Newsletter : 6fax0118.txt
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Publisher\Editor Don Canaan
Jan. 18, 1996 V4, #9
All the News the Big Guys Missed
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Voting 101 Takes Over Zatara Village
By Al Pessin (VOA-Zatara Village, West Bank)
With Palestinians scheduled to go to the polls in their first
elections Saturday, and candidates bombarding voters with campaign
material, efforts are intensifying to teach Palestinians the proper
procedures to ensure their votes are counted. Al Pessin attended a
voter training workshop in Zatara near Bethlehem.
Ibrahim Rahal works for the Palestinian Ministry of Youth and
Sports. But in recent weeks, he has been an election worker. Rahal
and a small team have conducted more than 30 seminars for voters in
the Bethlehem area, using sample ballots, and instructing his
audience to put an "X" in the box next to the name of each
candidate of their choice, and to be sure each "X" does not touch
any other boxes.
During a simulation -- a volunteer steps forward, shows his voter
registration card, receives his election material and goes behind
a partition to mark, in private, his ballots -- a red one for
president, a white one for the Palestinian Council. Bethlehem
area voters will choose four candidates to the council.
Seminar leaders report they have had a lot of women at their
training sessions. But on this particular day, the audience is
all male -- about 50 residents of Zatara, including two clan
leaders, or sheikhs, who sit in the front row and pepper the
young presenters with questions. One asks whether an illiterate
person can bring someone to help them -- the answer is yes. The
other asks how he can make sure he is on the voter list -- he is
told where to find the local election office.
One member of the audience in Zatara was local teacher Mohammed abu
Amariha. He says the people will come out to vote Saturday,
despite a call for a boycott by militant groups, because it is an
important moment for the Palestinian people.
The election workshop is grass roots democracy at its most basic,
and one high-level visitor is impressed. He is Brian Atwood, the
administrator of the US Agency for International Development, which
has provided some of the funding for such election workshops
throughout the West Bank and Gaza.
As with any political process, there has been a fair amount of
cynicism connected with the Palestinian election, with complaints
about changes in procedures, restrictions by Israeli authorities,
and a shortage of candidates whose views are sharply different
from the palestinian leader, Yasir Arafat. But there is also a
considerable amount of interest in the election, which Atwood
found somewhat inspiring. "This is a possibility for a real
beachhead for democracy in the Arab world. If anyone can do it,
the Palestinians can."
Demonstration Calls for End of Human Rights Abuse
By Art Chimes (VOA-Washington)
More than 300 clergy and other members of a number of religious
denominations in the US have signed a petitions urging an end to
violations of Palestinians' human rights. The petition is not
directed solely at Israel, but calls on Israeli, Palestinian and
American leaders to work to end the violation of Palestinians'
The human rights petition cites continuing violations by Israel,
including torture, arbitrary detention and confiscation of
property. The Palestinian Authority is charged with secret
trials, torture, and intimidation of Yasir Arafat's political
opponents. The signers of the petition urge the US government
to withhold aid payments until both sides stop the violations.
Perhaps the best-known names on the petition are veteran peace
activists Daniel and Philip Berrigan. The petition has Jewish
and Muslim signers, though the vast majority are affiliated with
various Christian denominations.
Copies of the human rights petition have been delivered to
Palestinian and Israeli offices, as well as to the White House
and the State Department. But the Rev. Paul Wee, a Lutheran
minister, admits the petition itself is unlikely by itself to
"Well, petitions don't usually accomplish a great deal, to be
honest. At the same time we hope to raise consciousness. It has to
be seen as a statement that represents a lot of public opinion in
The petition was organized by "Search," a Boston-area group that
promotes peace between Israelis and Palestinians. The human rights
violations cited in the petition are based in reports from
organizations including Amnesty International, Human Rights
Watch, and the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem.
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