• Short Summary

    The people of the occupied West Bank of the Jordan go to the polls on Monday (12 April) to elect new officials in local government, following four weeks of often violent disturbances.

  • Description

    The people of the occupied West Bank of the Jordan go to the polls on Monday (12 April) to elect new officials in local government, following four weeks of often violent disturbances.

    Despite Israeli efforts to promote new alternative leaders who would counter the Palestine Liberation Organisation's (PLO) growing influence in the area. West Bank leaders and Israeli experts alike are forecasting sweeping successes for the radicals.

    More than 500 candidates, many of them in their 30s, are contesting the elections for mayors and councils of 24 towns. Many of the old traditional leaders have dropped out.

    Student rioting which swept through the West Bank recently has sharpened nationalist feelings among the 650,000 Arabs in the area and some leading candidates have made no secret of their PLO sympathies.

    Israel refuses to recognise the PLO which it describes as a purely terrorist organisation. It says will negotiate the future of the territory only with Jordan's King Hussein who publicly relinquished responsibility for the West Bank to the PLO two years ago.

    Although the Arab-Israeli conflict cannot be mentioned directly in election campaigning people in the West Bank regard it as the underlying issue. Israeli handling of the recent riots, it which three West Bank residents were killed and many schoolchildren injured, is sharply criticised by Arab leaders.

    The demonstrations were sparked off by an Israeli magistrate's decision upholding Jews's rights to pray on the Temple Mount close to the Temple Mount close to the Al Aqsa Mosque, one of Islam's most sacred shrines.

    New settlements founded by ultra-nationalist Jews in the West Bank mountains -- despite criticism by many Israelis -- is also a root cause on conflict.

    A total of 88,462 residents are entitled to vote. They must be over 25, literate, pay one Jordanian dinar (about two sterling) a year in tags and be without a criminal record.

    In spite of the impressions given by widespread publicity about the West Bank riots, Visnews cameraman Bob Weaver reports that the vast majority of the population continues to lead normal lives in peace and quiet. Tourists continue their daily pilgrimages to places like Jericho and Sebastiya and to scores of biblical and historical sites scattered across the area.

    However, life did change for most Arab for those few weeks. Israeli security forces placed curfews on the more troublesome towns, such as Ramallah and Herbon; house-by-house searches were made and thousands of people were subjected to random road blocks, identity checks and other such measures.

    The West Bank has been relatively quiet since it was taken over by Israel in the lightning war of 1967. There have been random outbursts of trouble, a few strikes and demonstrations, but nothing to match last month's troubles.

    The area was part of Mandatory Palestine until 1948 when it was annexed by Jordan. The people are mostly Muslim and live in or around about 500 towns and hamlets.

    Statistics show that the majority there are better off economically than in 1967. The degree of credit Israel can take for this is arguable. There is no doubt Israel's policies on agriculture and free movement have helped. But the Arabs argue that the figures reflect a rise in world prices and steady improvement would have gone on anyway.

    The West Bank in one of the most beautiful places in the Arab world. It is a land of rugged hills with terraces of crops and a land of milk any honey, melons and vegetables.

    Israel continues to hold onto the area mainly for security reasons. The old border was uncomfortably close to the coast in places, and Arab rocket just inside this old border could have threatened Tel Aviv and other major population centres.

    SYNOPSIS: The town of Nablus on the occupied West Bank of the Jordan -- only one month ago the scene of violent disturbances which spread throughout the area. On Monday, the people of the West Bank--seized by Israel in the lightning 1967 war--go to the polls to elect new leaders. West Bank leaders and Israeli expects alike forecast sweeping victories for radicals with Palestine Liberation Organisation backing. The four weeks of riots which left three people dead and many school-children injured has made it almost certain.

    The disturbances were the worst since the West Bank was occupied. They were sparked off by an Israeli magistrate's decision upholding Jews' rights to pray on the Temple Mount close to the Al Aqsa Mosque, one of Islam's most sacred shrines. This proved two much for the predominantly Muslim majority of the area. They showed their objections forcefully. Israeli security forces stepped in, enforced curfews, made spot checks on residents, and aggravated an already tens situation.

    Life for most of the West Bank's population, however, did not alter much in those four weeks. They continued living peacefully in what is one of the most beautiful places in the Arab world. The largest single occupation here is agriculture. It is a land of milk and honey, of melons and vegetable. Before 1967 the farmers did a good trade with the rest of Jordan and other Arab countries. This trade continues.

    But now the markets extend to Western Europe and Israel itself. Statistics show that the majority of the people are better off now than before occupation. How much this is due to Israel is arguable. There is no doubt Israel's policies on agriculture and free movement have helped. But the Arabs argue that the figures reflect a rise in world prices and steady improvement would have gone on anyway.

    The open bridges policy -- keeping two bridges open to two way traffic -- has not only helped in trade. West Bankers can still maintain family, religious, commercial and scholastic ties. But the Arabs do not want any occupation force, no matter how benevolent. Despite better jobs and money, better housing, social services and health, they would like the israelis to pack up and go. Most of them, according to polls, would opt for reunification with Jordan. Israel says it will negotiate the future of the territory only with Jordan's King Hussein. But he publicly relinquished responsibility for the West Bank to the PLO two years ago and Israel does not recognise this organisation. The situation remains a stalemate.

    In Jricho, as in the West Bank's other 500 towns and hamlets, election preparations are going ahead. The outcome will reflect what the people think. The radicals are almost bound to emerge victorious. Although Arab-Israeli conflict cannot be mentioned directly in election campaigning it is obviously the underlying issue.

    Israel continues to hold onto this area -- parts of it still littered with abandoned refugee camps -- for security reasons. The old border was uncomfortably close to the coast and Arab rockets which could have threatened Tel Aviv and other population centres. But the Arabs do not accept this reason. They believe the real reasons are political and economic. They plan to continue their fight for Israel's withdrawal.

  • Tags

  • Data

    Film ID:
    VLVA53DFHPN9TPK5U8MBI7NIALYOS
    Media URN:
    VLVA53DFHPN9TPK5U8MBI7NIALYOS
    Group:
    Reuters - Source to be Verified
    Archive:
    Reuters
    Issue Date:
    11/04/1976
    Sound:
    Unknown
    HD Format:
    Available on request
    Stock:
    Colour
    Duration:
    00:03:20:00
    Time in/Out:
    /
    Canister:
    N/A

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