by Ali Abu Shahla
Fatah’s 48th anniversary was supposed to be celebrated on the first of January, 2013, but the delay was due to the refusal of the Hamas movement and government to allow the festival to take place in the site devoted for festivals in Gaza called the "Land of the Battalion." That is where Hamas celebrated last month the 25th anniversary of its founding, and where the Fatah movement and other Palestinian factions used to celebrate before Hamas took over absolute power in Gaza on June 2007. This led to the postponement of the ceremony till another place was decided upon. There was disagreement between Hamas leaders in Gaza about allowing the Fatah festival to take place at all, and one of the leaders of Hamas even requested from Prime Minister of the Government of Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, to remove the platform erected for the festival on the night prior to the day of the celebration. However, Haniyeh did not agree to that!!
Half a million people came!
The Festival was held on the 4th of January, 2013 in the location specified by the Gaza government. It was a big surprise to everyone when some citizens begun arriving at the site of the celebration the day before and spent the whole night there. On the day of the celebration itself ( Friday, 04/01/2013), supporters came in groups and the place of festival was totally filled, while the surrounding streets were also closed to traffic despite their importance as main streets in Gaza City. Estimates on the number of participants in the festival differed, from half a million to one million citizens, but the best estimate was about half a million people who came to participate in the festival from all over the Gaza Strip. And the majority of the participants were young people who did not participate in the previous elections in 2006 and which brought Hamas to power!!
The presence of such a large number (almost double those who participated in the celebration of Hamas last month) stunned all observers, and it even stunned Fatah leaders themselves and, of course, stunned Hamas, which did not expect this number of participants (one of the Hamas leaders expected a maximum of 50,000 participants).
Messages to Hamas, Fatah and Israel
Not all those who participated in the festival belonged to the Fatah movement. Many of the citizens who participated in the festival wanted to attend to send a message to Hamas, which has absolute power in the Gaza Strip, that they are dissatisfied with its performance, especially with regard to social and economic problems afflicting the majority of the citizens in the Gaza Strip, due to the increase in poverty, unemployment and the lack of investment and export opportunities as a result of the continuation of the Israeli blockade. They also wanted to send a message that the majority of the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip want to end the division and restore national unity of the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
On the other hand, this large number of participants sent a message to the Israeli officials who still claim that President Abbas does not represent all Palestinians. With their presence at the festival they expressed support for the leaders of the Palestinian people under the leadership of President Mahmoud Abbas. But Fatah must also consider its responsibility, and not think that all these participants are absolutely supporting Fatah. This was a message to all Palestinian leaders about the need to end the Palestinian division and to improve the social and economic conditions.