Remarks made by a Fatah leader on the voting pattern of the Palestinian Christians in the 2006 parliamentary elections sparked wide criticism in the Palestinian territories.
Fatah movement official, Jibril Rojoub, said that “part of the Merry Christmas people”, in reference to Palestinian Christians, voted for Hamas” in an interview with an Egyptian channel.
Rujoub was pointing to the results of the 2006 legislative elections, in which Hamas trounced Fatah.
In 2006, Hamas fielded Christian candidates on its list in 2006, at least in the Gaza Strip, which won the vote.
“What did [Hamas] offer them? What did [Hamas] get them?” Rujoub went on to ask, in the interview, which was dominated by anti-Hamas campaigning content. The interview was said to have been shown on state-run Palestine TV.
Fatah movement was quick to distance itself from Rujoub’s remarks. According to one of its local officials in Bethlehem, the Palestinian Christians were “partners in blood and unity”. Hamas, for its part, joined the wave of criticism by lambasting Rujoub’s statement as “offensive”.
On Palestinian social media, users equally poured scorn on Rujoub’s statement, and some users uploaded video clips critical of the remarks.
|"What is your opinion of Rujoub's description of Christians as the Merry Christmas group?" a banner on the Faebook page of Islamic Jihad outlet Quds asked users for input.|
The remarks came as the campaign for the forthcoming local elections in October gained steam.
“Although those who know Rujoub will realize he used these words jokingly,” said London-based Al Quds Al Arabi newspaper, “but he made a mistake by using them in a TV interview in elections period.”
The remarks by Rujoub, who is also the head of the Palestinian Footballa Association (PFA), gain more significance in light of a recent decree by President Mahmud Abbas. In July, Abbas amended the election law to give Christian Palestinians bigger quotas in the municipal councils of some cities, such as Ramallah and Bethleham .
The move by Abbas was seen as an attempt to influence the vote in favour of Fatah, the secular group which tends to have more Christian supporters than Hamas.