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Jewish academic, wife of jailed leader among Rev. Council winners

Aug. 15, 2009 10:56 A.M. (Updated: Aug. 17, 2009 3:49 P.M.)
Bethlehem - Ma'an - Loud applause broke out Saturday evening as it was announced that "brother" Dr Uri Davis had been elected to the Fatah movement's largest governing body.

Fatah conference spokesman Fawzi Salamah announced that the Jewish professor, who teaches Judaic studies at Al-Quds University in the West Bank, won 31st place out of 81 new members of Fatah's Revolutionary Council.

Among the other winners was Fadwa Barghouthi, the wife of jailed Fatah leader Marwan Barghouthi, who was himself elected to the movement's highest body, the Central Committee, last week.

Other prominent officials elected to the 120-member council were Hatem Abdul Qader, former PA minister of Jerusalem Affairs, and Afif Safeiyah, former PLO ambassador to the United States. Ziad Abu A’yen, former undersecretary in the PA Ministry of Prisoners Affairs, was elected to a seat, as well as Bassam Zakarneh, secretary-general of the Civil Servants Union.

Some 81 new members were elected in total, which were first announced by Salamah and then confirmed by President Mahmoud Abbas, who addressed the crowd moments later.

Four days after ballots were cast, results were officially announced Saturday evening, and included 11 women, at least four Christians, and one Jew, Dr Uri Davis.

In an interview last week, Davis played down the significance of his nomination to the Revolutionary Council. Each member of the movement has the right to run for office despite one's religion, race or color, he noted.

While it is common for Palestinian Christians to support Fatah and hold positions within the organization, Davis was the first Jewish member to be elected to the council. But has also as an observer member (non-Palestinian) of the Palestinian National Council, to which he was appointed by the late Yasser Arafat in 1984.

In fact a central plank of the late Palestinian leader's diplomacy abroad was demonstrating to the world that the Palestinians' conflict with Israel was about occupation, not antagonism toward Judaism as a religion.

Davis was born in Jerusalem in 1943 eight years after his mother and father, Jewish immigrants from Czechoslovakia and Britain, respectively, arrived in Palestine in 1935. They were among early Zionist immigrants who established homes in the area more than a decade before the state of Israel was founded.

Despite his parents' political leanings, Davis told Ma'an, he rejects their Zionist ideology. "It violates the Human Rights Convention because it is racism; it legalizes oppression," he said.

"The dangers of occupation and racism stem from attempts to legalize them, as we saw happen in South Africa," he explained.

Davis was recruited to Fatah in the 1980s by Palestine Liberation Organization leader and founder Khalil Al-Wazir, also known as Abu Jihad, who was assassinated in 1988 by an Israeli commando unit led by current Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak in Tunisia.

In addition to his participation in Palestinian politics, Davis is an academic at the United Kingdom's University of Bradford, serving as a professor of Peace Studies there, as well as the West Bank's Al-Quds University in Abu Dis, where he teaches Judaic studies.

"I wasn't convinced that the Israeli left-wing parties were satisfactory because all of them are Zionist parties," Davis explained. "Thus, I examined Palestinian left-wing parties but discovered that most of them adopted Marxism," such as the secular Popular and Democratic Fronts for the Liberation of Palestine.

"However I was pro-socialism rather than Marxism, so I joined Fatah because it contained a liberal framework that encompasses contradictory yet harmonious ideologies," he added. "The movement has struggled to liberate land and people from occupation."
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