PA assaults democracy
Hamas members charge PA
with mass arrests of Hamas students
following Hamas victory
in student elections at Birzeit University
by Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik
In student elections last week at Birzeit University, the biggest university in the West Bank, the Hamas-affiliated student list defeated the Fatah-affiliated list.
Following the elections, the independent Palestinian news agency Wattan reported that Hamas sources charged that the PA Preventive Security Force and the Intelligence Service carried out “a massive wave of arrests among the ranks of the Islamic Bloc (Hamas) activists in several West Bank universities.” The sources said that the arrests “targeted the Islamic Bloc activists in Birzeit University and in Palestine Polytechnic University, as well as students from An-Najah University in Nablus and Al-Quds University in Abu Dis.” [Wattan News Agency, April 28, 2015]
Member of Hamas' leadership Hossam Badran was quoted as saying that the arrests of Hamas students “demonstrates the extent of the PA’s shock after the failure of its mode of operation, which is based on coordination with the occupation (i.e., Israel) and the repression of liberties.”
The independent Palestinian news agency Ma’an noted the importance of the elections at Birzeit University:
“In the absence of regular national elections, university elections are seen as important indicators of public opinion by political commentators in Palestine, and Birzeit is considered to be the most important campus in the yearly political contests.” [Ma’an, April 23, 2015]
Hamas’ Islamic Bloc defeated Fatah at Birzeit University with 26 seats to Fatah’s 19. At Palestine Polytechnic University, both blocs won 15 seats of 31, and the PFLP one seat. [Wattan news agency, April 21, 2015]
Fatah won the elections at both Al-Quds University and Bethlehem University, but Hamas-affiliated students “do not participate in the electoral contests,” Ma’an wrote.
Palestinian Media Watch reported on another case repressing democracy and human rights following the student elections. A student who supported Hamas posted on Facebook that Fatah had lost because it named its list “Martyr Yasser Arafat Bloc,” when in fact Arafat was not a Martyr. That student was expelled from Birzeit University and her uncle was arrested by the PA for agreeing with her.
The following are longer excerpts of the two reports on the Palestinian student elections and the following arrests:
Headline: “Hamas, the [Palestinian] Authority began a wave of arrests among the ranks of the Islamic Bloc members in the West Bank”
“Sources within the Hamas movement said that the Palestinian [Authority] security forces launched a massive wave of arrests among the ranks of the Islamic Bloc activists in several West Bank universities this morning [April 28, 2015].
The sources stated that the [PA] Preventive Security Force and the Intelligence Service took part in a wave [of arrests] that targeted the Islamic Bloc activists in Birzeit University and in Palestine Polytechnic University, as well as students from An-Najah University in Nablus and Al-Quds University in Abu Dis. Director of Al-Dameer Association (Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association) Sahar Francis said that the number of detainees amounted to 20, and that ‘during the wave [of arrests], damage was caused to the wanted persons’ homes and their belongings.’
Member of Hamas' leadership Hossam Badran told [News Agency] Quds Press that the continued persecution of his movement’s members in the West Bank ‘demonstrates the extent of the PA’s shock after the failure of its mode of operation, which is based on coordination with the occupation and the repression of liberties, was revealed to the world.’”
[Wattan (independent Palestinian news agency), April 28, 2015]
Headline: “Fatah blesses Hamas win in Birzeit elections”
“The Fatah movement on Thursday blessed the victory of the Hamas-affiliated student list in Birzeit University student elections, an official said.
The party also demanded that Hamas allow elections in all universities in the Gaza Strip, just as elections were carried out in the occupied West Bank.
Fatah spokesperson Fayiz Abu Aita told Ma'an, "we bless the successful elections, the results that every student bloc achieved, and the victory of the Hamas-affiliated bloc."
Abu Aita said the achievement of second place was a failure for the Fatah-affiliated bloc, but pointed out that the party succeeded in many other universities.
The Hamas victory comes only a month after Fatah victories at the Abu Dis campus of Al-Quds University as well as at Bethlehem University, both colleges where Hamas-affiliated students do not participate in the electoral contests.
"This is the democracy we want and accept, and hope for others to believe in and accept it, especially in the Gaza Strip," the Fatah official said.
In the absence of regular national elections, university elections are seen as important indicators of public opinion by political commentators in Palestine, and Birzeit is considered to be the most important campus in the yearly political contests.
The Hamas victory came after a year in which the Fatah-affiliated list dominated student politics, having earned 23 seats compared to the Hamas list's 20 seats.
Voter turnout was reported at 77 percent of all undergraduate students entitled to vote, who numbered around 9,000.
Fatah's blessing of the Hamas victory at Birzeit comes as the two parties struggle to follow through with attempts to form a unity government in April 2014, after being on cold terms since 2006 when Hamas won the Palestinian legislative elections.
In the following year, clashes erupted between Fatah and Hamas, leaving Hamas in control of Gaza and Fatah in control of the occupied West Bank.
The unity government never fully took hold amid intense Israeli pressure directly following the agreement, including a massive arrest campaign across the West Bank that left hundreds of Hamas members languishing in jail as well as the more than 50-day assault on Gaza that left more than 2,200 dead.
Fatah and Hamas have traded accusations since, the most recent dispute over payment of government employees in Gaza.
The 2006 elections that led to such deepened divisions between Fatah and Hamas were the last time a public vote was held in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.”
[Ma’an (independent Palestinian news agency), April 23, 2015]