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Thursday, December 8, 2016
Jerusalem: Christian MP reflects on Palestinian elections
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 I ran as a Fatah candidate in the 25 January Palestinian parliamentary elections and I won the trust of my people for one of the two Christian seats from Jerusalem. My campaign was not a sophisticated one as I attempted throughout to reach people in Jerusalem; its villages, refugee camps, towns and other communal localities on a person to person basis. I had also opportunities to address relatively large audiences, some of which topped 500 people. Throughout I learnt many lessons from my people as they aired their views on current developments and their expectations for the future. Their concerns were mainly concerns related to daily preoccupations, special needs, services and the impact of the concrete wall and Israeli military occupation practices that separate them from each other and from their basic rights of movement, free access and normal living. They stressed the need for honest communication and periodic visits of their representatives. While each locality has its unique problems, they are all willing to work together in order to come up with a comprehensive development plan that will include all of greater Arab Jerusalem. In the village of Beit Anan, most Western village of Jerusalem, Jad a young Palestinian who just finished college and is unemployed spoke of the needs of young people. He elaborated his expectations and specified his plans for the development of his village of 5000 with the hope that projects that will generate employment opportunities will be launched. The village council president spoke of the medical needs of the community that does not have a clinic or even an ambulance. When there is a case that needs urgent medical attention, the trip to Ramallah takes more than one and a half hour in part due to the Israeli separation barrier and to the poor standards of the roads out of the village. In the town of Sawahrah Ash Sharqiyah, Ali a young Fatah activist spoke eloquently of the need to reform Fatah. He said there are many young people whose commitment to Fatah is one of principle and they are sad when some irresponsible people "hijack" the movement and its principles for self interests and narrow goals. Ali was referring to some practices that were part of the election campaigning and that weakened the ability of Fatah to perform more effectively. But Jad and Ali gave me inspiration that our young people who are committed to ideals and principles should be encouraged to become part of the political process. It is young people like Jad and 'Ali who are going to make the difference for our people and its future. In Arab Al Jahalleen, a Bedouin encampment turned village on the Eastern outskirts of Jerusalem, the concerns revolved around providing feed to livestock on a regular basis and with affordable prices. There was a request by the Sheikh of Jahalleen, Abu Ahmad, that those officials at the Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture should be qualified to deal with the questions related to land, agriculture and livestock. Abu Ahmad expressed concern that some staff members in the Ministry of Agriculture do not have the proper qualifications to fill their positions. As a joke, Abu Ahmad, said over a cup of specially brewed Arabic coffee that some staffers are educated in "Paris" and know nothing about Jahalleen and its agricultural and livestock needs. During the campaign I have touched base with our people and saw the love we all have to the good earth of Palestine. I was also elated by the participation of Christian Palestinians in the process. A group of Christian organizations held an open debate for all 9 Christian candidates in the Arab Orthodox Club of Dahiat Al Barid, north of Jerusalem. Over 250 people attended and the debate among candidates was truly heated but polite with the written questions from the audience touching on hot political, social and other issues and agendas pertaining to each of the candidates. On a more personal initiative, I held one meeting with over 100 Christian Palestinians and they were all of the opinion that participation in the election was a serious obligation. Some ask me about the Hamas landslide. My own interpretation is that this is democracy and our Palestinian people have cast their vote. I would have loved to see my Fatah movement win a comfortable majority but this did not happen due to so many different factors. The challenge now is whether internal Palestinian reform can be accomplished without the adoption of pragmatic positions on the political front. All Palestinians without exception want an end to Israeli occupation and the sooner the better. The question of how to accomplish this has been debated again and again in various Palestinian factions and movements over the years. Now that Hamas has become the political majority movement, the debate is going to be on its agenda. I realise that difficult and hard decisions await to be taken by Hamas. A movement that is at the helm of government is necessarily different from a movement in opposition or altogether out of government. I pray that Hamas would make the correct choices which are in the interest of our people, first and foremost. I am cautiously optimistic and I am not alarmed. We need lots of wisdom on all sides. I am confident that the quiet and yet dedicated approach shown by Mr Mahmoud Abbas, Abu Mazen, our President throughout the elections campaign and upon the publication of the results would help greatly in the strenuous process that awaits all of us in the coming months. I realise that much work needs to be done and I am hopeful that I will be, together with my PLC colleagues, up to the challenge. Most important I promise not to disappoint the trust and confidence that Jad and Ali and thousands others of my Palestinian compatriots have placed in me. I also promise to work hard within our Fatah movement to re-haul it and move it forward. In the end whatever gains we make in the PLC and in the Fatah movement will be the gains of our Palestinian people. Source: Bethlehem University
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