Otherwise Occupied

The Six Things That the Palestinian Troops’ Crushing of Ramallah Protests Prove

Fatah is clinging with all its might to the rather meager power it extracts from running the PA under the vicious Israeli military regime

A child looks on as security officials keep watch during a protest calling on President Mahmoud Abbas to end financial sanctions on Palestinians in Gaza, in Ramallah
ABBAS MOMANI/AFP

The Palestinian Authority’s violent suppression last Wednesday evening of a demonstration by protesters objecting to the PA’s restrictive policies against the Gaza Strip proves:

1. That the PA and the party at its helm, Fatah, have no intention of holding parliamentary elections

Anyone interested in holding free elections doesn’t brutally suppress a small demonstration in a manner that combines the expertise of the Israeli occupation with that of the Syrian and Egyptian security forces. Anyone interested in winning elections doesn’t resort to methods that repel a majority of their public, alienating it even further from its unelected leadership.

2. That the Fatah movement is clinging with all its might to the rather meager power it extracts from running the PA under the vicious Israeli military regime

Otherwise, it would have publicly and immediately disassociated itself from the way that Palestinian security agencies made use of young people identified as Fatah members. (At least some were from the Jalazun refugee camp, as Rami Younes, who writes on the Sihah Mekomit and +972 Israeli websites, was told. Younes was present at Wednesday evening’s demonstration and reported on it in chilling detail.)

3.That the fear of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas within the Fatah movement is sky-high

There are Fatah members who oppose the suppression of the demonstration, which demanded the lifting of punitive measures that Abbas had imposed on Gaza even though they do share the criticism leveled against the protesters (for example, that they are minimizing Hamas’ responsibility for the situation in Gaza and Hamas’ evasion of its obligations to the civilian population of the Strip). These opponents within Fatah remain silent over fear of losing their salaries or over their possible exclusion from the institutions of Fatah, which are like home for them.

4.That the PA knows how to plan and organize when it wants to, contrary to the impression that its subjects receive in the PA ministries

There they encounter chaos, a lack of planning and organization and poor coordination, along with a great deal of apathy.

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The Palestinian Authority has been exceptionally successful in combining the work of a number of its institutions to deter potential protesters from showing up, and then suppressing and punishing those who were not deterred. These institutions include the PA government, the president’s office, and visible security forces as well as plainclothes forces – Fatah activists or those pretending to be. They all worked together like a well-oiled machine.

They were all preceded by copywriters, graphic artists and print shops that prepared giant posters that were hung in Ramallah’s Al-Manara Square, heaping praise on the PA and its financial support for the Gaza Strip, while stating that the root of the disaster in Gaza was the Hamas “coup” (a reference to Hamas’ takeover of Palestinian security agencies in the Gaza Strip in 2007, following the movement’s victory in parliamentary elections). The posters were complemented by cheap propaganda about the protesters being employees of NGOs that were padded with foreign cash and were in service to a foreign agenda.

Last Tuesday the Palestinian cabinet condemned the protests that had already been held before Wednesday evening, claiming that they were diverting attention from the responsibility that the Israeli occupation and Hamas bear for the situation in Gaza. That same evening, an official statement was released saying that on the advice of Abbas’ adviser for local affairs, it was decided that demonstrations and protests would be banned until the end of Ramadan and of the three-day Id al-Fitr holiday, which began Thursday night, to avoid disrupting the festivities and holiday shopping.

Those who defied the ban were met by a large contingent of Palestinian security forces of various kinds. At the same time that the forces began throwing tear gas and stun grenades, at the same time that plainclothes thugs began confiscating cameras and assaulting and arresting demonstrators both male and female, a demonstration in support of Abbas was being held in Nablus. That demonstration, however, was not dispersed by anyone.

5. That the status quo is greatly valued by the PA

The 1995 Taba agreement with Israel bars Palestinian security services from deploying in Area B of the West Bank – the portion officially under full Israeli military control and Palestinian civilian control – unless it is coordinated with Israel. It also bars them from operating in Area C, which is under full Israeli military and civilian control. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians live in Areas B and C, where they are left vulnerable to violence from Jewish settlers and from the Israeli police and military. The Taba accord expired 19 years ago, but the PA continues to observe it and doesn’t dispatch its security forces to physically defend its own people. If it would, who knows how Israel would exact revenge, perhaps withdrawing the concessions on freedom of movement that senior PA officials receive, or the commercial and quarrying permits that they and their relatives have been issued.

6.That the Palestinian cabinet was correct in saying that the protest was diverting attention from the occupation

These lines are written on the violent suppression of the protest instead of being devoted to how Israel has extended the administrative detention by another four months of Palestinian legislator Khalida Jarrar, who has already been held in prison without trial for a year. We’re not writing about the demolition order issued on the home of Latifa Abu Hamid in the Al-Amari refugee camp. One of her sons is suspected of killing an armed soldier from the Duvdevan unit who was part of a force that raided the camp about a month ago. Israelis don’t recognize the right of Palestinian civilians to defend themselves from armed Israeli raids. Even before the son is brought to a military court, his entire family is being punished.

Just imagine what will happen in the small, cramped camp when the Israeli army enters the camp with bulldozers and armored vehicles. And who would stay away? The Palestinian security forces, the same forces that have trained in Russia and Jordan, Egypt and Romania and with the FBI and European police forces and that violently dispersed a quiet protest in Al-Manara Square in Ramallah.