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Poster of PA President Abbas in Bethlehem.


by Rhonda Spivak, February 10, 2011

It has arguably not been a good week for  Palestinianian Authortiy  President Mahmoud Abbas.

Last Saturday February 5, The Palestinian Authority finally allowed a protest to take place in Ramallah in solidarity with thre Egyptian people against Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, after  PA security forces had shut down previous attempts by protesters to hold such rallies several days earlier. While this protest has not received wide coverage in the international media, it may well be a harbinger of things to come.

Ma'an News Agency reported that  there were about 1000 protesters, and "Residents, students and civil society representatives raised Egyptian flags and posters called on the Egyptian president to resign. Protesters held banners including "From Ramallah to Tahrir Square, the people want change," and "Down with oppressive regimes." []

Ma'an, however,  did not mention in its report that some of the protesters began calling for the downfall of  PA President Mahmoud Abbas, something which  Amira Hass, reporting in Ha'aretz did include. For her full story, click here.

As Hass wrote,  "Toward the end of the protest, a slogans quarrel erupted. "The people want the fall of Abbas!" chanted a number of students, apparently from Bir Zeit University, referring to Mahmoud Abbas, president of the PA. They were immediately countered by the chant: "The people want an end to the inqisam" (the internal Palestinian rift).[emphasis added]

 "Eventually, when hardly any demonstrators remained at the square, a group of youths appeared out of nowhere with flags of Fatah and pictures of Abbas, chanting: "The people want Mahmoud Abbas!"

While this protest  (which organizers said  actually had 2000 people) has not received wide coverage in the international media, it may well be  and indication of what is yet to come. In my view, it is highly unlikely that the  PA would have allowed the protest without making sure there were ample supporters of Abbas present, yet notwithstandin this, calls for Abbas's downfall were heard.The fact that Hass reported that at the end a group of youths appeared with flags and pictures of Abbas may well suggest that the regime was ready to use youths to help it stage an appearance of  loyalty and support for Abbas.

Also, of interest is that Ma'an reported that protesters at the event  complained that the security forces were using "excessive force."

Below is a video of the demonstration-which shows at the end of the video it got rather heated [more of this article continures after the video-please keep scrolling down]

Abbas is considered to  be close to Mubarak, such that the fall of Mubarak may well have implications for Abbas's survival as a leader of his people. Today, Ma'an reported that a senior aide to Abbas, Tayed Abdul Rahim launched a scathing attack yesterday against pro-democracy protesters demonstrating against Mubarak's  authoritarian rule. Abdel-Rahim said in a statement that thre protests were " being planned by international and regional forces with the help of local tools."

But, most of the talkbacks on Ma'an's website showed that Palestinians disagreed with him and  also are angry with the PA.. One talk backer wrote  that ".. us Palestinians we have the same feeling about you and your corrupt Palestinian turn is next." Another wrote: "The bribed clowns of PA show their true faces. Incredible." 

Another wrote: "I doubt the PA could get any more pathetic even if it tried its hardest. It is laughable how it accuses others of colluding and collaboration when it is the biggest Quisling entity in the history of Palestine." [ ]

The PA  initially chose to disallow any protests  in solidarity with the Egyptian people. Arguably the one on last Saturday was allowed, after realizing that when  other neighboring Arabs such as those in Jordan were protesting, it would look strange if the Palestinians were not doing anything at all.

Two days prior,on February 3, the PA banned protests in support of Egypt. Ma'an reported on Feb 4, that the PA banned “unlicensed’ gatherings to preserve order in the West Bank  in response to the demonstrations in Egypt. In the statement the PA security services spokesman Adnan Dmeiri  said that the demonstrations would "create chaos" and “The priority for Palestinians was to empower popular resistance against the occupation and to work for independence, he added.”

If one reads between thelines, the implication is that the regime feared that the  protesters may have turned their wrath not only against the occupation but againt  Abbas and the PA. Otherwise, what kind of chaos could Dmeiri be referring to?

According to Ma'an , in a statement, protest organizers insisted they would continue "mobilizing events in support of freedom of speech, against Israel’s occupation and apartheid, and in solidarity with struggles around the world, especially in the Arab world, for freedom, democracy and social justice."

In regard to democracy, Abbas's term as president  ended in January  2010, but elections have not  been held, for the reason that Fatah and Hamas are at odds with each other, and  without national reconciliation it is difficult logistically to call an election.  Ma'an has recently reported that Abbas is going to call national elections by September, in the aftermath of the recent protests in Egypt.

Sam Bahour, a Palestinian-American  who serves as a Board of Trustees member at Birzeit University wriote in Ma'an this week in an article entitled "Palestine is the key to Arab democracy" : (To read the full article, click here.)

"The obvious question is: if Palestinians are so experienced in taking to the streets, why then are there so few serious demonstrations in Nablus, Ramallah, Bethlehem or Gaza in solidarity with the Egyptian people? The reason is that the Palestinian Authority has been co-opted by a US-dominated and foreign-funded agenda which, in times of crisis, understands a single tool: force." 

He goes on to say:"The main factor preventing the Palestinians from continuing on their path to structural reform, following their first genuine elections in 2006, is the refusal of the US to accept the results of those elections." 

Bahour seems to be saying that the US and the world ought to have recognized Hamas as the truly elected respresentatives of the Palestinians in 2006--but if that is the case, then  Hamas would  rule in the West Bank since  they not only won in Gaza in 2006, but in the West Bank also. 

This summer after being in Ramallah I 

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.