Palestinian students from Birzeit University. (Issam Rimawi/FLASH90) (Issam Rimawi/FLASH90)
Palestinian students from Birzeit University
Fatah supporters attend the Birzeit University election debate (Issam Rimawi/FLASH90)

Fatah supporters attend the Birzeit University election debate (Issam Rimawi/FLASH90)

Hamas won a majority of seats on the traditionally pro-Fatah Birzeit University student council, whose elections are considered a barometer for Palestinian public opinion.

Hamas earned a majority of seats on the student council of Birzeit University, located near Ramallah in the Palestinian Authority (PA)-administered territories. The election, which is considered an indicator of Palestinian public opinion, marked a dramatic shift in the politics of the student body, which is traditionally pro-Fatah – the ruling party of the PA.

The Hamas-affiliated Islamic Wafaa’ bloc won 26 out of the 51 seats on the council to the Fatah-affiliated Martyr Yasser Arafat bloc’s 19. Last year, the Islamic Wafaa’ list won 20 seats, while the Martyr Yasser Arafat list won 23. Other participants in the election included a PLFP-affiliated list, which received five seats, and a leftist list that got one.

The turnout was high, with 6,787 out of 9,000 eligible students participating. The election is especially important for understanding Palestinian politics due to the fact that Palestinian elections have not been held since 2006.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said that the Islamic Wafaa’ bloc’s victory demonstrates the popularity of “resistance.” One of the main debate topics prior to the election was the concept of military resistance versus negotiations with Israel. Zuhuri said the election results were “evidence that the party is stronger and bigger than all attempts to remove it.”

Birzeit University’s student population is known for its political activism. Israel far-left journalist Amira Hass was told to leave an event in which she had been invited to participate due to a policy of not allowing Israeli Jews on campus. Israeli anti-Zionist historian Ilan Pappe was forced to deliver a lecture off-campus for the same reason.

By: Sara Abramowicz, United with Israel

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