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January 15, 2006

Palestinian Poster Wars: Face Time


Let me present you with a ridiculous hypothesis.

What if I were to say that the Hamas candidates (lower photo) had a better chance of winning in the upcoming Palestinian parliamentary elections because they are more individually identifiable and less identified with the past than the Fatah candidates above.

(In the Fatah shot, the candidates come off as relatively small, background figures in comparison to their icons, Yassir Arafat and Marwan Barghouti, to whom they remain dependent for stature and propping up.  In contrast, the Hamas figures front a banner of their own iconic leader — the martyred Sheik Ahmed Yassin — but make do without borrowing from his stature … or being dragged down by his polarizing effects.)


Sounds thoroughly over-determined by two random images, right?

On the other hand, having looked through a couple hundred newswire
images relating to the upcoming vote, maybe the hypothesis has
something to it.  In an admittedly cursory YahooNews survey from a few days ago, I was able to find seven
photos of named Hamas candidate depicted either in person or on a
campaign poster (without the accompanying image of a Hamas "father
figure" such as Sheik Yassin).  I also found four photos or posters of a named independent
Palestinian candidates (also displayed without addition of any well
known or historical party figure).  However, I couldn’t find one photo or poster image of a named Fatah candidate that didn’t also include the image of Arafat (or the jailed Marwan Barghouti).

Of course, such results — based on images compiled by Western editors
for a primarily Western audience — might be the result of random
factors.  It might also say something about the ubiquity and popularity
of an icon such as Yassir Arafat.

On the other hand, perhaps it does demonstrate that
Fatah, which has thoroughly dominated the Palestinian Parliament to
date, suddenly lacks the kind of personalities, platform, credibility
or popularity to convey a contemporary face (or set of faces) to the

(image 1: Adel Hana/A.P.
January 6, 2006.  Gaza City.  Via YahooNews.  image 2; Suhaib
Salem/Reuters.  January 3, 2006.  Gaza.  Via YahooNews.)

  • ummabdulla

    It seems like Fatah doesn’t really stand for anything, and its individual politicians don’t have much stature on their own, so all they can do is push pictures of Yasser Arafat. If so, I don’t think they’ll have much success, because when I moved to the Middle East (14 years ago), I was surprised to find that all of the Palestinians I met really didn’t like him. Marwan Barghouti might have some appeal, though.
    Hamas, on the other hand, stands for something, whether or not it makes references to Sheik Ahmed Yassin. It’s the Islamic party; it still believes in fighting against the Israeli occupation; it has a network of social services; it’s not see as corrupt and out-of-touch, like the party of Yasser Arafat’s cronies. Just the green color and the candidate’s beard or hijab are enough to make that association.

  • ummabdulla

    I also noticed that the Fatah posters have a nationalist theme – they’re wearing the black and white checked keffiya and feature photos of the Dome of the Rock, which symbolizes Palestine (although it does have Islamic significance too.)
    The Hamas photo (and I can’t read the writing) makes no reference to Palestine at all. You can instantly identify them as religious Muslims, but you wouldn’t necessarily know where they’re from.

  • marysz

    The photo of Hamas actually has a woman in it. Women voters could be the real key to Hamas’ success in the elections. I’m not all that knowledgeable about Palestinian politics, but doesn’t Hamas actually provide social services to ordinary Palestinians? What does Fatah have to offer female voters?

  • itwasnt me

    Hamas is the winner here. No old dead guys, nice consistant green color, baseball caps (that dreadful American plague given to the world) a woman, not a lot of visual clutter. To western eyes, no choice about who has the stuff.
    Off topic: has everyone read Al Gore’s speech? DU and Kos, I believe, have links. Fabulous – a speech for the ages.

  • itwasnt me

    Oh, and I was going to thank Ummabdulla again for her valuable contributions to this site.

  • jt from BC

    I strongly second, ITWASNT ME on Ummabdulla’s contributions otherwise I would still be simply gazing at photographs without a context.
    I admit to getting carried away from the basic purpose of this site and am working on restraining this habit, its much easier without fotonique…I miss him as well and hope hes in good health and not bored with twits like me.

  • readytoblowagasket

    First thread: Hmmm . . . I see chaos vs. unity for the Palestinians. If those are the two choices, it’s easy to pick one.
    Second thread: I bet The BAG could lure fotonique back (at least temporarily) if he posts a military photo and then states that the photo shows a bias.

  • janinsanfran

    I do think the Fatah candidates’ need to represent themselves through heroic icons suggests a weakness. But we have to remember, this kind of imaging sometimes works. I wouldn’t dare to make a prediction.

  • ummabdulla

    Thanks for the nice compliments…
    If you look at the photos in Yahoo News about the Palestinian elections, there are quite a few showing women who are Hamas candidates or supporters. Here’s one.
    I don’t see any women in any Fatah pictures, but then there aren’t many Fatah pictures. I don’t know if there are any women associated with them; a picture of Suha (Yasser Arafat’s widow) wouldn’t win them many votes.
    Hanan Ashrawi is running on another list.

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