There was an air of cynicism around Abbas’ speech in the aftermath of the rising protests sweeping the streets of the West Bank, complaining about the rising cost of living, the Palestinian Authority (PA) inability to guarantee employees’ salaries, and the rising rate of unemployment. Abbas could not have been more contradictory. “As long as those protests stay peaceful”, he declared, the PA would not suppress protesters either against the occupation or the PA. Last July, the PA security forces cracked down upon protesters who went out to register their strong objection both to the visit from Israeli former Prime Minister Mofaz, and the PA’s brutal suppression of peaceful protests.
Abbas, claiming that he understood the protests, started the video conference asserting his intention to go to the UN General Assembly on September 27 to pursue his UN statehood initiative. Abbas is still unable to admit the failure of the Palestinian Authority in securing not only political stability, but anything that might look like an economic security or growth in the past twenty years.
Still seeking UN membership, Abbas chooses to ignore the elephant in the room. The PA has not functioned as a state and cannot economically act as one. The protests going around the West Bank are bearing witness to this fact.
Serving as a subcontractor for the Israeli occupation, by policing people under the illusion of a state with an economy, the PA has been a major recipient of the international aid upon which most of its economy is dependent. Israel has meanwhile maintained its full occupation over the territories.
Hence the stalemate. Much of the anger now rising in the streets is directed towards the persona of the PA Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad, calling on him to resign but not actually demanding that the PA is dissolved – an entity that as a whole has lost its legitimacy and its ability to fulfil any national aspirations a long time ago. There’s a sense that those protests are intentionally being directed to Fayyad to divert protesters’ attention and to render the problem entirely economic, blame it on Israel, or even on Hamas.
So, is Hamas actually doing better in avoiding similar protests that might start up as a result of the economic crisis? People in Gaza have started to respond to the miserable economic conditions and the stifling political paralysis mostly affecting those living under siege. People are setting fire to themselves, due to the miserable conditions caused by years of a failure to sustain any economic growth. The situation in the Gaza Strip is of almost no difference. The government in Gaza is no better at avoiding an economic crisis. Yet, the same protests are not taking place. Neither the resignation of Salam Fayyad nor the formation of a new government are what we need. We need an end to the years of being managed under conditions of Occupation.