The Palestinian elections

Perhaps the metaphor is a little stretched, but this editorial captured my feelings about the Palestinian elections:

If this election is like a wedding, it is a surreal, even pantomime,
marriage, a show presented partly for distraction, but mostly to
suit other interests and desires that do not coincide with the
expected reasons -- and requirements -- of most elections or
nuptials. Yesterday's polls were heavy on symbolism, hope and hype,
and rather light on emotions as well as the crucial structures of
governance and the sorts of powers one would expect a president to
wield. But on this festive day, such doubts were brushed aside so
that all could admire the handsome and suitable groom while placing
unrealistic hopes on his shoulders.


Yesterday's elections did not choose a president so much as they
formalized a rite of passage in the upper ranks of Fatah, passing
the mantle of leadership of the Palestinian Authority (not the
Palestinian people) from the late Yasser Arafat to Mahmoud Abbas,
a.k.a., Abu Mazen.


The poll, this stilted, shotgun wedding, had a strange energy --
drained, anemic, and hesitant. Few seemed genuinely enthusiastic.
The bride was not there, after all, and big issues and concerns were
also missing. Universal human rights and international humanitarian
law were not honored guests at this celebration. Inviting them might
have elicited passions. Had that happened, Abu Mazen might have lost
his title of "moderate candidate."


This description implies that the contender in yesterday's
elections, Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, was a fiery and dangerous radical
or an advocate of violence. He is neither. Rather, Barghouti is a
medical doctor and a respected human rights activist who is highly
regarded as an earnest, intelligent, hard-working man of integrity,
someone who'd like to change the status quo, discuss the rudiments
of a just society, widen political participation, and in general
shake things up constructively.


You can also read more on the low turnout in Haaretz and the Guardian.

There was also a good piece in the Financial Times by Rashid Khalidi, which I can't find on their site but am reproducing here. His conclusion:

The US cannot just smile benevolently as Israel evacuates the tiny
sliver of the occupied territories represented by the Gaza Strip and
demand that Palestinians accept Mr Sharon's vision of the continued
occupation and settlement of much of the West Bank. If this is where
Mr Sharon and Mr Bush intend to try to take the Palestinians, this
current bout of optimism will be short-lived. There is an
opportunity, but seizing it would require a new approach by Israel
and America. Failing such a shift, we can look forward to the final
burial of the two-state solution and the establishment of permanent
Israeli control within a single, conflict-ridden entity encompassing
the entirety of the land between the Jordan and the Mediterranean.
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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.