In one Nablus home, Hamas is all in the family

"I am Fatah, but I voted Hamas because they will work for the good of all the Palestinians."

Hamas supporters298.88 (photo credit: Rafael D. Frankel)
Hamas supporters298.88
(photo credit: Rafael D. Frankel)
This city has long been known as the city of Fatah, and Subhi Sayyed, a thin man with grey hair and a worn leather jacket, has been a lifelong member of the party, joining it when it was founded. But in Wednesday's elections, he voted Hamas. "I am Fatah," said Sayyed, sitting on a couch surrounded by his wife and daughters in their rented home. "But I voted Hamas because they will work for the good of all the Palestinians." His daughters laughed. "He's the only one left in the family who's Fatah," they said. He's not the first man in his family to support Hamas. On the living room wall across from him was a large picture in the shape of mandatory Palestine, and in the center was the face of his son. In July 2001 his 19-year-old son, Ashraf, blew himself up next to soldiers at the entrance to a settlement in the Jordan Valley. Ashraf found Hamas through a combination of becoming more religious and reacting to violence around him. He grew a beard, prayed regularly and studied the Koran instead of going to university. When seven of his friends were killed in an Israeli missile strike on a Hamas office in Nablus, he decided to take revenge. "He had his ideas and they were different from ours," said Sayyed, 54, adding softly, "He left us." Unlike his son, Sayyed is secular and believes in a two-state solution. That did not stop him from voting Hamas. Sayyed, who works for the Palestinian labor union, chose Hamas this election because its candidates have a clean reputation and oppose corruption. He believes they will work harder and be more successful in achieving a better situation for the Palestinians and the peace that he longs for. Around Nablus, the contest between Fatah and Hamas raged on Wednesday. Hamas supporters wearing green scarves and caps lined one side of the entrance to the polling stations and Fatah activists wearing black and white keffiyeh-style scarves lined the other. Young girls with head scarves were on either side, passing out flyers for the parties. The ones wearing jeans were Fatah, the ones wearing long overcoats were Hamas. Like most Hamas voters, Sayyed believes Fatah did not work hard enough for all the people. "Fatah did not work to get permission for Palestinian laborers to work in Israel," he said, overlooking the fact that Hamas terrorist attacks made that goal more difficult. "Hamas will work to make agreements to allow the laborers to work in Israel because they care about all the Palestinians." Sayyed compared Hamas's success to that of Amir Peretz in the Labor Party. "You see how he won? It's because he worked in the Histadrut for all the people," he said. Before the Aksa intifada broke out, Sayyed visited the Histadrut twice as part of a delegation of Palestinian labor union leaders. "I was very impressed," he said. The women of his family have long been Hamas supporters. Since Ashraf blew himself up and the army consequently destroyed their house, the once apolitical sisters put their support behind Hamas. "We are not members, but we believe that Hamas is better than Fatah," said Mayse, 25, a university student, wearing jeans and glasses. "Fatah only helps its own people." She and her sister Ula, 26, are secular; their long dark hair is not covered. Ula recently graduated from An-Najah University. Echoing the opinions of other Hamas voters in Nablus, the eldest daughter, Shireen, 31, said she chose Hamas both because of religion and its clean reputation, but not because of its suicide attacks on Israelis. "We oppose killing civilians," said Shireen, who has covered her hair since her younger brother's death. The family says that once in government Hamas will lay down its arms. "The situation will become calmer because Hamas will no longer be in the opposition. It will have to be part of the solution," said Ula. Whether for religious reasons or to stop corruption, the whole family believes that change is needed and Hamas can bring it. Even those too young to vote were getting into the spirit. "Hamas, Hamas, Hamas," chanted five-year-old Dudu, a visiting relative, finishing with a line that made everyone laugh: "Fatah are thieves."