Only 6% of the Palestinian electorate of the occupied zones of eastern Jerusalem was able to exercise its right to vote in its city in the second Palestinian legislative elections. In fact, the 6, 300 Palestinians that could do it –the number of those lucky ones authorized by Israel was completely arbitrary- had to deal with an intimidation campaign aimed at dissuading them from their intention to vote.
Israel tried to look good in the eyes of the international community by authorizing elections in eastern Jerusalem at the time that did its best to make life difficult to voters. Apart from limiting the number of them, Israel photocopied the list of voters and refused to guarantee that the vote would not be accompanied by reprisals, something that was added to the existent environment of terror.
International discussions with regard to this election were focused on Hamas, thus allowing Israel to suppress the democratic rights of Palestinians of Jerusalem. During the last two years, Israel has expanded the number of its colonies in eastern Jerusalem by an 8-meter-high wall that divides the Palestinian city of the West Bank. Ramallah and Bethlehem are now separated as if they were foreign countries. 94% of Palestinians living in Jerusalem, prevented from voting in their city, had to cross the wall to exercise their right to vote, go through barbed wires and face the anger of the military at Israeli check-points. But Israel knew only that a few Palestinians would choose to spend a whole day dealing with these difficult situations. Therefore, its intention was to deprive the electorate of eastern Jerusalem of its right to vote.
With the purpose of making people believe that the inhabitants of Jerusalem were participating in the elections «from abroad», these Palestinians were authorized to send their votes through the postal services. Last year, Palestinian negotiators tried to start negotiations so that all voters could vote. Israel ignored this request until the last moment despite the obligations of the «road map» that states that Palestinian elections should be facilitated. Under the effects of the international pressure, both parts discussed for a week the measures to be implemented during the three weeks of campaign. In what democracy, elections would be discussed by jurists and experts on the one side and the secret police and the army on the other? This shows how absurd it is to try to establish a Palestinian democracy under the Israeli occupation.
Such measures were made public when some Palestinians were arrested for placing electoral satirical posters or mobilizing themselves. The West has told us to introduce reforms and to establish democracy. What we did was the best possible campaign for those who oppose negotiations. The occupied territories in eastern Jerusalem have the same legal status that Jenin has in the West Bank. Eastern Jerusalem is not a disputed territory, it’s a territory illegally controlled by the Israeli state that claims that half of the city belongs to it.
Israel won nothing with this tactic of intimidation and obstruction. Its disdain for Palestinian democracy is not useful for its security or peace. There’s only one way to put an end to the conflict. A negotiation based on a fair solution and the international law is needed.

The Guardian (United Kingdom)

«A six per cent democracy», by Hind Khoury, Guardian, January 26, 2006.