Newsletter : 6fax0108.txt
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Publisher\Editor Don Canaan
Jan. 8, 1996 V4, #1
All the News the Big Guys Missed
For subscriptions or back issues, please contact POL management
Elections Could be Affected by Hamas Death
By Patricia Golan (VOA-Jerusalem)
On Jan. 20, Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Jerusalem
will elect 88-members of an Autonomy Council and the president of
the Palestinian Authority, who will also have a seat in the
Council. PLO Chairman Yasir Arafat hopes the elections will give
legitimacy to his peace process with Israel. The balloting will
give Palestinians their first taste of democracy. But as the 700
candidates intensify their campaigns for these unprecedented
elections, the average Palestinian is wondering what it is about.
In a drafty church auditorium in the tiny West Bank village of
Aboud, a school teacher explains the basics of the upcoming
elections to a group of 70 men.
Holding up mock ballots he explains one slip is for voting for
the candidates for the Council, the other for the president. If
you write anything except an "X" in the appropriate box, he warns,
your vote will be void -- no writing greetings, no writing numbers
or names, just an "X".
After an initial period of embarrassment, the men begin to enjoy
the simulation. One-by-one the men walk up to the mock polling
station and present their identity cards to the man pretending to
be the registrar. The pretend assistant marks down the name and
number, hands the man two slips to take to the voting booth. The
votes for the pretend candidates are counted at the end of the
The voting workshop for the Palestinians' first national voting
experience is conducted by Palestinians, but has been organized by
the Washington-based International Foundation for Electoral
Systems. Project coordinator Hania Aswad explains most Palestinians
have never voted in an election.
Another US-based organization involved in educating for democracy
here is the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs
which sees its mission as involving people in the political
Institute program officer Mark Mollen says much of the civic
education program uses posters and the media. "The difficulty here
is that Palestinians are very sophisticated consumers of
information, and are incredibly conscious of source. For example,
if you put up a poster, most Palestinians will look at who printed
it and ask questions like who is paying for this, why are they
doing this, what particular ax do they have to grind, and often
ignore whatever is on the poster itself."
Mollen says NDI has had more success with small discussion groups
which give people a chance to express their opinions and concerns.
He says women, especially, talk about the problem of husbands
telling wives how to vote.
A general strike in the West Bank and Gaza called to protest the
killing Friday of top Palestinian terrorist Yehia Ayash has
temporarily halted the campaign for the elections. Palestinians
blame Israel for the assassination.
Israel has imposed a closure on the West Bank and Gaza in response
to possible retaliatory attacks. Hamas and other Islamic groups
previously said they would boycott the elections; it is unclear how
the killing of Ayash will affect the actual voting on election day.
In the Gaza Strip and West Bank, Hamas activists took to the
streets in unprecedented numbers Saturday to call for revenge
for the killing of Ayash -- said to be the mastermind behind a
series of suicide bomb attacks in Israel. Ayash, nicknamed "The
Engineer", was killed apparently by a booby-trapped telephone.
At his funeral in gaza, more than 100,000 angry mourners swore
vengeance for the death of a man regarded by many Palestinians as
a legend and an inspiration. Mourners shouted for a Jihad, a Holy
War against Israel which is blamed for the killing. Thousands
marched in towns in the West Bank and also called for revenge.
The death of Ayash was welcome news for Israeli officials. They
considered him number one on their most-wanted list. He was held
responsible for the planning of at least seven suicide bomb attacks
that killed at 55 people and left hundreds wounded. The Islamic
militant organization, Hamas took credit for most of the bombings,
aimed at undermining the Israeli-PLO peace process.
Israeli security experts considered Ayash not only a master of
preparing explosives but gifted at persuading young men to
volunteer for suicide missions, becoming martyrs in the eyes
of islamic groups.
Although Israeli officials neither confirm nor deny responsibility,
it is widely assumed by both Palestinians and Israelis that Shin
Bet, the Israeli Security Service, was behind the killing. Israeli
agents in the past have used telephone bombs to kill suspected
Palestinian police say they believe the man who gave Ayash the
booby-trapped cellular telephone has escaped to Israel. They name
him as Osama Hammad, the son of the owner of the house where Ayash
was hiding out.
Israel has put its forces on high alert and has set up additional
roadblocks around the country to thwart possible revenge attacks.
The army issued orders preventing Israelis from entering any area
in the West Bank and Gaza now under the control of Palestinians.
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