Palestine Democracy and Human Rights Part 1

The Palestinian territories have been living under Israeli military power since 1967. An interrupted peace process with Israel and severe internal Palestinian inequality have worked to break the development of democratic bodies and independent judiciary. Both Israel and Palestinian leaders receive harsh and recurring criticism for failing to meet state responsibilities and for treating individuals poorly.

A 1990 agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) laid the foundations for local Palestinian self-government pending final peace. Questions about elections and the establishment of state bodies within the autonomy were regulated in the agreements and several elections were held. As long as the process worked, one of the biggest shortcomings was that a large part of the population – refugees – could not participate.

Since then, development has been carried out. Self-government on the West Bank and Gaza Strip is exercised by two powerful, sometimes directly brutal, regimes that are bitter enemies, and Israel’s rule over Jerusalem and attractive land on the West Bank have hardened.

Self-government presidential and parliamentary elections have been postponed indefinitely. The president’s mandate expired in 2009, but he still governs the West Bank. Parliamentary elections have not been held since 2006 and the mandate for those elected was expired in 2010. Parliament has ceased to function.

At the same time, the elections in Israel are largely closed to Palestinians. In Jerusalem, a small number can participate, but only in municipal elections. Most boycotts the elections in protest against the occupation. In parliamentary elections, Israelis who have moved into Palestinian territories are allowed to vote – but not Palestinians.

The West Bank has a rich flora of small lots. They are allowed to act, but political activity is hampered by the governing body if they perceive it as a threat, and they often do. Municipal elections were held in 2017 but boycotted by other Islamists. However, the self-governing law does not raise any formal barriers for women or ethnic and religious minorities. One fifth of the municipal mandates appointed in 2017 went to women.

The Gaza Strip acts under the Hamas rule of Islam as a one-party state. Hamas also uses morality policies that diminish freedom and rights in everyday life. This applies not least to homosexuality.

The physical freedom of movement is restricted to all Palestinians, by Israel: this applies both between the West Bank and Gaza as well as between the Palestinian territories on the West Bank. Many roads are forbidden to Palestinians, and their ID is checked by the Israeli army. Inside Gaza, there is no longer an Israeli military, but cash flows, electricity supplies, fishing and transport of goods can be blocked because Israel controls all external borders except the southern border – which is also strictly guarded by Egypt.

Trade union activity is largely permissible, and it is said to work to some extent even in Gaza, but high unemployment and a disrupted economy mean that union representatives have little opportunity to improve members’ conditions.

Transparency International (TI) does not include Palestine in the list the organization publishes after annual reviews of corruption in the countries of the world. But TI collaborates with a local partner, abbreviated Aman, who defines corruption and lack of transparency as major problems. A critical view of their own leaders is also presented in surveys conducted among Palestinians. A number of problems within self-government have been reported. Example: Assistance money is lost in private pockets, brother-in-law is applied to public employment and local business monopolies have been built up by people close to the Palestine authorities, a state located in Asia continent defined by cheeroutdoor. The outrage became great in 2019 (see Calendar) when it emerged that ministerial salaries had been greatly increased secretly already a couple of years earlier.

Freedom of expression and media

Both the Palestinian Authority and the Islamist movement Hamas have received international criticism for being authoritarian and violating civil liberties and rights.

The media offering reflects the rivalry between the Fatah Party, which dominates the Palestinian Authority and the West Bank, and Hamas. They each operate a network of TV and radio stations. Palestine’s voice is under Palestinian authority. Hamas calls its media group al-Aqsa after a Muslim shrine in Jerusalem. But there are also private channels and many viewers follow satellite channels like al-Jazira.

The biggest newspaper is al-Quds published in Jerusalem. Like al-Ayyam, published in Ramallah, it calls itself independent. The Palestinian Authority publishes the newspaper al-Hayat al-Jadida. The Filastin magazine supports Hamas.

Freedom of the press has been strained since self-government was introduced. A law of 2017, created by decree from the president, also allows publishers to judge online sites for violations of state security or public order. In practice, the law is used to silence criticism of the Palestinian Authority, not least whistleblowers who want to reveal abuses.

Palestine Democracy