For Palestinian unity to prevail, the best interest and legitimate rights of the Palestinian people must be prioritized

In Arab Countries, International Advocacy Program by CIHRS

The Cairo Institute for Human Rights (CIHRS) joins Palestinian civil society organizations in considering   the renewed Egyptian efforts a good first step toward bringing an end to the inter-Palestinian strife that has lasted for over a decade. It strongly hopes that these efforts will finally lead to the reunification of the two parts of the occupied Palestinian territory (OPT) under the auspices of one democratically elected and legitimate political leadership.  CIHRS also welcomes the Hamas leadership’s initiative to dissolve the executive committee that de facto governed the Gaza Strip since March 2017, and its call on the consensus government to assume its administrative duties untilgeneral elections are held. The Palestinian Presidency should immediately follow this initiative by withdrawing unilateral acts of collective punishment in the Gaza Strip, such as cutting off energy supplies and reducing civil servant payments. Egyptian efforts should culminate with the immediate and unconditional opening of the Rafah crossing for Palestinian free movement, to alleviate the plight of Palestinians under the blockade in the Gaza Strip.

At a time when the region is plagued by internal divisions, conflictsand strife, inter-Palestinian reconciliation will bring sorely needed optimism and hope that will resonate beyond the OPT to other places in the region. In order for this reconciliation to be genuine and sustainable, it must be based on a clear will to rise above shortsighted political calculations and power ploys.Priority must be placed onthe Palestinian people’s best interests and their legitimate aspirations to end  subjugation under Israeli colonial rule, allowing them to finally exercise their freedom and right to self-determination. We call on all Arab regional and international actors with influence to fully support these efforts, and utilizetheir influence to guarantee their success.

The decade of Palestinian internal division has been a severe setback to not only the Palestinian cause, its credibility and efforts to support it. It has also unquestionably been the rootcause of the gravely deteriorating human rights situation in the Palestinian Authority controlled areas, both in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. During this divisive decade – devoid of effective parliamentary oversight and exacerbated by a subordinated and weakened judiciary – arbitrary discretion ruled in administrative institutions, undermining Palestinian residents’ basic constitutional guarantees. Multiple legislations injuriousto public freedoms were issued during this time, including the recent “electronic crimes” act. A large number of Palestinian activists, journalists, and academics were detained and tortured in Palestinian jails on both sides, including prominent figures fighting against occupation.

For the reconciliation to succeed, free elections renewing the Palestinian people’s faith and sense of ownership in their national institutions are prerequisite .Free elections are not merely confined to the ballot box but must enabled by free civil society and free political action, which includes full freedom of  expression, assembly, and organization.  We call on both Palestinian parties to immediately release all prisoners of conscience as an act of good faith. We also call on both parties to take steps to remove any administrative or regulatory hindrance to freedom of expression and assembly.

Palestinian society is the ultimate guarantor of unity and democratic governance; we call on the political parties to include civil society as part of the national dialogue. We also urge them to implement previous calls from various civil society initiatives to ensure that transitional justice steps are taken. Holding perpetrators of grave human rights violations accountable is pivotal to rectifying the wrongs committed during the internal fighting and throughout the decade that followed. This includes implementing the recommendations of the Palestinian Independent Commission of Inquiry created as a follow-up to the Goldstone Report in 2010.

We also call on the international community  to immediately resume the Gaza reconstruction efforts, and to pressure the occupying power Israel to refrain from hindering or obstructing the reconciliation efforts through arrests, intimidation or sabotage of legitimate political action in the OPT, including  occupied East Jerusalem.

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