Welcome to electioneering… Palestinian-style

Welcome to electioneering… Palestinian-style
A still from the Hamas video

For many of us, elections evoke images of big promises, political attack ads, leaders debates and corny images of politicians kissing babies.

In the Palestinian Authority, however, where Fatah and Hamas are due to contest municipal elections on October 8, campaigning works a little differently.

One example is political parties listing their achievements. A very normal part of a campaign – indeed, prior to Australia’s recent election, the government boasted about various successes – real or embellished – in border security, trade and other matters.

Fatah is boasting about its achievements too. But it’s not boasting about improving the lives of West Bank Palestinians or the infrastructure they rely on.

No, the so-called “moderate” Fatah organisation boasted on its Facebook page last week that it has killed 11,000 Israelis. It also boasted of sacrificing 170,000 martyrs and being the first Palestinian group to carry out acts of violence in both the first and second intifadas. In the culture of hate Fatah has helped to create, this is what it thinks will win it votes.

While the number of Israelis killed is fortunately grossly exaggerated, such a Facebook post should be very sobering to anyone who thinks of Fatah as moderate, or insists Mahmoud Abbas – who, 11 years into a four year presidential term is yet to face fresh elections himself – is willing and able to be Israel’s peace partner for a genuine two-state resolution of the sort most international observers envision.

The Islamist terror group Hamas, which rules Gaza with an iron fist after coming to power in a mini-coup, is also boasting. What is surprising though, for an organisation whose charter welcomes the death of Jews, is that a key boast it’s making has nothing to do with murdering Israelis or achieving “martyrdom”. Well, maybe a little.

As part of its social media campaign, Hamas has released a video portraying Gaza as a paradise. It features beautiful mosques, modern apartment buildings and shopping centres, glittering beaches and smiling Palestinians holding placards that read #ThankyouHamas in Arabic. Amongst that footage, a rocket monument pays tribute to Hamas’ deadly intent to murder Israelis.

Aside from the fact that the video contradicts Hamas’ message to the world – so easily believed by anti-Zionists in the West – that Israel’s actions have turned Gaza into an impoverished open-air prison – Hamas’ claim to be a positive force making Gaza a paradise for its residents is just absurd. Far from building infrastructure and looking after the citizens of Gaza, Hamas diverts cement and other building materials meant for civilian projects to its military infrastructure and terror attack tunnels, and currently faces fresh allegations of diverting international aid money into its own coffers.

This is in addition to the regime’s systematic human rights violations since it violently seized totalitarian control of Gaza in 2007, such as suppressing free speech, executing citizens suspected of “collaborating” with Israel and using Palestinians as human shields. #ThankyouHamas for exactly what?

The fierce rivalry between Fatah and Hamas, who have accused each other of trying to sabotage the elections, shows no signs of abating, and the losers will be the Palestinian people themselves. Even the terrorist group Islamic Jihad has spoken out and is demanding the two heavyweights reconcile for the good of the Palestinian people.

Indeed, the municipal elections come at a time when the hopelessly corrupt Palestinian Authority is struggling to even maintain its authority over parts of the West Bank. With no succession plan in place for the 81-year-old Abbas, should he exit the picture any time soon – with infighting and anarchy almost certain to ensue – the forthcoming municipal elections may end up not meaning much at all.

Gareth Narunsky