Birzeit Politics: Wolf packs and flags

Around this time of year, Birzeit University looks like Hogwarts in preparation for the annual game of quidditch. Flags of the different political affiliations and colors (green, yellow, white, red, the occasional Palestinian flag) wave on rooftops, tieds to fences, and even raised to the tips of trees (and here’s where a dear friend comments and says, “They race to see who will hang the flag the highest as if they are racing to free Palestine.”) You also have your students from different parties huddling in groups like wolf packs.

If anything, those colors signal the beginning of election week. Actually, no. What signals that BZU’s student council election week is coming are the university security guards that start asking for your student ID each day from the beginning of the month before you enter the university.

The next day, after the colors go down, is the debate. The university – or whoever – suspends classes for two hours, and students and professors alike stand (or sit) under the sun and listen to six different groups plead their cases.

The debate is usually sponsored by eight things (I’m sure there are more):

  1. Who Can Yell The Loudest Through The Microphone
  2. Who Can Answer The LEAST Amount of Questions Asked By The Moderator
  3. Who Can Bring Out The Biggest Basket of Dirty Laundry For The Other Party
  4. Who Can Make The Most Empty Promises
  5. Who Can Shame The Other Party More
  6. Who Is The First To Go Over 5 Minutes
  7.  Whose “Followers” Can Cheer The Loudest
  8. Ignoring The Smaller Parties

The Islamic Bloc (commonly known as Hamas) debators and the Martyr Yasser Arafat bloc (commonly referred to as Fateh) debators stand at either side of the stage – with the other parties in the middle – and start with the “big” politics of Palestine, mentioning all that goes on in Gaza and the West Bank…and how Gaza will turn into a bed for ISIS and how the West Bank will make room for traitors. They call for the continuing of the “3rd intifada” that seems to have died down. It only escalates from there. Lemons and other fruits are introduced to accompany analogies I couldn’t comprehend. Also, the Martyr Yasser Arafat Bloc’s debator promised 1,000,000 Jordanian Dinars to go as student financial aid for the next 5 years if they win the elections. And if they don’t, where does this 1 million go? No idea if it even exists.

The two blocs stand there and call for unity among the parties. They even hug it out, and they go back to their shaming each other and calling out each other for not answering the questions asked and not making women a part of their parties.

And the students get so hyped! I’m pretty sure the revenue for the koffiyeah factory went up, with all the koffiyeahs, in all its colors, on students’ shoulders. The media gets hyped! It’s rumored that BZU student council elections get more coverage than any other political election in Palestine.

Today was voting day. There are five different spots students vote in according to their student ID numbers, and then, everyone waits for the results. How were the results this year?

The voting turn out was 76% out of the students eligible to vote. The Islamic Bloc won 25 seats compared to a 19 seats won by the other bloc out of a total of 51. Note that the Islamic Bloc won last year, making this a two-in-a-row win for them.

This is my last year attending BZU Student Council elections. What have I learned? People call for change and conformity and unity and division at the same time every damn time.







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