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Gaza professors to Arafat: Where’s the democracy?

Professors and employees at the Al-Azhar University in Gaza sent an open letter to Chairman Yassir Arafat which revealed that the employees’ board of management has held its position for three terms without being reelected. This is contrary to the law which obligates election of new members of staff.

The letter of protest, which was published in the Palestinian daily Al-Ayyam, opened with the following words: “His honor the Chairman publicizes specific orders and explicit instructions according to which one is to abide the law and to strengthen the principle of separation of authorities. Yet we at the Al-Azhar University are experiencing something which is completely contrary to this concept. For the third time running the management in our university has resumed control, this constituting an attack not only on the sanctity of the freedom to vote, but also an attack on the law itself.”

In January a conference was held in London to discuss the reforms in the Palestinian Authority [PA]. One of the topics discussed was promotion of the reign of law and democracy. Yet the Palestinian Authority, much like other Arab states in the Middle East, is lacking greatly in this field. The leadership is centralized and undemocratic, and in actual fact it is controlled by one person – Yassir Arafat. The U.S. has for some months now not been negotiating with the Chairman, after understanding that he is not the man to lead the PA through the desired reforms. This is the reason the new Palestinian Prime Minister, Abu Mazen, has been promoted so much, at least in the West. Condoleezza Rice even stated a month ago that the White House anticipates Abu Mazen’s visit once he is sworn into the post.

The university employees’ letter was summed-up with the following phrasing “In our national independence document it is stated that the Palestinian regime is a democratic one… and that the Palestinians are all equal in the eyes of the law. All the authorities, the mechanisms, the institutions and the people – are subordinate to the law… and this is why we are calling on you, Honorable Chairman, to order the President of Al-Azhar University explicitly and directly to cancel his decision [regarding renewing the term of the existing management]. This in order to enable all the employees to elect as they please…”