Is it the Palestinian spring?

[ PIC 09/09/2012 – 09:55 PM ]

By Khalid Amayreh

Thousands of Palestinians have been taking to the streets in major west bank towns to protest the worst economic crisis to hit the occupied territories since the start of the Israeli occupation in 1967.

Protesters called for the resignation of Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, holding him responsible for mounting economic deprivation, rising cost of living and rampant poverty.

The protesters accused the Fayyad government of being at Israel’s beck and call.

It is widely expected that street protests will continue to take place in the days and weeks to come as the cost of living has reached unprecedented levels, forcing many Palestinians to make painful austerity measures and income adjustments.

The PA government in Ramallah, which is unable to pay salaries to some 160,000 civil servants, says it has no miracle solution for the problem, which it blamed on “international factors.”

In a series of press and televised interviews, Fayyad admitted that there was a “real problem,” saying Palestinians needed to be patient.

“There are those who think that a government decision or measure would solve these problems. But this type of thinking is naïve to say the least.

“Some people think that if we revoke the Paris economic protocol it would free us from subservience to Israel. This thinking is even more naïve, since Israel is in tight control of the border crossings and can blockade us completely. In the final analysis, we are under the Israeli military occupation.”

Fayad did say he was willing to resign “if such a step would help solve the problem.”

However, Fayyad’s explanations are unlikely to convince a large number of Palestinians to give Ramallah the benefit of the doubt.

In the final analysis, Fayad is implementing the policies of Mahmoud Abbas, the Chairman of the PLO and President of the PA.

So far, protestors have refrained from targeting the PA itself and its chairman, Abbas. But this could change in the coming few days as signs suggest a wider and probably more violent social explosion could take place.

Some observers argue that the attacks on Fayyad are considered vicarious attacks on Abbas and that the PA leader is no way enjoying exalted status.

The PA has enlisted its many spokespersons to defend its stance. The PA Minister of Wakf and Islamic Affair instructed Jumaa (Friday) speakers across the West Bank to give sermons defending the Fayadh government, blaming the crisis on external factors.

However, very few imams heeded the instructions as ordinary worshipers were in no mood to listen to government propaganda.

Visibly frustrated, the Wakf Minister, Muhammed Habbash, blamed Hamas and several Arab states for the social-economic crisis. However, he dutifully avoided any allusion to the widespread corruption and mismanagement permeating through the PA institutions.

Nor did he sufficiently mention the real underlying cause of the problem, namely the fact that the PA is a superficial and artificial entity functioning under and answerable to the Israeli occupation.

Indeed, most PA officials and spokespersons have been carefully avoiding this root cause in their numerous press conferences and interviews pertaining to the crisis.

“I noticed this. They are simply too embarrassed to highlight this factor although everyone with minimal knowledge of Palestinian affairs realized that it is impossible to build a prosperous and sustained economy under a sinister foreign military occupation,” said Ahmed Sharabati, an Islamist media activist in Hebron.

“How can an entity whose electricity comes from Israel, whose water comes from Israel, whose money comes from the donor countries and the very oxygen it breathes comes from the enemy, how could such an entity stand on its feet?”

Another PA operative, the Governor of Hebron Kamel Hmeid, urged social solidarity to fight the “ghoul of poverty.” The PA, under Israeli and American pressure, had waged a relentless war on Islamist charitable institutions and Zakat committees, accusing these bodies of serving Hamas’s interests.

Traditionally, Islamic charities bore a significant burden in combating poverty among Palestinians, inviting the wrath of the Israeli intelligence and security apparatus, which couldn’t understand why the Palestinian society didn’t collapse under Israel’s harsh measures, including starving the masses in order to make them surrender to the will of the occupier.

Soon after charitable institutions were handed over to Fatah loyalists under American and Israeli insistence, most of these institutions went bankrupt due to two main reasons, financial mismanagement and refusal of donors, especially from Saudi Arabia and Arab Gulf states, to support the charities, mainly for mistrusting the new Fatah-dominated boards managing them.

There is no doubt that the current crisis could have serious negative consequences on the overall Palestinian cause as it could weaken the Palestinians’ ability to further withstand the Israeli occupation.

In the final analysis, hunger is the ultimate humilator, especially in the Palestinian context where a callous military occupier (Israel) is lying in wait for any sign that would make the Zionists move to their next step in their evil design to liquidate the Palestinian problem.

The current protests in occupied Palestine are unlikely to produce far-reaching consequences in terms of liberating the Palestinians from Zionist bullying.

After all, occupied Palestine is not Egypt or Tunisia since the final say belongs to Israel, not to the Palestinian masses, at least under the current circumstances. Hence, it would be misleading and naïve to expect the recurrence of the Arab Spring in occupied Palestine.

Indeed, despite its ills, defects and many blemishes, the PA is not the problem, but a reflection of the problem. The real problem is the Israeli occupation. In the final analysis, the PA is a slave to the Zionist master and is only carrying out its policies and instructions.

And even if the current wave of protests succeeded in overthrowing the Fayyad government, the same type of crises would still reproduce themselves thanks to the enduring factor of the Israeli occupation.

The PA is worried that the escalation of protest could undermine the stature and even survival of the PA and the PLO. The PA was always presented and portrayed as penultimate step before the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.

However, many Palestinians have come to view the PA as a real obstacle impeding the creation of a viable and territorially contiguous state with Jerusalem as its capital.

Last week, a number of PLO officials warned that the two-state solution strategy was virtually dead. But the current PLO leadership, e.g. President Abbas and the coteries around him, seem to adamantly cling to the moribund peace process which is going nowhere except to the dustbin of history.

On the other hand, the PA is bidding on a speedy international intervention to bail it out and come to the rescue. Unfortunately, the PA seems correct in adopting this mode of thinking. In the final analysis, the survival of the PA is an American, European and above all Israeli interest. Hence, one could safely state that the American-dominated international community will not allow the current crisis in the occupied territories to go out of control.

Could it be that maintaining the PA is the most effective method of corroding and liquidating the Palestinian cause?


Related: Israel. Not looking for Peace. Nor Talks. But this…


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