JAFFA, Israel – Fatah’s uphill campaign to win a majority in the key election for Bir Zeit University’s student body failed as Hamas clinched 25 seats against the 21 won by Fatah.
Earlier, Fatah organized a “military march” on the university campus in a seeming attempt to show students that the movement is still loyal to the so-called resistance against Israel.
The march, organized by the Fatah leadership in Ramallah, included dozens of activists in military uniform who chanted slogans in praise of Fatah as the oldest Palestinian resistance movement that has championed the armed struggle against Israel since the 1950s.
عرض عسكري لنشطاء من الشبيبة الفتحاوية وعناصر من حركة فتح في جامعة بيرزيت في إطار الدعاية الانتخابية لمجلس الطلاب pic.twitter.com/K4lXRwauEw
— وكالة صفا (@SafaPs) April 27, 2016
Fatah, still reeling from Hamas’ shock victory last year, was hoping to clinch a victory at Bir Zeit, which many see as a litmus test for the movement’s and President Mahmoud Abbas’s leadership.
The defeat unleashed a great deal of rancour among Fatah members, who said that the leadership, not the students, should be blamed for it. Former Fatah minister Sufian Abu Zaida posted a rhetorical question on Facebook: “How many defeats will it take until the movement rises up against its leadership?”
Angry commenters called for Abbas’ ouster, hurling insults at him and his cronies. “As long as you lead Fatah, it will never be able to recover,” one wrote. They said the students voted to punish Abbas and the leadership rather than the student representatives.
They said Abbas’s recent remarks in favor of cooperating with Israel on security enforcement dealt a deathblow to the students’ campaign.
In election debates during the campaign, Hamas representatives accused their Fatah counterparts of collaborating with Israel against the resistance, and lambasted them for their movement’s well-known corruption. Fatah representatives retorted by blaming Hamas for taking over Gaza, effectively splitting the Palestinian people, which played into Israel’s hands. They also said that Hamas isn’t a home-grown political movement, but one that is sponsored by foreign governments like Turkey and Qatar.
Hamas members said that during the campaign the Palestinian Authority arrested many of their fellow activists.
In their desperate attempts to throw their weight behind their student representatives at Bir Zeit, Fatah leaders appeared before election rallies, unlike many in Hamas, who have been arrested by Israel or feared being arrested by the PA.
The march, which was the culmination of Fatah’s show of force, is in fact a violation of an agreement signed between Israel and the PA following Hamas’ takeover of Gaza, whereby the Palestinians are prevented from any manifestation of military nature.
During the election campaign, Fatah’s “military wing” called on students to vote for their organization because it led the Palestinian struggle and was a progenitor of most of the nation’s “heroes.”