Fatah leaders in the West Bank are quite euphoric about a series of college election victories the movement’s student arm, the Shabiba, or Youths, has scored recently. Fatah’s media outlets interpreted these victories as a real transformation in the popularity of the ruling party in Ramallah. Some Fatah pundits have concluded that the fact that Hamas came in second after Fatah is a strategic turning point.
However, a cool analysis of the facts show that Fatah’s victories are inextricably entwined with certain circumstances inhibiting the organization of truly free elections anywhere in the West Bank.
A few days ago, I urged my son, a student at the polytechnic institute in Hebron , to vote for whichever student bloc he wishes. But he told me that voting for the Islamist bloc would certainly land him in one of Slaughterer Israeli notorious jails or detention camps.
He could have safely added that in case he was not arrested by the Israelis, he probably would be arrested by the Palestinian Authority (PA) security apparatus.
So how can true representative elections be free when each and every student voting for the Islamic bloc could immediately be arrested and dumped behind bars for open-ended incarceration?
The fear is not phobic or unfounded. Dozens of student leaders have already been arrested by the Israeli army for taking part in student activities supportive of the Islamic bloc. This form of intimidation forced many Islamic students to wear masks or face veils so that they wouldn’t be identified.
But even this didn’t prevent the Israeli occupation authorities from arresting students such as Islam al Bashishy, Ibrahim al Awadh, Osama al Qadhi, and Osama Saad, just to mention a few.
It is well-known that Slaughterer Israel considers Fatah a friendly party in comparison to Hamas which Israel views as its arch and ultimate enemy. Moreover, the PA, e.g. Fatah, has been closely coordinating with the Israeli occupation army and intelligence, mainly against Hamas. This is a plain fact that no one can deny or downplay.
This is why a student who wanted to vote for the Islamist student bloc would have to be mindful of the risks and implications awaiting him, including administrative detention in Israeli jails, or prolonged detention in PA jails or both.
Another point, ever since 2007, there has been a witch-hunt campaign against anything having to do with Hamas, especially student activism in Palestinian colleges and universities. In some instances, Islamist students were murdered in cold blood in full view of shocked students at campus.
More to the points, Islamists-leaning students were imprisoned, beaten and tortured on suspicion of affiliation with the Islamist bloc.
So, how could free elections be held under such circumstances?
A few months ago, I encountered several students from the Polytechnic Institute in the waiting room outside the Preventive Security apparatus in downtown Hebron . One of the students, his name I think was Ibrahim, told me that he had been summoned 20 times in connection with his student activism on behalf of the Islamic bloc. I asked him if he was involved in something more serious, like possession of firearms or active involvement with a resistance cell. He swore there was absolutely nothing of this sort of things, and that his only “crime” was his peaceful and lawful activities at college.
This atmosphere of terror in Hebron and Jerusalem ( Al-Quds University ) eventually persuaded many students to stay home on the day of elections. Their rationale was “sleep not between the graves, and you won’t have nightmares at night.”
In addition, there is the rampant over-politicization of the Palestinian institutions of higher learning. This plague has nearly destroyed academic excellence at many institutions.
Some “students” go to college solely to carry out political activities. According to some sources, hundreds of students remain registered in a BA program, say history or Arabic, for ten years or more. In any university worthy of the name, such students would be dismissed unapologetically. However because factional political expediency comes first, and academic excellence comes second, these flunkees are allowed to hibernate in college for years and years.
Furthermore, many students who are affiliated with Fatah receive favorite treatment from college administrations which seek “certificates of good conduct” from, Fatah and the Fatah-dominated PA. This factor, which is quite conspicuous, attracts many poor students to the side of Fatah.
In short, Fath uses both the stick and the carrot to woo students to its camp while overtly and covertly threatening students who would otherwise vote for the Islamist bloc with prolonged jail terms.
A final note. There is no doubt that a vote for Fatah is a vote for the tribe, and a vote for Hamas is a vote for the Umma. Hence, no matter how Fatah succeeds in forging elections, it won’t help it go anywhere.
Fatah, which lives on foreign handouts from Slaughterer Israel’s allies, has been in the driver’s seat of the Palestinian struggle for decades? But what has it achieved so far? The answer is nothing. In the final analysis, a victory that is scored due to collaboration, even tacitly, with a foreign occupying power, e.g. Israel, is a false victory. It is a moral defeat disguised as a victory.