for Jerusalem Affairs