Palestinian Student Politics Takes A Sharp Turn in Hamas's Favor

28 April 2015

By Khalid Amayreh in occupied Palestine

Student politics in the Israeli-occupied West Bank on Wednesday took a sharp turn in Hamas's favor when the Islamic-nationalist movement scored a landslide victory in Beir Zeit University (BU) student elections, defeating three student blocs affiliated with the PLO.

Beir Zeit University, located outside Ramallah, is seen as the most important university in the West Bank and student elections at the western-style college are generally seen as more or less reflecting public opinion currents in the occupied Palestinian territories.

According to election results announced by the BU administration, the Hamas-affiliated al-Wafaa (Loyalty) student Bloc won 3400 votes, or 26 seats out of the 51-seat general assembly.

The Fatah-affiliated bloc, called the Martyr Yasser Arafat Bloc, won 2545 votes, or 19 seats. Leftist student blocs, affiliated with the PFLP, DFLP, the People (Communist) party, as well as al-Mubadara (Initiative) , headed by Mustafa Bargouthi, won 842 votes or 6 seats.

The outcome of the elections is considered a sharp blow to Fatah, the mainstream faction of the PLO, headed by Mahmoud Abbas.

Normally, Fatah puts up a lot of efforts, using the carrot-and-stick approach, for the purpose of encouraging students to vote for the Shabiba bloc.

On Tuesday, pro-Hamas students performed unexpectedly well in the Polytechnic Institute's student elections, winning 15 seats of the 31 seats comprising the student general assembly. Fatah, which had been in control of the student council for many years, also won 15 seats while the remaining seat went to PFLP and its allies.

The impressive victory by Hamas at the BU, coupled with its earlier good performance at the Polytechnic College in Hebron, is significant especially in light of the ongoing witch-hunt campaign waged by both Israel and the PA against Palestinian Islamist students.

Muhammad Ahmed Ibrahim is a sophomore student specializing in physics at the BU Science Department.

He argued that Hamas would have scored even a greater victory "if things were normal" and "Israel and the PA security agencies didn't pursue us."

"A student would give his vote to Fatah or other PLO factions without having to worry about arbitrary arrest by Israel or the PA security apparatus. In fact, voters for the PLO receive many inducements, financial and otherwise.

"This is not the case with students who choose to vote for Hamas. They know that voting for Hamas, if discovered, could land them in an Israeli jails for many months or a few years." Hamas is considered by Israel as a terrorist organization.

I asked another student named Fatema, why she thought Hamas won student elections at a college long dominated by Fatah.

"There are many factors contributing to this victory by Hamas. First of all, this is the nature of student elections at Palestinian colleges and universities especially in the past 30 years where Hamas emerged as a predominant student bloc.

"Then we have other factors, including religiosity, disenchantment with the PA regime, disappointment over the failed peace process, as well as the failure or relative failure of the Fatah student bloc to meet students' aspirations and needs."

Khalid Amayreh is a veteran Palestinian journalist and current affairs commentator living in Occupied Palestine 



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