Day of Reconciliation in Palestine

Palestine Monitor|15 March 2011
On a bright day in Ramallah, Al-Manara circle filled with protesters demanding an end to the division of the Palestinian leadership for the “Day of Reconciliation.” Hundreds of Palestinian flags whipped taut in the crisp wind, while loud music was projected from a stereo system wheeled in on a pick-up truck. Small groups of ebullient youth danced, sang and chanted together. By 12:30pm, the protest had already outsized previous unity demonstrations held over the last two months. Maan News estimated around 3,000 people in attendance.
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An estimated 3,000 came out to Ramallah on 15 March, “Day of Reconciliation.” Photo by Lazar Simeonov

Two days ago, a small but resolute group of youth committed themselves to camping out in al-Manara on a hunger strike until the two governments in the West Bank and Gaza Strip agreed on a united government. Fadi Quran, an organizer of the demonstration and the hunger strike told AFP, “We slept here to prove that we are the ones running this campaign.”

Quran’s words speak to the anticipated appropriation of the day’s demonstration by political factions, namely Fatah. At the beginning of the day’s rally, an outspoken group of Fatah-supporters distinguished themselves by chanting pro-Fatah and PA slogans while the rest of the crowd kept to the agenda, calling for non-partisan unity.

On a rooftop overlooking the packed crowd, one onlooker explains that some people are calling for the end of the authority and some are calling for unity.

One demonstrator, Qusai Antaree, 42, works for the Ministry of Interior told Palestine Monitor while holding prayer beads, “I’m a normal person, I’m a Palestinian, not Fatah or Hamas.”

Eiad Quffa, 18, told PM, “I am Palestinian, I do not belong to any party, I belong to the welfare of Palestine.” Quffa, a student at the Friends Boys’ School plans to attend Bir Zeit University next year to study business management.

He said he came to the demonstration to demand an end the division between Fatah, Hamas and all political factions; remove the occupation; and reelect the Palestinian Legislative Council, in Arabic, Majlis Watani.

Rami Azzeh, 22, works with the Macrofiscal Unit of the Palestinian Authority told PM, “We’re here to participate because this is a national demand from all Palestinians. It’s the time now for Palestine to be united to face bigger problems like the occupation, so we can build a state, institutions and a free country.”

Azzeh went on to say, “We’re asking our leaders to start caring about Palestinian interests. We have a saying in Arabic, that the leader is the servant of the people. At the end in Egypt and Tunisia, the leaders listened to the people’s demands.”

Continuing, Antaree said, “ We have one message to the government: we want Gaza and the West Bank to be one. We are as a Palestinian population one. We are one people, one land, we want unity.”

Yet despite what seemed like a unanimous call for unity among the demonstrators, the protest still displayed emblematic signs of factionalization.

Tony Abdul, 24, told PM that he was concerned with how much Fatah dominated the protest, “The leaders of Fatah are here—that is the problem and the solution because they are the problem here. Hamas is the problem in Gaza.”

News had spread to al-Manara that a large group of Hamas supporters disrupted the mirror demonstration in Gaza City today.

Abdul went on to say, “They [Fatah leaders] are talking about stopping division, but they are not doing that, they are just speaking to the press and the media, but not doing anything.”

As the crowd began to thin at around 3:00pm, one of the participants in the hunger strike, Hamza Obeid, 22, told PM that he is happy with how the day proceeded, “With the exception of the few sparks between Fatah and youth organizers, I think the day was a success.”

This evening, strikers will remain in al-Manara for their third night.

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