Israelis Hinder East Jerusalem Elections

9 January 2005

Israeli police cars and military jeeps parked in crossroads near the Salah Adiin Street post office in East Jerusalem Sunday morning. Israeli soldiers with rifles slung over their shoulders stood next to Israeli police who watched scores of journalists mingle with the voters arriving just after the polls opened at 7. Already the Israeli government would not allow 96,000 of East Jerusalem’s 100,000 registered Palestinian voters to vote inside the city of East Jerusalem, instead forcing them to cross checkpoints or go around the Apartheid Wall to Jerusalem neighborhoods now stuck on the other side. But as the day wore on, East Jerusalem residents realized almost none of them were going to be allowed to vote in their city.

Voters who registered well in advance were told to go to any polling place near their home or work, but when one of the PASSIA organization heads arrived at the Jaffa Gate post office to vote he was turned away. “I was told when I registered that I could vote anywhere near my house or work. But they say my name isn’t on the list.” This was around 9 am at Jaffa Gate where 501 Palestinians were pre-registered to vote.

By 10:30, every person who arrived at Jaffa Gate to vote was turned away. “I live across the street. Here is my registration card. I registered to vote in this post office, but now they say my name isn’t on the list,” a frustrated East Jerusalem resident complained outside the make-shift polling place. One hundred percent of the prospective voters registered to vote in the Jaffa Gate post office which was moved to a mobile station a few meters from the actual building for elections, were not allowed to vote.

By the early afternoon, the Palestinian Authority began bringing vans to take voters to neighborhoods outside the Old City so that they could still vote. It is unclear if the Israeli government orchestrated this fiasco purposefully in order to prevent Palestinian citizens of Jerusalem from participating in Palestinian elections as the Israelis continue to try to take Jerusalem as their own. They had already prevented all but around 6,000 East Jerusalem Palestinians from registering in the city. At the Salah Addin post office polling place, hundreds of journalists elbowed with suit and tie security guards for a word with former US president and elections observer Jimmy Carter. When asked if he was pleased with the elections process so far, he answered with a curt, “No.” Carter spent the greater part of the morning trying to negotiate with the Israelis to allow Palestinians to vote in East Jerusalem even if their names were somehow not on the list. Some say the list of registered voter names for Jaffa Gate ended up at Mount of Olives. But under Palestinian elections law, residents should be allowed to vote anywhere. An elderly woman said, “Now you see. Free and fair elections are not possible in Jerusalem. The Israelis control absolutely everything.”

Well into the afternoon Carter continued trying to negotiate with the Israeli government to “stop playing games” with the voter lists.

At the Salah Addin station alone, 30 out of 3,000 Palestinians were actually allowed to vote as of early afternoon. Ninety percent of Palestinian voters were turned away because they were told their names were not there.

This morning at the Shafat post office, one of six that Jerusalem residents are supposed to be allowed to vote in, an Israeli jeep blocked the street.

As Palestinians prevented to vote in the city are heading into vans and buses to outskirt neighborhoods like Al Ram, Abu Dis, and Azariya, Israeli occupation forces are imposing “flying-checkpoints,” meaning an Israeli jeep blocks the road and Palestinian cars must wait until allowed to pass. On the road to Azariya, as of 1 pm at least 11 vans are stuck with passengers wondering if they will ever be able to cast a ballot.

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