Haniyeh: Hamas student election win shows people support ‘resistance’

Hamas Politburo chairman Ismail Haniyeh said on Wednesday that the Islamist movement’s victory in student council elections at Bir Zeit University shows Palestinians support “the option of resistance.”

Haniyeh made the comment in remarks he delivered by telephone to members of the Hamas-affiliated bloc at Bir Zeit.

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Bir Zeit University held student elections on its campus on Tuesday, in which some 75% of eligible voters casted ballots.

The Hamas-affiliated Islamic bloc won 24 of 51 seats on the council, and the Fatah-linked the Martyr Yasser Arafat bloc garnered 23 seats. A smaller third party gained four seats.

The Hamas-linked bloc’s victory marked the fourth year in a row that it won the student council elections at Bir Zeit.

Student elections in the Palestinian territories are viewed as important barometers of public opinion, since Hamas and Fatah have not competed against each other in municipal, legislative or presidential elections since the 2006 legislative elections.

“These elections have proven that our people, especially our students, are rallying around the option of resistance,” Haniyeh said.

The term “resistance” generally refers to armed conflict with Israel or popular protests against it or its military rule.

A poll conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research in March found that Palestinians, when asked whether armed “resistance,” nonviolent “resistance” or negotiations are the most effective way to establish a Palestinian state next to Israel, 35% chose armed “resistance,” 31% sided with negotiations, and 25% elected for nonviolent “resistance.”

Hamas has historically invested heavily in armed conflict against Israel. However, for the past several weeks, Hamas leaders have actively backed popular protests in the border region between the Gaza Strip and Israel. Israel has described the protests as “a violent riot,” saying participants have thrown Molotov cocktails and rocks at its forces and opened fire on them.

A number of other student council elections are slated to take place in the West Bank in the coming weeks.