‘We are committed to holding the elections in Jerusalem’ says imprisoned Fatah leader Marwan Barghouthi

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IMPRISONED deputy Marwan al-Barghouthi, the secretary of the Fatah movement in the West Bank and the head of its list in the forthcoming legislative elections, has said that the day of elections on 25 January should be considered a day for Jerusalem.

Al-Barghouthi stressed the importance of ensuring the success of the battle aimed at strongly asserting the Palestinian right in the elections in Jerusalem. He said that the elections in the city were ‘a form of exercising sovereignty over it’. Al-Barghouthi said that one should not make a connection between holding the Palestinian elections and developments in Israel resulting from the health condition of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. He said: ‘The elections are a political, legal and national process of the highest degree. They should not be governed by any external influences such as recent developments in Israel.’

Al-Barghouthi said that if Fatah won the forthcoming legislative elections, as he hoped it would, the next government, he said, should not necessarily be limited to Fatah movement activists. He pointed out that it should be a ‘broad-based government and a national coalition government to confront the dangers surrounding the Palestinian issue’. He added: We shall seek to form a broad government based on qualifications, experience and integrity.

Al-Barghouthi said that the participation of all the Palestinian factions irrespective of their inclinations in the forthcoming elections would lead to a new Palestinian political system where everyone shared in decision making and where everyone was responsible for such decisions. This, he said, would result from the presence of everyone in the legislative council that represents one of the basic pillars of the Palestinian (National) Authority (PNA) that would be responsible for war and peace. Al-Barghouthi considered the year 2006 as the year to liberate the prisoners and the land.

Al-Barghouthi expressed astonishment at Israel’s vague stance on the issue of elections in the city of Jerusalem. He said: ‘The participation of our fellow citizens in Jerusalem in these elections is part of our struggle for Jerusalem – the city from which our Prophet Muhammad, may God’s prayers and peace be upon him, ascended to heavens and the cradle of our Lord Jesus Christ, may God’s peace be upon him – with its churches, mosques, the holy Dome of the Rock and the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque, the first of the two qiblahs (direction in which Muslims turn to pray), the second holy mosque and the third holiest mosque’.

Marwan al-Barghouthi added: ‘We are committed to our right to hold the elections in Jerusalem, and we call on our fellow citizens in the city to turn the day of 25 January into a day for Jerusalem. On this day, men and women should go to the ballot boxes in large numbers to cast their votes and assert the Arab identity of the city, and thus give their answer to the rulers of Tel Aviv who are waiting for the opportunity to steal the city. I urge all the dear residents of Jerusalem who are holding fast on this holy land to consider 25 January as a day for Jerusalem in order to entrench and affirm its Arab and Palestinian identity, and to express that by voting in large numbers.’

Al-Barghouthi said that elections and voting in the holy city was a civilised and democratic political method to confirm that Arab Jerusalem was a Palestinian and an indivisible part of Palestinian sovereignty that the Palestinian people were struggling to achieve. Al-Barghouthi called on the international community, particularly the United States, to take credible steps to enable the Palestinian people to hold free and fair elections in Jerusalem as in other Palestinian land.

Marwan al-Barghouthi added: ‘I may have been the only son of Fatah who was honoured by immortal leader and commander Abu-Ammar (Yasser Arafat) when he raised my picture. By doing so, he was honouring the national movement. He raised and held my picture in his hands and I hold him in my heart and soul. I consider his message as something he entrusted us with and which we all have to honour as soon as possible.

‘Abu-Ammar always dreamt of sleeping peacefully in Jerusalem after it is liberated, and I am sad that he now sleeps close to Jerusalem. However, we pledge to him the pledge of love and loyalty that he will soon sleep in peace in Jerusalem so that his pure soul would be close to its creator and pray night and day in the holy sites of Jerusalem.’

Al-Barghouthi urged the Palestinian people to renew their trust in the Fatah movement, saying: ‘Our list may not be ideal but this is what we were able to accomplish under these difficult circumstances, and our tiring and exhausting dialogue. We promise, however, that we shall work to build a strong PNA that can carry out its tasks and win the respect of the Palestinian people before anything else as well as the respect of the world. A strong and capable PNA can be the instrument to establish a democracy where all can merge and all can participate and be responsible for war and peace’.

Addressing the members and supporters of the Fatah movement and the silent majority, Al-Barghouthi said: ‘Voting is an individual and collective right. In fact, it is a patriotic, moral and religious duty. I call on you to renew your confidence in the Fatah movement and give a chance to this generation of movement leaders that are with you on the ground. They know your national concerns, and you know their huge sacrifices’.

He added: ‘I sincerely promise you from behind the bars of my prison that if it wins your confidence, Fatah will deal with the national priorities of the people with transparency. It will act as a pillar for national unity and guarantee our national aspirations. We will submit to accountability and be accountable to everything pertaining to the safety and security of the Palestinian people who are suffering from all forms of lawlessness and insecurity.’

In this regard, Al-Barghouthi said: ‘We, in Fatah, have never treated peace and the resistance as goals on their own but as tools to attain our national independence with a high degree of readiness and do what is necessary to achieve just political solutions.

‘In our understanding, this means the establishment of an independent Palestinian state on all the Palestinian land that was occupied in 1967 with Jerusalem as its capital.

‘It also means ending the unjust suffering of more than 60 per cent of the Palestinian people who are leading a life of dispersal, deprivation and hunger in various parts of the world, and achieving their right of return and entitlement to compensation.’

Marwan al-Barghouthi added: ‘While the long and obstinate resistance has been a badge of honour to the Fatah movement and the various forces of the Palestinian people, democracy is the fortified shield that protects our national cause and our historic front.

‘It is our letter of accreditation in the world and the Arab and Muslim nation. Democracy is the evidence of our people’s civilisation and culture. It demonstrates the depth of their experience that went hand in hand with the Palestinian people’s unlimited readiness to sacrifice their blood, their lives and everything they possess for the sake of the homeland.’

Al-Barghouthi called for attracting the very qualified individuals in Palestine and the diaspora. He promised the establishment of ‘an administration that runs the affairs of governance in full transparency and in a way that would convince the Palestinian people, and investors – both Arab and foreign – to return and invest in this country’.

Marwan al-Barghouthi called on the Fatah movement and the other Palestinian national and Islamic factions to protect the elections, and to ensure that they were held on schedule on 25 January in a huge democratic celebration that was free from any distortion or sabotage.

Expressing amazement at the assaults on the offices of the central elections commission, Al-Barghouthi said: ‘Independence and freedom do not mean attacks on people and the spread of lawlessness.’

Al-Barghouthi expressed his deep sorrow and regret and his strong condemnation of the clashes that took place on the Egyptian-Palestinian border that led to the tragic death of two Egyptian soldiers.

He called on the forces in society to cooperate to end the lawlessness that was harming the Palestinian people. He said: ‘The Egyptian soldiers who fell should be considered martyrs of the Palestinian cause, and comrades in arms. The PNA should thus treat their families on this basis’.

Al-Barghouthi saluted all the forces and factions participating in the forthcoming elections and wished them success, especially the forces that would be taking part in the legislative council for the first time.

He said that their presence in the legislative council consolidated diversity, plurality and partnership, and guaranteed democratic practice in the Palestinian institutions.