Palestinian election raises varying opinions within U

Palestine had its first parliamentary election in 10 years last week.

by Elizabeth Giorgi

Last week’s Palestinian parliament election presents potential victories and failures for relations in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Palestine had its first parliamentary election in 10 years last week. The results of the election have led to global shock as Hamas won an overwhelmingly large proportion of the available seats.

The Palestinian-Israeli conflict will be affected largely by the Hamas win, because many believe Hamas is a terrorist organization.

Members of the University community have varying opinions on the possibility of a peace agreement between Palestine and Israel.

Despite that there has been a parliamentary election for Palestine, there still are issues with other freedoms, said Israeli graduate student Itai Himelboim.

The people of Palestine do not have freedom of speech or freedom of press, and it may not happen soon, he said.

“The Palestinian society is not (yet) a democratic society. One cannot expect democratic procedures, such as elections, to make miracles,” Himelboim said.

However, a parliamentary election was a sign of hope for some Palestinians.

University alumnus Ayman Balshe is a Palestinian American whose parents were exiled from Israel as a result of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

“(Palestinians) had nothing left to lose,” Balshe said. “But they can win a corruption-free new leadership that may give them a new hope.”

Balshe said the election of Hamas is the result of a long history of corruption within the current government.

Many of the Palestinians no longer trust the Fatah government and saw the election as an opportunity to make a change, he said.

Israeli-American and public relations senior Ayelet Drori said that although Hamas is seen by some as a terrorist organization, it also provides some social services.

“For the people of Palestine, it makes sense that they voted for the Hamas,” she said. “It is essentially the hand that gives them food.”

Hamas is known among Palestinians for its hospitals, education systems, libraries and social services.

However, there is a great amount of uncertainty about whether Hamas will work with Israel because of Hamas’ history of using violent relations, she said.

Drori said there is a general misconception that peace can be attained by “everyone getting along,” but this isn’t a matter of everyone getting along. Israelis and Palestinians are two entities that are very different and it will take time to achieve peace, she said.

University professor Michael Barnett is known for his expertise in Middle Eastern politics. Barnett wrote the book “Dialogues in Middle Eastern Politics” and has a particular interest in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Barnett said he sees some positive things happening with Middle Eastern politics because of the election.

The election might result in a peaceful transfer of power between the winning and losing parties, which would result in Hamas and Fatah having a coalition government, he said.

“(These potential effects) represent milestones in Arab politics, and the fact that it is happening under Israeli occupation makes it even more monumental,” Barnett said.

Advertising sophomore Masha Kushnir is planning to study in Israel next year and is concerned about the living situation as a result of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Kushnir said she fears the possibility of terrorist attacks.

Peace in the Middle East seems like a distant goal, she said, but she is hopeful that it can be attained.

“As long as religion is behind it, people will go to all extremes and as long as terrorism exists Israel will not succumb and will not lay themselves down because they don’t want their children dying,” Kushnir said. “I don’t know how the peace process will ever be achieved.”

Balshe said he thinks it is most important that University students look at the whole picture.

“The University community is an educated community and we need to realize how U.S. media propaganda plays a role in the conflict, how the government plays a role, and see multiple new sources to really understand,” he said.

Balshe said people should watch out for misleading information, stop pointing fingers and try to understand what the conflict is “truly about.”