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The Islamic Bloc and university elections

January 24, 2014 at 11:11 am

Now that student body elections season in the West Bank has come to end, there is no doubt that the Islamic Bloc needs to carefully assess its experience in light of its extended boycott, and alongside its past circumstances; to adjust its strategy and to examine the personal and objective factors that led to the final electoral results.

There are those who believed that once the Islamic Bloc was allowed to return to the student body following years of absence and exclusion, it would be able to win the elections or at least to start back where it stopped off. Prior to its exclusion, the Islamic Bloc went through a positive phase in which it was a leading force within universities; both in terms of achievement and the impact it was able to have on the youth visa vie the high levels of popularity enjoyed by the resistance.

With the absence of the Bloc, however, the philosophy of resistance, including its various moral manifestations, has all but disappeared from the reality of universities, as well as the West Bank in general. These two realities must be taken into consideration when examining the final results. In light of its absence or exclusion, no one should expect the great legacy of the Islamic Bloc to be present in the minds of students. Nor should they expect that the occupation’s targeting of its members would generate significant moral support for it at a time when the value of sacrifice within society has decreased, and public awareness lacks the influence of the resistance.

On the other hand, it is natural to expect the advancement of a more humble Bloc when an organisation such as Hamas is absent in the West Bank, and when the manifestations on the ground indicating the presence of the movement do not tell the whole truth; the current manifestations indicate the presence of Hamas as a radical popular movement, not as an organisation.

Since 2006, the occupation has done all it could to directly and immediately pursue any initiatives to form an organisational body for Hamas in the West Bank. Moreover, this is the exact method by which the PA and its security agencies continue to treat Hamas as a boycotted organisation; by desiccating all its resources, especially its financial resources, even if they make allowances for prisoners or the families of martyrs. As for the relative freedom the Bloc has within universities, this was acquired through a series of open collective sit-ins by the Bloc’s students in Beirzeit, Hebron and other universities until they secured an agreement to end persecution based on student union activities inside universities.

This means that the Islamic Bloc’s work is not based on the (non-existent) Hamas organisation nor does it receive its support. Instead, its work is based on an initiative from the youth inside the universities, and in many cases, funding for some activities come out of their own pockets or from the donations of their supporters. This is contrary to student body blocs such as the al-Shabiba Movement, who are supported by Fatah in the West Bank, as well as the security agencies.

Despite the harshness of this reality, the Islamic Bloc should not neglect the need for it to remain present in the arena; working, competing and serving students, as well as present them with a positive image of itself. This will allow students to get to know them away from the slander, as well as to experience the impact they have in various fields.

We must point out that what is needed at this stage is a lot of union work and national activities, and a little political debate. Moreover, political differences should not influence students in the universities. There is also a need for the Islamic Bloc to present a unitary vision that suggests that all blocs, despite their differences, can harmonise and unify over a number of basic issue that the youth should take a leading role in, such as the issues of the prisoners, Jerusalem, settlements, etc. This stage requires unified efforts on the part of the youth to improve the impact of the student body’s university work in general. Furthermore, joint field work brings everyone together and reduces the tension and clashes that are more severe during the election season. Students do not need to act as spokespeople for their movements, but must first pay attention to what is required of them as a student body movement at the level of union work or general national activity.

As for the Islamic Bloc, once its distinction is shown through its activities, it will begin to make achievements, even if the reality is not in its favour, despite security intimidation and the pursuit of the occupation. However, absence, stagnation and an imbalance of priorities, in light of a reality that is against it, will not be in its favour, even if Hamas, as a movement, makes tangible achievements on the level of resistance, such as the prisoner exchange agreement and Operation Stones of Baked Clay.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.