Show us you deserve your title, Mr. Abbas

Swedish MP in open letter to the President: Prove that Palestine wants to be a democracy – release Issa Abu Hantash


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Dear Mr. Mahmoud Abbas, we know from reliable resources that the Palestinian political and peace activist, Issa Abu Hantash, is in custody, accused of insulting You in a satirical update on Facebook. It is not a sign of a good democratic development in Palestine, writes the Swedish MP Anders Österberg.

DEBATE. Dear Mr. Mahmoud Abbas, President of Palestine.

In these days Fatah concludes its congress in Palestine. This is a congress that had major consequences on hundreds of young people in Palestine. Those who shared their views and opinions that are not necessarily in alignment with those of Fatah were arrested. Most of them were arrested for a Facebook post.

Among them one of our leaders in Falcon Movement, a Palestinian political and peace activist, 29-year-old Issa Abu Hantash, is still in custody of the Preventive security in Qalqilia.

We know from reliable resources that he is accused of insulting You in a satirical update on Facebook in which he criticized the Fatah congress. He now risks being prosecuted for expressing his opinion, and might end up convicted.

Freedom of expression in Palestine is severely limited and even journalists can’t work freely. Since Your government’s project aims at creating a democratic Palestinian state, we feel obliged to tell you that freedom of expression is an essential part of democratic rule, and the Palestinian leadership should be able to tolerate being assessed and criticized.

Of course, the overall situation in Palestine makes it difficult to build stable and well-functioning social institutions, but that is no excuse for violating human rights, and definitely not an excuse neither a justification for authoritarian style of leadership. These violations provide a gold mine for those who wish never to see the realization of your dream of a democratic and independent state. They say that the Palestinians are not ready to govern themselves.

Right now, a peace agreement between Israel and Palestine seems very distant and soon even impossible. Israel continues the expansion of new houses on occupied Palestinian land, a project that seems to aim at preventing the establishment of a contiguous Palestinian state.

The international community must act, and we support Your struggle, and we stand behind your demands. Sweden showed support by recognizing the state of Palestine in October 2014. Our Government showed support with the Palestinian people to keep struggle for an independent, free and democratic state.

The labor movement in Sweden has for so long now supported the Palestinians’ aspiration of independence and of self-determination by establishing a state where all Palestinians are guaranteed freedom and justice. Unfortunately, there are a few concerns about the democratic process in Palestinian.

This way of arresting young people because they expressed their opinions is not a sign of a good democratic development in Palestine. For us in the labor movement, freedom of speech is a cornerstone of a democratic society and system. It is completely unacceptable to arrest people because they have criticized the Palestinian leadership.

A bright future for Palestine and the Palestinians is possible, but only if we are honest with each other and prioritize democracy, peace and development.

Palestine could become a model for the entire Middle East, but then it needs courage to lead a true democratic development in Palestine.

You have been set to lead that work. Now show the world – and the most of all the Palestinians – that You deserve that confidence.

Anders Österberg, President of Falcon Movement in Sweden, member of Parliament and represent in the Foreign Affairs Committee of Sweden (S)

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