We cannot address an issue related to the Islamic Bloc at An-Najah University without recalling its great legacy, which dates back decades, and originated with the founding of the university. We cannot diminish the role of the Islamic Bloc within the scope of the traditional field of any typical student framework that carries out national and union activity within the university. The An-Najah bloc was one of the most important pillars of Palestinian society and, since its founding, it has been providing society with a rich supply of national, political, academic, union, advocacy and professional competencies and figures. It also provided qualitative human ammunition in every intifada, offering the best of its people, and is known for its great military and national achievements.
An-Najah University is undoubtedly a prestigious longstanding university and it is the largest Palestinian university. The student movement in it has been active and strong since its foundation, until its setbacks that began in the summer of 2007, when members of the Fatah movement assassinated Mohammed Raddad, a student of the Islamic Bloc, inside the university campus, after distributing a statement by the Islamic Bloc. Since then, the university began to decline in various levels, until it turned into a security barracks that blocks all forms of student activity, prevents free union and national work, and is no longer an attractive environment for distinguished students.
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Over the years, the occupation's intelligence and the Palestinian authorities have taken turns in pursuing and arresting the members of the Islamic Bloc, a situation that applies to the bloc in all the universities of the West Bank. However, in the case of An-Najah University, it was done fiercely and without limitations, to the extent that the PA's agencies deployed some of its members to enrol in the university and enlist students in the Fatah Youth Movement. Their mission focused on pursuing members of the Islamic bloc, slandering them, preventing them from carrying out any activity and recommending their arrest. There were many security violations committed inside and around An-Najah University, including banning activities and direct assaults on students, until they reached a boiling point in the middle of last year when mass assault was committed by the university security and members of the PA security against students from the Islamic Bloc on the university's campus. It involved violent scenes of students being beat and dragged, in addition to attacks on Dr Nasser Al-Shaer, both inside and outside of the university, and oppressing protests that were organised to condemn the PA's arrest of the wanted individual, Musab Shtayyeh, one of the founders of the Lions' Den group. This oppression resulted in one martyr and many injuries, including a member of the Islamic Bloc, Anas Abdel Fattah, who is still being treated for its injuries.
All of this is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of violations committed by the PA's security and members of the Fatah Youth Group, but they are scenes that have not been erased from the students' memories. It is only natural for Fatah to pay the price for this partially in the ballot box, specifically in the north of the West Bank, which is currently witnessing a fierce security crackdown on the resistance and all forms of patriotic activity. However, on the other hand, it is witnessing effective resistance.
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When talking about the state of the resistance and its presence, including its icons, martyrs and operations in the north of the West Bank, we must address its impact on shaping awareness on the one hand and liberating it on the other hand, especially among the young generation, led by university students. Wherever the resistance is, there is a rise in the level of awareness and a strong rallying behind its approach. The people interact with all of its aspects and moral extensions by supporting those who represent it and fighting those who attack it, so what about when a large number of the recent resistance icons are students from the Islamic bloc in An-Najah University? The bloc is there and it presents the approach of resistance as its main approach, relying on an old and renewed legacy and services from its presence and trustworthiness. The bloc is standing on solid ground, as it is active and is not silent or disconnected from its longstanding jihadist legacy.
Despite all this, the main factor that makes the difference remains the steadfastness and persistence of male and female students of the Islamic Bloc at this university, and their determination to challenge the policies of oppression and alienation, and to confirm their presence and continue their activities, despite being targeted. This is because working in these conditions creates a qualitative generation that is able to work under the hammers of oppression, under uncomfortable conditions. They were inventive with their means and tools to continue to give and managed to overcome challenges and adapt to their situation, constantly compensating for the human and material losses. This is the case of the Islamic bloc in all the West Bank universities. They take initiative to seize their rights and prove their presence, and do not wait for them to be granted to them nor do they withdraw or give in under pressure and intimidation.
There is no doubt that one can count on a generation with such characteristics and await great things from them. It is a generation that emerged from the rubble of challenge and adversity and from under the ashes of oppression. We do not expect them to give in to oppression or hand themselves over to the various killers. This generation is completely aware that neither blood nor life in prisons will be lost in vain as long as they carry such certainty, courage and determination, while they progress in their thorny and long path.
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This article first appeared in Arabic in the Palestinian Information Centre on 18 May 2023
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.