How can a ballot box have the magic to destroy the unity of a nation? Palestinians were encouraged to hold elections, and they were supported by the United States and the international sphere after the death of the first president, Yasser Arafat, in 2004.
The conflict between Hamas and Fatah, the two main Palestinian political factions, grew more intense after the decisive victory of Hamas in the Palestinian legislative elections in 2005 and the continuous failure of the two parties to reach a deal to share the Palestinian government power.
This bifurcation has a huge impact on our attitudes towards democracy and enthusiasm for elections. The bitter infighting between the two groups led to the political division of the Gaza Strip, now controlled by Hamas, and the West Bank, dominated by Fatah.
It has been 10 years since both parties were joined under one Palestinian state. Within these years, we learned how to blame the opposite political parties for their mistakes and criticize our own people for damaging any good intention of solving the ongoing conflict.
On the one hand, Hamas accused Fatah of collaborating with Israel. Fatah, on the other hand, blamed Hamas for an international blockade that stops funding and negatively affects the Palestinian economy.
Unfortunately, we master the skill of blaming the other side for the pressing and mounting basic needs of the ordinary people, creating new cleavages and more opportunities for internal repression.
The conflict between Hamas and Fatah exposed the black hole at the heart of the Palestinian democratic process, and each party is seeing itself as the true representative of its people. The sad fact is that the people’s fear of being killed or arrested as political prisoners prevents many of us from voting and participating in any further Palestinian elections.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) estimated that at least 118 people were killed and more than 550 wounded during the fighting in the week up to June 15, 2007.
Nowadays, Fatah in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza are still inferring on residents’ freedoms of expression and targeting civil society organizations in general and human rights organizations in particular. “These attacks by both Hamas and Fatah constitute brutal assaults on the most fundamental humanitarian principles,” Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director for Human Rights Watch, said. “The murder of civilians not engaged in hostilities and the willful killing of captives are war crimes, pure and simple.”
Under such circumstances, many ordinary Palestinians became cynical about the entire political process and the ability of any faction to impose meaningful changes in the Palestinian state.
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