International reactions to Hamas’ election victory in the occupied Palestinian territories, in particular statements issued by the United States, the EU and the Quartet, have been very disappointing. The message which reaches the Palestinian people suggests that our democratic efforts are respected only if the outcome fits the perceived needs and priorities of the powerful western players in the region. Such message is discouraging not only for Palestinians, but for all those who are fighting for peaceful democratic change and development in the Arab world.
Together with the rest of the world, the Palestinian civil society, among them members of OPGAI, followed the 25 January the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) elections with the greatest interest. Even though we are living under occupation, more than 1,000,000 Palestinians exercised their democratic rights by participating in the second elections for the PLC, which took place 10 years after the first ones.
Many were and are still stunned by Hamas’ victory, who won 74 seats out of 132 in the Council. However, all of us understand that the vote for Hamas was a vote for internal change towards good governance and respect for the fundamental rights of the Palestinian people, and a vote for a fundamental change of the relationship between the international community and the Palestinian people. The Palestinian people have sent a message that we want to be treated by the international community like any other people, in accordance with international law and UN resolutions.
Hamas has now taken on the difficult task of leading the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) and will have to work hard in order to meet the expectations of its voters. We wish and hope that Hamas will be guided by the approach of Ismail Haniyya (the head of Hamas’ electoral list) who said “Hamas is a Palestinian movement. It is an aware and mature movement, one which is politically open in the Palestinian political and social arena, and to its Arab and Islamic hinterlands and similarly open to the international arena.”
Whereas Palestinian civil society organizations and networks, among them OPGAI:
- will work hard to protect the independence of Palestinian civil society also under the new elected leadership;
- are deeply concerned about so-called “preparations by the Israeli government to disconnect ties with the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority” which, according to Israeli media reports, may include measures that constitute collective punishment of the Palestinian people;
- deeply appreciate the call upon the international community and donor governments to continue providing aid to the Palestinian people issued on 14 February by 31 international development and humanitarian aid agencies operating in the OPT;
We call upon our international partners, NGOs, states, the EU and the United Nations to:
- Respect the vote of the Palestinian people in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip;
- Abstain from conditioning support of the PNA with recognition of Israel by Hamas in light of the fact that mutual recognition and agreements are the mandate of the PLO and not the PNA, and especially since Israel neither recognizes nor respects the fundamental rights of the Palestinian people, including our right to self-determination;
- End the policy of double-standards in the region and enforce Israel’s respect of international law and UN resolutions. An impartial policy for repect of the rule of law, combined with support of the Palestinian people’s efforts for democratic change and social and economic development, is the road map to justice, freedom and peace in our region.
Alternative Tourism Group (ATG), BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights, Defense for Children International-Palestine Section (DCI), YMCA-YWCA Joint Advocay Initiative, Environmental Education Center (EEC), Golan for Development, Jerusalem Center for Women (JCW), Palestinian Grass-roots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign, Palestinian Land Resource Center (LRC).