[News] Palestine - Under an iron fist

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Tue Dec 19 17:19:10 EST 2006

Under an iron fist
Karma Nabulsi, The Electronic Intifada, 19 December 2006


US secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and Palestinian President 
Mahmoud Abbas shake hands after a press conference in the West Bank 
town of Ramallah November 14, 2005. 
(<http://www.maannews.net>MAANnews/Charlotte de Bellabre)

Palestinians don't want fresh elections in the occupied territories, 
but a free vote for a truly national ruling body.

"Let the people decide for themselves what they want," declared 
Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority president, yesterday. But 
there already is a national consensus, an underlying unity in a 
common platform. The Palestinian people are agreed: indeed there must 
be Palestinian elections, but not another round of elections in the 
occupied Palestinian territories, for a president of the Palestinian 
Authority or for its legislative council.

The elections that all Palestinians are demanding today (the millions 
under occupation and the millions in the refugee camps outside) are 
for the Palestine National Council, the parliament in exile, which is 
the national body that represents all Palestinians. The PNC is the 
institutional body that forms the sovereign base of the Palestine 
Liberation Organisation, which is the sole legitimate representative 
of the Palestinian people, recognised as such by the United Nations, 
the Arab League, the US the EU, and the Palestinian people themselves.

The Palestinian people under occupation have already elected a 
legislative council under occupation that represents a portion of the 
body politic. Today Palestinians demand elections for the entire 
Palestinian population. The prisoners' "document of national unity", 
agreed this summer, reflects that popular demand, and made it a 
primary article of consensus and agreement between the parties.

The moment Fatah lost power in the legislative elections to Hamas in 
January, it was obliged to take a step that would have brought it 
closer to the people it sought to represent. It was obliged to step 
aside, accept the outcome of that election, and the brute fact that 
its party had been defeated. In this way it could have availed itself 
of the many democratic benefits that accrue to those who lose power 
in an election: the opportunity to reconnect to constituents, to 
learn why they had lost, to discover what they had to do to regain 
their people's trust, to encourage them to cease being leaders who 
worked for others, and begin the difficult but rewarding process of 
becoming representatives again.

Instead, they were told they were still in power, and told by the 
"international community" they had to play this role or take 
responsibility for abandoning their suffering people to even more 
cruel fate than what they were currently enduring in Gaza and the 
West Bank and occupied Jerusalem.

And so, what we are witnessing today is the horrific and inevitable 
outcome of a process of deliberate coercion, designed to force an 
occupied people to surrender their elected representatives. That this 
coercion is being carried out by the iron fist of military occupier 
Israel, which is withholding vital Palestinian taxes, and its neocon 
backers, the US administration, is to be expected - and to be resisted.

What is harder to understand is just how this coercion can be so 
flagrantly insisted upon by the British, by the European Union, by 
the very actors who should be standing by the Palestinians - if not 
for the shared common values of decency and morality, then as part of 
their contractual responsibilities as co-signatories to the fourth 
Geneva convention, obligating them both to respect and ensure respect 
of the treaty that protects a civilian population under military occupation.

The Palestinian people have indeed already spoken: for elections to 
the Palestine National Council, for lifting the economic boycott of a 
democratically elected authority; for liberty and to independence.

Karma Nabulsi teaches politics and international relations at Oxford 
University. She is the author of 
of War: Occupation, Resistance and the Law.

The Freedom Archives
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San Francisco, CA 94110
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