Palestinian Elections: The need for social justice

A Palestinian boy is seen at a bus decorated with Hamas campaign posters for the upcoming Palestinian Legislative Elections in the Jabaliya Refugee Camp in the northern Gaza Strip January 4, 2006. (MAANnews/Wesam Saleh)


Some 30 meters away from election campaigning by the largest Palestinian parties, the ruling Fatah and Hamas, in the refugee camp of Maghazi, central Gaza Strip, the house of Kamal Taha, 55, is located in one of the camp’s alleys.

About 400 Palestinian candidates in the West Bank, Gaza and Occupied East Jerusalem are competing in an election campaign that began on January 3 and would end by January 24, to be elected as members of the Palestinian Legislative Council (parliament) in the second ever legislative election held in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Kamal, a father of four girls and three boys, had used to work in Israel as a porter prior to the outbreak of the al-Aqsa Intifada in September , 2000, and since then he has been unemployed due to closure by Israeli authorities of the occupied Palestinian territories.

A small unfurnished poor house, comprised of two rooms, a bathroom and a salon, is the only asset Kamal owns, where he and his sons sleeps in one room, while his wife and daughters sleep in the other one.

“Since I have been cut off my work inside Israel, neither secular nor religious factions ( in reference to both Fatah and Hamas), have offered me and my children any assistance, only the United Nations Relief and Works Agency UNRWA, has done so to us, by keeping up provision of food and other supplies”, Kamal commented on ongoing election campaigning by the various Palestinian factions.

Kamal said : “Such factions only help their supporters and followers, yet when it comes to us as non-partisan, they don’t even pay attention, they are not working for the best of the entire Palestinian people”.

“What shall we do with politics when we are deprived of our basic needs, mainly bread; I am confident that such factions are just working for their own needs and programs, they are selfish and never care to the people”.

About 120.000 Palestinian workers in the occupied Palestinian territories, have been cut off work since 2000, a matter that led them and their families to live under poverty line.

Kamal goes onto saying “I want to say that I have barely observed mottos, from among the various manifestos of election campaigning, that advocate the workers’ right to live in dignity and welfare. The main mottos spread in streets are those, advocating mostly factional interests”.

“I really wonder as to how a number of PA employees get very high salaries, reaching in some cases to 6000 shekels ( about $1.300), while there are thousands of people do not even have jobs. We need social justice, that guarantees equal opportunities for all”.

According to Nigel Roberts, World Bank representative to the occupied Palestinian territories, speaking to Israeli daily Ha’aretz last week, “the Palestinian Authority (PA) did not show responsibility when it recently raised salaries, at a time when resources are unavailable”.

He added that “this move forced the World Bank, supported by the European Commission, to freeze 60% of funding the PA’s operational budget, therefore, the PA must improve its performance to maintain the deep involvement of the donors, who want to guarantee that the money is not used to aid attacks against Israel”.

The first Palestinian parliament of 1996, over the past 10 years, has not solved the problem of workers radically, as myself and thousands of others are still living under very harsh conditions, therefore, what such political “selfish” factions shall do for us?, Kamal questioned.

Recent statistics of the World Bank, revealed that unemployment rate in the occupied territories exceeds 20 percent, with a rate of about 30 percent in the Gaza Strip; over 40 percent of the residents in the southern part of the Gaza Strip are unemployed.

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