The street reacts, in more ways than one
Minutes after official results were announced last night, the street erupted in celebration, with Hamas supporters and others taking to the streets , honking horns, handing out sweets, lighting fireworks in the downcast sky.
It was clear that no one-no one, expected then to win. Strolling around the streets at night, it also became obvious, on a very basic level, why people voted for Hamas. Forget about the political horizon (or lack thereof) for a moment.
I was speaking to a storeowner about the results, when a friend of his burst in, beside himself. "did you hear? did you hear? i couldnt' sleep all night. I can't belive it!". He was a munipality employee, who barely made enough money to feed his family. His son had been injured in internal clashes 6 months ago, his groin muscles torn, and disabled, sittin at home immobile. For 6 months, he has been chasing the PA for some medical compensatin, and hasn't received a penny "while those nobody's travel around in their BMWs. " "Is that fair? tell me?" Why did Hamas win? Remember, said the man: "The feeling of oppression is a very powerful factor."
Its also about priorities. In Israel, security was a priority in 2001, and that is why the Israeli people i think voted in Sharon, the same Sharon they so fervently demonstrated against in 1982 in the streets of Tel Aviv. In Gaza, the priorities are security and survival. "A family with 10 children living under the poverty line is not going to think first about relations of the new parliament with Israel or the US or the EU. He is going to think about how he can feed those children," another m an told me.
Fateh supporters were hardly celebrating. Their reactions ranged from shock, to denial, to bitterness and arrogance and humiliation, and finally lashing out against t heir own corrupt leaders tonight.
Yesterday, I spoke to Taha Nabil, a 25-year-old police officer in the bloated Palestinian security forces whose functioning is likely to be streamlined by the new Hamas government. He expressed his concern for the future and his shock that what he called a newcomer like Hamas could win so overwhelmingly. "I see all these celebrations, and, well ... I just hope it's for the best," he said, fireworks blasting all around him.
"Since I'm a police officer and a Fatah supporter, I am not very happy by the results. I just hope the fruits of the victory will not be exclusively for one party or people. Who is Hamas anyway? We were the ones who began the revolution. Hamas have only been around for 10 years, and suddenly, out of nowhere, they changed Gaza." The question that Nabil and other Fatehawis are asking themselves tonight is "how and why".
Tonight, Fateh lashed out in a very different way. Young supporters, known as "shabeeba" here or "shabeebit Fateh" swarmed Mahmud Abbas's house, calling for his resignation in three days, and blaming the "old guard" of the fateh leadership and their corruptoin for their curshing defeat. They then swarmed the legislative council, where they created bonfires out of government vans, scaled the walls of the building, and ripped out air conditioners.
They were only slightly calmed down a very emotional Mohammad Dahalan, who appealed for them to "make their voicees heard" in a mass Fateh Rally to be held Sunday (afraid to see how that turns out), and said Fateh will persevere despite what he referred as "conspiricies" against it. They then marched throughout the city shooting wildly, reminding people via loudspeakers "FATEH IS NOT DEAD!" and asking them provakatively :"Do you really want to be ruled Hamas??"
Testosterone, crushing humiliating defeat, and AK-47s: not a good combination.
And if your Bush and company, be careful what you wish for.
See my articles in Aljazeera here and here for more.