The Islamic Wafa bloc, the student arm of Hamas, won Birzeit University’s student elections.
In the Birzeit University Student Council election, held on Wednesday, May 18, the Islamic Wafa bloc won 28 of the council’s 51 seats, with 5,068 votes.
The Martyr Yasser Arafat bloc, the student arm of the Fatah movement, came in second, winning 18 seats and 3,379 votes. The Democratic Progressive Student Pole, the student arm of the People’s Front, came in third, winning 5 seats and 888 votes.
The head of the preparatory committee for the elections, Iyad Tumar, who is Birzeit’s dean of student affairs, announced the election results. He said that 9,782 students had voted, out of 12,521 eligible voters, setting a record high participation rate of 78 percent.
Student elections are “one of the most important rituals of Birzeit University that we are proud of, and we exert all our efforts to keep it that way always.”
Beshara Doumani President of Birzeit University
Celebrating their victory, Islamic Wafa bloc supporters paraded the green flags of Hamas around the Birzeit campus. Hamas officials also praised the results.
Fathi Hamad, a member of Hamas’s Political Bureau, said the student movement had proved that the young were “the fuel of the revolution.”
Saleh al-Arouri, deputy head of the Political Bureau, added that the Birzeit University Student Council elections had proved the ability of Palestinians, despite their differences, to hold transparent and fair elections that expressed the will of the people.
Al-Arouri also thanked the Islamic Wafa movement’s leader and Birzeit University, which he said “still constitutes an incubator for students and free patriotism, and defends this freedom and the right of our sons and daughters to make their own choices.”
Arrests a Day Before the Vote
In the days before the vote, students held enthusiastic rallies on Birzeit’s campus, near Ramallah. Competing student blocs sang songs, shouted chants and delivered emphatic speeches during the candidates’ debates, but there was no violence.
Outside the university walls, things were different. Israeli forces arrested several student members of the Islamic Wafa bloc in a park. One of them, Mutassim Zalloum, was later the victim of a violent assault by prisoners affiliated with the Fatah movement and had to be transferred to hospital.
Asid Al Qaddoumi, a representative of the Islamic Wafa bloc, said the arrests were “aimed at breaking the resolve of the Islamic bloc and intimidating the masses of university students from exercising their electoral right.”
‘A Beacon of Democratic Practice’
Beshara Doumani, the university’s president, praised the elections as transparent and democratic.
Student elections are “one of the most important rituals of Birzeit University that we are proud of, and we exert all our efforts to keep it that way always,” Doumani said on Wednesday. “We are also proud of the participation of all spectra of Palestinian national action in these elections, especially because they come after a two-year hiatus.”
Doumani had said earlier that the two-year interruption of student council elections was “only because of the coronavirus pandemic.”
He expressed happiness with the large turnout on Wednesday, with students lining up in 30-meter queues to vote.
Palestinian society looks to Birzeit University as “a beacon of democratic practice,” Doumani said.
He stressed that the university administration did not interfere in the electoral process and would find a way to coexist with any electoral outcome, because “all people must have the freedom to vote.”
Challenges Await Students
Asked about the challenges awaiting the new student council and the university administration, Doumani said it was up to the students to decide what programmes and plans they wanted to pursue, and that the university would share its viewpoint with them.
“The Islamic bloc will continue, no matter how many arrests are made against them, to protect the rights of its students.”Asid Al Qaddoumi Representative of the Islamic Wafa’a Bloc at Birzeit University
He added that the university “is not only a reflection of political currents outside the university, but it should be a compass for the Palestinian community, and an entry point for discussing the most important issues facing us as a people living under settler colonialism.”
Doumani said fair and transparent elections showed a kind of confidence and belief that the Palestinian people are capable of liberation.
The liberation process is “the smallest challenge,” he said. “Palestinians should be thinking about the challenges of a post-liberation society.”
He added: “We always see our situation in quicksand. We are trying to build a character that has inner balance and determination, so that the students know themselves and know what they want to do.”
In a brief statement, Asid Al Qaddoumi, the representative of the Islamic Wafa’a bloc, said the university’s students had proved with this victory that “nothing frightens them” and that “the Islamic bloc will continue, no matter how many arrests are made against them, to protect the rights of its students.”
Al Qaddoumi added that the bloc would form the University Student Council on the principle of proportional representation, with all organisations that won seats obtaining committees.
He said that the council would work under the slogan “science, resistance, and creativity.”
In conclusion, he thanked the students, saying: “You have placed great trust in us, and we hope that we will meet your expectations, God willing. The forthcoming council will preserve your rights and achieve a union that will meet your expectations.”