Palestine: Demonstrations Against Rising Living Costs Continue

Protests against high prices and unemployment that started almost a week ago are continuing in major cities in the West Bank. On September 10, 2012 there was a call for strikes in public transportation and schools.

International and Palestinian activists have been participating in and writing about the demonstrations on Twitter and other social media platforms.

Activist Scott Campbell summarized the events taking place in a number of Palestinian cities:

‏@angrywhitekid: No public transport in Ramallah, Hebron, Nablus, Tulkarem… Tires burning in Nablus, Hebron & on road btwn Ramallah & Qalandia

Striking public sector employees gather in front of Prime Minister Fayyad's offices. Image by Twitter user @sheikhNB.

Blogger Ola Al-Tamimi, a resident of Hebron, was participating in and tweeting from the demonstrations. She saw how a peaceful demonstration started with chants against Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, then changed [ar]:

@OlaAlTamimi: أخيرا ظهر الغاز المسيل للجموع المختبىء في مخازن الشرطة كل هادا عشان الهتاف ضد أبو مازن والسلطة #الخليل
Finally, the tear gas which is hidden in police stores appeared. All of this happened because of the chants against Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] and the Palestinian Authority.

Ola was asked what was really behind these protests, and who was responsible for attacking the municipality building with stones later. She replied [ar]:

@OlaAlTamimi: الي في الشارع ناس عاديين ومنهم نشطاء وطنيين ..فجأة طلع مين يكسر ويخرب وعددهم لا يتجاوز 50 شخص من مظاهرة شارك فيها 10 الاف شخص
Those in the street were just normal people, including some activists. Suddenly a group turned up who were breaking and vandalizing things, but their number was no more than 50 out of 10,000 protesters.

These acts of vandalism resulted in clashes between the police and the protesters, as journalist Noah Browning witnessed:

‏@sheikhNB: In Hebron, police in riot gear are firing tear gas at protestors, trading volleys of stones w them, surging back and forth.

In Nablus the scene was similar, starting with peaceful demonstrations then ending with a riot. Yamama Shakaa tweeted [ar]:

@yamama_sh: كان الاحتجاج ضد الغلاء .. بعدين ضد فياض.. بعدين ضد السلطة.. و هلأ صار ضد بعض ..
The protest was against high prices, then against Fayyad, then against the Authority, and now it's against each other.

Muhammad Masharqa, a blogger from Hebron, expressed his opposition to the use of violence in peaceful demonstrations. He wrote [ar]:

أقول لكل المستعجلين على العنف صبراً، فإن احتلالاً ينتظرنا، نجمع له ويجمع لنا، فحضر له دون أن تحرفنا عن مطالبنا، فالجماهير التي انطلقت بوعيها من إسقاط حكومة فياض إلى تحميل أبو مازن للمسؤولية سوف تتطور بوعيها إلى بناء البديل الوطني الشرعي والممثل انطلاقاً من برنامج نضالي شامل ضد الاحتلال.
I say to those who are in a rush to use violence to be patient. The occupation awaits us, preparing itself for us as we are preparing ourselves for it. Let's get ready without deviating from our demands. The people started by calling for the fall of Fayyad's government then learned to attribute responsibility to Abu Mazen, and they will now evolve and build a legitimate, national, representative alternative, launching a comprehensive program of struggle against occupation.

On September 11, hundreds of Palestinians responded to a call (starting on Facebook) to protest in Ramallah for dignity and freedom and against the Paris Protocol, the economic annex of the Oslo Accords.

Surprisingly, the demonstration was able to reach Al Muqata'a, the presidential headquarters, and protestors chanted against the Oslo agreement, the Palestinian Authority and President Mahmoud Abbas without any interference from or clashes with the security force members standing nearby. Linah Al Saafin had an explanation:

@LinahAlsaafin: By letting protesters reach Muqata'a today, PA showed its “democratic” face to confuse people into not protesting against them.

These demonstrations came right after the Prime Minister Salam Fayyad announced that VAT would be reduced to 15% and diesel, gas and kerosene would revert to August prices – an announcement which did not satisfy protesters.

These protests were directly targeting the economic annex to the Oslo Accords, known as the Paris Protocol. The protocol was signed in 1994 between the Palestinian Liberation Organization and Israel and controls their economic relationship, including trade, agricultural products, and imports and exports. Palestinians are currently asking for the revision and modification of this protocol, if not cancelling it altogether. Blogger Raya Ziada has explained in a blog post [ar] why the Palestinians should get rid of the Paris Protocol.

Abir Kopty believes the current events are just a beginning and that Palestinians will move on to target wider political issues, especially the Israeli occupation. She tweeted:

@AbirKopty: I'm really hoping that after this wave of protests, we #EndOslo & move forward towards Israel.

For more reactions on Twitter, follow the hash tag: #PalProtests. For photos see the set entitled Palestinian Social Struggles by Flickr user Activestills.

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