This morning, Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi visited East Jerusalem on the last day of the presidential campaign. He met with President Jimmy Cater at the Seven Arches Hotel in East Jerusalem. He told President Carter that he was going to the Old City to attend Friday prayers at the al-Aqsa Mosque. President Carter indicated that if he got arrested he should let him know. He did not take this seriously, as he had a permit to enter Jerusalem up till 2 pm that afternoon. The permit, furthermore, does not specify places Dr. Barghouthi is not ‘allowed’ to visit.
Dr. Barghouthi arrived at the Old City’s Lion Gate a little after 11.30 am only to find an Israeli police checkpoint stationed outside the Old City. He made it clear to the police that he was a presidential candidate and showed them his permit to enter Jerusalem. However, instead of letting him go, the Israeli police replied ‘ we gave you a permit only to meet President Carter; you cannot walk, you cannot talk to people or pray in Jerusalem. You cannot enter the Old City’. They then roughed him up and took him away by car.
For about two-and-a-half hours, his lawyers and companions failed to find out where he was, as he was taken not to the Police Headquarters in West Jerusalem, but held in a car park in West Jerusalem. Dr. Barghouthi was eventually released thanks to the pressure exerted by lawyers, international observers, and others who intervened on his behalf. He was then expelled to the Dahiyeh checkpoint separating East Jerusalem from Ramallah.
The Israeli government responded to this unacceptable state of affairs by claiming that arrangements have been made with the Palestinian Authority regarding where presidential candidates can or cannot travel. However, these arrangements have no meaning or reality unless they are communicated, and such arrangements were not communicated to Dr. Barghouthi.
Residents of East Jerusalem, who are a substantial part of the electorate, have the right to hear and see the people they are going to elect. This is what Dr. Barghouthi was doing when arrested, presenting himself to his electorate.
This is the last day of the Palestinian presidential election campaigning, where every minute counts, and the Israeli government is well aware of this fact. Instead of facilitating the election process, as the Israeli government has claimed over and over again, once again, it intervenes negatively, taking away Dr. Barghouthi’s precious time, and prohibiting him from campaigning in East Jerusalem, without any legal cause or ground whatsoever.
This is yet another incident where the Israeli government has clearly interfered in, obstructed and violated the democratic process, despite previous agreements between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority regarding the right of East Jerusalem residents to participate in the elections.