A visit with Fatah in Hebron
“After the election in 2006, we were contacted by social democratic parties from many countries. But we get along best with the Swedes”, says Khaled Tomaizi at Fatahs party district in Hebron, The West Bank.
“You have no hidden agenda, but really want to help build democracy."
The building where Fatah in Hebron has its premises looks half-finished and the staircase to the second floor seems makeshift. Pictures of the former and current Palestinian Presidents, Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas signal we have come to the right place.
Hebron is one of several Fatah districts that have so-called “party close support” via the Palme Center. (see the fact box) The co-operative partner is often a Swedish social democratic party district and for Hebron it is the party district in Uppsala.
“The exchange with Uppsala is very important to us,” says Mohammed Hroub, secretary in the party district and on ordinary days a university teacher. Like several others in the board he has been to Uppsala on a study visit or undergone courses there together with Swedish party colleagues.
“We have many different experiences, but also quite a few common issues and problems. We learn from each other!”
Today, two of the Palme Centre’s colleagues are visiting to find out from the board how the operation is working and go through accounting routines for the financial support.
“Tell us a bit about your current situation,” begins Carina Eriksson, program administrator for Palestine, Iraq and Western Sahara.
“Hebron is a difficult party district, for several reasons,” explains Khaled Thomaizi,
“The inner city has been strongly conservative for several decades and here the rival party Hamas has a strong hold.In addition, a group of Jewish settlers has moved there, which means that the ancient alleys and bazaars are now guarded by heavily armed Israeli soldiers. Trade that has undergone here for a century has, in principle, stopped and the frustration is growing among the Palestinian population.”
“We have conducted comprehensive discussions on all levels in the party about why we lost the 2006 election,” continues Thomaizi.
“People here in Hebron didn’t think that we did anything for them. We had too little focus on the women and lacked a good social programme. Added to this were accusations of corruption and a lack of openness within the party. Now we are trying to rectify this before the next election, which may take place next year”
Carina Eriksson is also inquiring about the educational need for next year. An important part of the party support is education for party officials and members.
The person managing the studies is well prepared. Human rights, teamwork and how one strengthens the party discipline, getting members to pay membership fees and carry out what they have promised are some topics, as well as involving and strengthening women’s interests in the party.
“We always choose people both from the local divisions and the youth and student association for our training,” he states. “And we ensure that the same people don’t go on several courses.”
The board thinks that the Palme Center and Sweden are good to co-operate with.
“A number of social democratic parties have their own agenda and make demands in order to co-operate with us. But not you Swedes. With you we have an equal dialogue.”
Magdalena Agrell, controller at the Palme Center goes through how the financial support shall be accounted for. The board listens, takes notes and asks some questions. Most are already familiar with the routines but it is important that the knowledge is kept alive.
“The better you can show that the money is used well, the easier it is to get continued support”, she concludes.
“As you know, the money comes from Swedish taxpayers and they will understandably want to know that the funds are used in the best way possible.”
It is time to go down the makeshift stairs and then through the roadblocks to the next district to get a visit. Is there any reasonable solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict within the foreseeable future?
“Absolutely”; says one of the members and smiles friendly.
“Basically it is about hope. If those of us who live here lose hope, then it is all over.”