A Fatah member considered a loyalist of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told me over the weekend that he and his teenage son had bitterly quarreled. The subject: the boy’s Facebook posts that harshly criticized Abbas.
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Fearing reprisals from people on the street, the man convinced his son to delete some of the posts and tone down others. But he understood the anger of his son and his generation.
“This is a generation that grew up after the Oslo Accords and was fairly young during the second intifada. This generation cheered Abu Mazen (Abbas) when he spoke from the UN podium asking for recognition from the world and the international community — a generation that innocently thought a Palestinian state was within reach and now feels that everything has blown up,” the Fatah member said.
“At the moment of truth there is no state and no sovereignty. It’s the same cruel occupation, the same checkpoints, the same settlements that are expanding before [my son’s] and his friends’ eyes. The same army, the same terrible midnight visits and searches — everything under the pretext of security,” the Fatah member said, adding that the current situation will boomerang on everyone.
Anyone who has been traveling around the West Bank in recent days understands that the boy’s anger is nothing unusual. It’s the general feeling in cities and villages from Hebron in the south to Jenin in the north.
Right after the kidnapping of the three Israeli teenagers, one could speak of shock mixed with support in the West Bank, while others were silent. The Israelis’ big wave of arrests was expected; during the first week it took place with little incident. But there has been an escalation in recent days. More and more young people are going out onto the streets and confronting the troops.
“No jeep left here without a scratch,” boasted a 17-year-old boy. The longer the conflict lasts, the more tensions will increase. “Now we see that they’re going into homes out of frustration and anger,” the teenager said. “It looks like they’re settling scores with everyone.”
The scene on the street calls to mind images of the first intifada — young people throwing stones and bottles at soldiers. But this time a key variable is in the picture: the Palestinian Authority’s security forces. On Friday, after a wave of arrests in Hebron, Palestinian forces prevented marches organized by Hamas. Palestinian police fired into the air to disperse the demonstrators, who were chanting slogans against the security coordination between Israel and the PA.
Officials in Ramallah aren’t hiding their anger over Abbas’ speech when he demanded that the three teenagers be released; many people say he didn’t speak in the same tone about Israel’s violations in the West Bank or Palestinian prisoners’ suffering. Palestinians understood this very well, and Abbas’ subsequent efforts to repair the bad impression didn’t help much.
So now we’re getting demonstrations and marches. Hamas is showing signs of supporting an intifada, putting Abbas and his deputies in a tight spot. On the one hand, Israel is constantly applying pressure. On the other, the Palestinians are showing signs of despair. Abbas will have to decide where he’s headed — coordination with Israel or with his own people.