Refocus: Polling Places for Palestinians in Upcoming Elections

All Palestinians need access to polling places for the upcoming Palestinian Legislative Council Elections slated for January 25. Also, the people need to feel safe.

The most recent news development is that the Israeli Government will allow Jerusalemites to vote in post offices, as they did for the 2005 presidential elections. It was further explained they may be allowed to vote via mail, suggesting that Jerusalemites are participating in an out-of-country voting program. If the voters are in Jerusalem then why would they cast absentee ballots? What the people need is access to polling places.

The results from a recent Palestinian public opinion poll reveal that 51.3 per cent of the respondents “…see that the internal security conditions permit for conducting legislative elections; 42.1 per cent see the contrary.”

The Center for Opinion Polls and Survey Studies at An-Najah National University conducted poll no. 17 from January 5-6, 2006. From the West Bank and the Gaza Strip 1360 persons participated in the poll. Although 86.2 per cent of the people polled said they would participate in the elections, 81.7 per cent of the respondents “…say that they do not feel that their families, themselves or their properties are secure under the current local security conditions.”

Interpretations of the data determine which factors people direct their focus. For example it can be said that the phrase, “local security conditions,” has different meanings. Were the peoples’ responses referring to the violence of lawlessness from pogroms and/or militants; or were their answers in reference to the violence from the military occupation?

The preface of the poll explains the public has some concern that Jerusalemites will not be allowed to participate in the upcoming elections. Moreover, the suppression of their votes may cause the cancellation of elections. Recent news reports containing excerpts of interviews with people on the street affirm this concern also.

While the possibility exists that the Palestinians of East Jerusalem may be denied their voting rights by the Israeli Government the unknown variable looms in the collective consciousness of the people. Some voter constituents may find it a challenge to focus their full attention on party platforms and learn about the candidates who compete for their votes. The chance that some voters will be excluded from suffrage intimidates people. In turn, they conclude logically that security conditions may not make an election for the entire voter constituency possible. Will polling places be accessible? Will access be fair and equal? If Israel uses the military occupation to harm the Palestinians physically, emotionally and mentally then why would Election Day be any different?

Above the peoples’ heads is the risk that Jerusalemites may or may not have access to secure, poll locations with safe, convenient transportation routes on Election Day. Israel’s potential, voter suppression denies the Palestinians the right to democratic elections and legislative representatives who could make the State of Palestine a reality. The logistical manipulation of the election process alone is a political threat against the Palestinians and a violation of their right to choose their political representatives.

If only half of the people surveyed think security conditions make elections possible and over three-fourths of the people do not feel their families are safe in their daily lives then what public pronouncements have been said and what processes have been implemented by the European Union to improve Palestinian voter confidence? EU Representatives can monitor the ground and discover PLC candidates have been prevented from campaigning in Jerusalem (including the arrests of candidates) and in Gaza, yet what diplomatic confrontation with Israel has taken place to check Israeli leadership for their public threats? What is the ultimatum?

While the Palestinians are subjected to the occupation’s bully ways the international community, including U.S. leadership has made minimal effort up to this point in time to ensure Palestinian elections will be fair and democratic for all Palestinians. Last week President George W. Bush said Palestinians in East Jerusalem have a right to vote. However no one is willing to support the Palestinians’ right to vote with measurable actions. Political leaders stand at podiums and talk of peace and resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict so that there will be two states living side-by-side. Meanwhile, Israeli Occupation Forces and pogroms torment and assault the Palestinians.

Israel’s allies do not tell Israeli leadership to stop the violence. The domination Israel induces not only oppresses the Palestinians but drains the oppressor. Why not channel energy and resources for the safety of Israelis and Palestinians? In the end the occupier perpetrates fear in the oppressed and this terror only reveals the fear controlling the occupier.

What the occupation’s participants – both inside and outside of Israel –” have a difficult time accepting is that Palestinians have been beaten and tortured for so many years that they can only move forward. The people will not sit behind locked doors because it denies their sacrifices and the sacrifices made by their ancestors for future generations. Bones break, lives shatter, people are shot dead in the streets, but the people continue living their lives — even if it is in perpetual brace against the occupation.

Thus far the Palestinians have had no recourse so they have no choice but to hold up their heads and keep living. When the people bow their heads, whether in prayer or for hope their eyes reflect down so they can look up. As a people their collective faith is found in the white stripe of Palestine’s flag. The people long to walk outside without reaching for an I.D.

“My Country,” is the Palestinian national anthem. Here is an excerpt translated into English by the Palestinian American Council:

“…The longing of my blood to my land and home/

I have climbed the mountains and fought the wars/

I have conquered the impossible, and crossed the borders/

My country, my country, the nation of eternity…”

and the Palestinians struggle for freedom.