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Democracy in Action

December 2004

You may have noticed that a man named Mustafa Barghouthi has declared himself a candidate in the national elections being held in Palestine to elect a successor to Yasser Arafat. This may be confusing to people who have seen all of the publicity about the candidacy of Marwan Barghouthi, a leader of the Fatah movement currently in jail in Israel.

Mustafa Barghouthi is a prominent Palestinian doctor and founder of the Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Committees (UPMRC). This organization, a partner of Grassroots International for over 20 years, has become a very sophisticated network of primary health care providers in the West Bank and Gaza. The Union has been the recipient of numerous international awards for its primary health work.

Israel has declared that it fully supports the Palestinian elections and will do everything in its power to see that free elections take place. That support apparently does not include allowing Presidential candidates free access to the voters.

This week, Dr. Barghouthi has been detained by Israeli soliders at two checkpoints in the West Bank. Just yesterday, he was held at the Jaba checkpoint outside of the city of Jenin as he returned to his home in Ramallah. According to Palestine Monitor, Mr. Barghouthi was beaten to the ground when he tried to intervene to stop the beating of other members of his party. All six members of the party were forced to the ground and made to stay there for over an hour.

While this treatment of even prominent Palestinians at Israeli checkpoints can not be a surprise to anyone knowledgeable of the “facts on the ground” in Palestine, it is still an outrage. It gives a hollow ring to the declarations of complete support for the elections by outgoing U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell.

While the U.S. press is reporting daily on the elections in Palestine, we doubt that this incident will receive coverage. If you see any coverage of it, please let us know at:

You may send messages of support or requests for more information to Dr. Barghouthi at

While we take no partisan position in the Palestinian elections, we will continue to monitor the conditions around Dr. Barghouthi’s campaign.

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