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Palestinians Mostly Mum on Iraqi Elections (CNS-CYBERCAST NEWS SERVICE) By Julie Stahl JERUSALEM, ISRAEL 02/01/05)Source: http://www.cnsnews.com//ViewForeignBureaus.asp?Page=\ForeignBureaus\archive\200502\FOR20050201c.html CNS} CYBERCAST NEWS SERVICE CNS} CYBERCAST NEWS SERVICE Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) - Palestinians, who elected a new leader just last month, are not saying much about Sunday´s historic election in Iraq.

Iraqis braved the threat of terror attacks and turned out in large numbers to vote in their first free elections in more than 50 years on Sunday. Arab-Muslim media reacted mostly positively to the polls, but Palestinian media and officials have been silent on the subject.

One observer, who is close to the Palestinian Authority leadership but asked not to be named, said officially, Palestinian leaders want to keep their distance from the subject.

On the one hand they don´t want to speak against the elections because it shows that elections can be held even under "occupation." They also don´t want to speak against the Americans or antagonize the White House or State Department -- especially at a time when the U.S. is getting more involved in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, he said.

Many Palestinians believe that the elections are only a first step in solving Iraq´s problems. Also, he added, the Palestinians are currently caught up in their own affairs.

According to the independent Israeli watchdog group Palestinian Media Watch, Palestinian television reported on the Iraq elections - without commentary.

The Palestinians are in an awkward position, Palestinian Media Watch said: They don´t approve of the Americans being in Iraq but they´re glad the Iraqis were able to vote in democratic elections, just as the Palestinians have done. So they don´t say anything, PMW said.

In the run-up to the elections last week, cartoons from other Arab papers appeared in the Palestinian press, warning about the upcoming elections in Iraq.

Palestinians considered former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein a hero because of his support for their cause. Prior to the U.S.-led campaign in Iraq, Palestinians throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip rallied behind Saddam.

Former Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat and the Palestinians were among the few who supported Saddam´s 1990 invasion of Kuwait. PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas apologized to the Kuwaitis only recently.

More recently, during the first years of the intifadah, Saddam paid $10,000 and more to the families of each Palestinian suicide bomber and smaller sums to those killed in clashes with Israel.

In East Jerusalem, interest in the Iraqi elections was low.

"I personally don´t care about Iraq. Why should I care about Iraq? It doesn´t affect us here. There´s no relationship between Israel and Iraq. There´s no connection whatsoever. Even the Palestinians don´t have any relations to Iraq now," said George, who runs a toy store in eastern Jerusalem.

He said the Americans might see the elections as a way to prolong the occupation, but he said it won´t stop the violence. "I mean, more and more violence [is] going to take place. What do elections solve for[the Iraqi people]?" he asked.

"I don´t think it will solve any problems for them. It´s only good for propaganda purposes for [President] Bush, for [Secretary of State] Condoleezza Rice, but the ordinary life of the people won´t improve," he said - and if it does, it will take a long time.

Twenty-eight-year-old Alaa -- born in Jerusalem and raised in Jordan -- helps run a family business, a cigarette and cellular telephone shop, in eastern Jerusalem. He is skeptical about the whole process.

"Nothing´s real," said Alaa of the Iraqi elections. "The people are miserable. They don´t really understand the politics. That is especially true in the Arab world. That is our problem. According to what you see, the people are miserable, the people are poor. They want only something to live on [and] because of this you see celebration," he said.

"Maybe in the future there will be something good for them," Alaa said.

Describing the situation in Iraq as "hard," Alaa said that Iraqis are not like the Palestinians, Jordanians and Syrians. The people, he said, are divided into many factions and it will be hard to unite them.

"The people, they have strength but they´re confused. They don´t know what is right and what is wrong," he said. He said he didn´t believe there could ever be democracy in the Arab world.

Mohammed, 21, was more upbeat.

"Yes, it´s a good thing and the people [are] happy because the situation [was] very bad before the elections," said Mohammed. "Now it´s getting better. I think it´s a good thing." (copyright 1998- 2005 Cybercast News Service. 02/01/05)


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