Amira Hass over de verkiezingen

PA citizens complain at checkpoints: `We’re sick of thieves stealing our money’
By Amira Hass

As usual, there was a long wait at the Taysir checkpoint, in the northern Jordan Valley, on Monday. Waiting drivers passed the time by chatting. The problem of the checkpoints was the main topic of conversation, but people also talked about the election.

Drivers told of the money that various parties were distributing before the election – especially Fatah, they said. Take NIS 400 or NIS 100 and vote Fatah. And will people do so? “People take the money,” said one, “but how they vote, only they know.”

He himself planned to vote Hamas. “I’m not religious,” he said. “I don’t pray. I don’t fast. But I’ll vote Hamas, because we’re sick of the thieves, we’re sick of them stealing our money. We’ve received billions of dollars from the world, and where are they?”

No one who routinely waits at checkpoints would have been surprised by Hamas’ electoral victory. At the checkpoints, you can always hear people cursing – cursing the soldiers, cursing the occupation and cursing the Palestinian Authority and its ruling party, Fatah.

“That’s exactly the problem,” a feminist activist from Ramallah, who is affiliated with neither Fatah nor Hamas, said yesterday. “Senior PA and Fatah officials never pass through the checkpoints and never travel in taxis, so they’ve stopped knowing not only what is happening to the people, but what the people think.”

Another Ramallah resident expressed similar views. She herself is quite religious, but she did not attribute Hamas’ victory to its religious-diplomatic platform. In her view, people said “enough of the corruption.”

“Let them learn a lesson,” she said, referring to Fatah.

In Khan Yunis, in Gaza, people said it was the security service personnel – people ostensibly identified with the current Fatah government – who actually handed Hamas its victory. Observers who were present during the ballot counting said the Fatah candidates had a slight edge until the security service ballots were counted, but then, the trend reversed.

In public interviews, senior Hamas officials reject the theory that their victory was due to a mass protest vote against Fatah. They insist they won because people have adopted their ideology. But in private, one Hamas activist from Gaza who is close to the movement’s leadership rejected this view.

“It’s clear the reason is disgust at Fatah,” he said. “Most of the Palestinian public doesn’t belong to anyone, doesn’t support anyone. We have 1.34 million voters. At major demonstrations – how many people can each organization bring? That’s our way of measuring. How many can Hamas bring? 80,000? Fatah – 50,000? So let’s say 200,000 are ideologically identified with the various parties. More than 1 million aren’t politically affiliated, and they decided: We’re sick of Fatah, and Hamas provides an example of a different type of leadership.”