Palestinians use social media to urge Hamas-Fatah unity

By
March 9, 2011 18:34

Groups on Facebook call for reconciliation between factions, while Hamas, Fatah use internet to incite against each other.

4 minute read.



"Peace on Facebook" project

Peace on Facebook 311. (photo credit: peace.facebook.com)

Inspired by the current wave of popular uprisings that have hit the Arab world, Palestinians are also using Facebook to send various types of messages to their leaders and the international community.

The Palestinians’ most urgent message – at least as illustrated by Facebook postings – is a call for unity between Hamas and Fatah.

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Several groups that popped up recently on Facebook and other social media sites are trying to change the situation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip by pressuring Hamas and Fatah into putting their differences aside in favor of the interests of their constituents.

Others are using Facebook to call for protests against Israel.

Hamas and Fatah, on the other hand, have also been using Facebook to incite against each other.

“We are learning from the Facebook youth in Tunisia and Egypt,” said Ahmed Asakreh, one of the activists behind the unity campaign. “We believe that the young people in the Arab world now have a strong force – one that scares dictators and corrupt leaders.”

Thousands of Palestinians have joined a campaign on Facebook calling for mass rallies on March 15 as a way of exerting pressure on the two rival parties to end the dispute.

The rallies will start at 11:30 a.m. and continue “until we achieve all our goals,” those behind the campaign declared.

“The rallies will be the first of their kind in Palestine,” said Nuha Ammar, another Facebook activist. “We will continue our campaign until Fatah and Hamas do something.”

One of the groups behind the campaign, which is titled, “The People Want to End the Division,” has identified itself as Gaza Youth Breaks Out.

The group has thus far won the support of nearly 21,000 people.

Members of the group have yet to reveal their identities because some say they are afraid of the governments in the Gaza Strip and West Bank.

Hamas has been cracking down on Palestinians who demonstrate in public to demand an end to the power struggle between the Islamist movement and Fatah.

Earlier this week, Hamas policemen arrested six activists who staged a sit-in strike in Gaza City to demand unity between the two parties.

The group has called on its supporters to translate its manifesto into as many languages as possible and distribute it.

The manifesto declares, among other things: “Yes, we voted for Hamas government [in January 2006]. We all did. We were tired of Fatah’s corruption.

We wanted a change and hoped Hamas would be that change. That is precisely what gives us the right to shout our anger at them, because they are responsible for us, responsible for our well-being, our security.

Fatah in the West Bank arrests Hamas affiliates; Hamas in Gaza arrests Fatah affiliates. Yes, we denounce our politicians because their mutual hatred divided them.”

The activists outlined three major demands: “We want to be free. We want to be able to live a normal life. We want peace. Is that too much to ask?” In the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority has also showed signs of nervousness over grassroots movements that call for a “revolution” against the division or identify with pro-democracy protesters in the Arab world.

Hamas and Fatah have repeatedly vowed to work toward ending their dispute, but to no avail. Over the past three years, mediation efforts by Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Qatar and Egypt to persuade the two sides to form a unity government have failed.

PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, who has been entrusted by President Mahmoud Abbas with establishing a new cabinet, recently proposed an initiative to end the dispute, but his initiative has been rejected by both Hamas and Fatah for different reasons.

Hamas says it does not recognize Fayyad as prime minister, while Fatah claims that the initiative consolidates the split between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip because it allows Hamas to retain security control in the Strip.

Fayyad himself has also gone on Facebook, but to consult with Palestinians about the make-up of his new cabinet. He has also began answering questions presented to him by young men and women on Facebook.

Organizers of the March 15 rallies also urged all Palestinian factions to unite under the banner of Palestine to reform the political system “based on the interests and aspirations of the Palestinian people in the homeland and the Diaspora.”

Other pages on the Facebook were calling for a third intifada, Channel 1 reported Wednesday evening.

According to the report, since the pages calling for Palestinians to launch a civilian uprising went online at the beginning of the week, they have garnered the support of some 40,000 people.


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