The Beginning of the End for Abbas

Palestinian demonstrators chant slogans in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on 30 June 2012, during a protest against a planned meeting between Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas and Israel’s vice prime minister Shaul Mofaz. (Photo: AFP – Abbas Momani)
Published Tuesday, July 3, 2012
The Oslo-Palestinian Authority has lost its temper. The lesson we learnt from the Arab uprisings is that when the government loses its temper, it starts making mistakes. Eventually, it writes the ending to its own story with a series of mistakes that flips over the balance of fear that’s been sustained on the ground for so long.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) has managed to contain the agitated youth movement that first took to the streets on 15 March 2011. Still, the PA remained wary of any issues that might trigger a mass uprising. Those fears have escalated since the beginning of the year, with a growing opposition against talks with the Israeli occupation and continuous scandals within the PA ministries. Despite the limitations put on the youth movement, unprecedented protests in front of the Presidential HQ (al-Muqata) in Ramallah served as a warning to the police-state of Abbas.

Last month, an official meeting between Abbas and war-criminal deputy Israeli PM Shaul Mofaz was announced, angering the public. It was a chance for the youth movement to mass mobilize. The PA unofficially announced that the meeting would be postponed “at the request of the people.” This effort to quell the anger failed to cancel the planned protest against the Mofaz meeting and the system of negotiations and security collaborations. But the protests marginalized factional – in particular Fatah youth – participation in the protests.

Around 200 to 250 protesters took to the street as planned on Saturday. Dayton-trained PA security forces lost their tempers and attempted to intimidate the protesters. They brutally suppressed and crushed the protest. It is not the first time security forces have used excessive force against protesters, but on previous occasions, brutal suppression of demonstrations was not followed by further protests.

The PA security forces thought this time would not be any different. The suppression portrays the lack of freedom of speech and press in the West Bank.

Brutalities were covered up on previous occasions by intimidating the media and confiscating cameras and footage of the suppression. But this time they failed. As cameras were confiscated and journalists were attacked, smart phones managed to surpass the obstruction and provide a live feed to social media.

The next day, around 500 protesters rallied against the security forces’ brutality. The scenario of the first day was repeated. Spokesman of the Palestinian security services, Adnan al-Dumairi, resorted to expired methods previously used by toppled and current Arab governments. He pointed the finger at the “agendas of the unknown movements.”

In the first two days of the suppression, the PA used official security forces and undercover police to crush the protests.

If they fail to stop the protests, the PA might resort to organizing Fatah-loyalists to counter these protests, a similar tool used by Egypt’s ruling military. But the movement has come a long way to just stop now, despite the challenges of facing an Israeli occupation and a Palestinian collaborator government.

Ironically, the security forces accuse the protesters of links to the US and Israeli governments. This accusation comes from the same security forces that were trained by US General Keith Dayton and refuse to end their public security collaboration with the Israeli Occupation Forces. The next step might be accusing the protesters of serving an Iranian-Hamas conspiracy against Fatah. It remains astonishing how they successfully sell this to many people.

The PA is now in a critical position not only because of the continued protests, but also due to internal conflicts within Fatah. Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas has taken the decision to eliminate his internal rivals within Fatah. But Abbas, his allies within Fatah, and his rivals all share one quality: corruption. Although Abbas managed to drive out strongman Muhammad Dahlan, he failed to successfully eliminate his loyalists from the security forces. New rivals keep emerging amongst the leadership of Fatah. Unfortunately for Abbas, these rivals are forming a united front against him. These rivals, using their wealth, have built a base of loyalists. During years of corruption in the West Bank, the likes of Dahlan and Mohammad Rashid have made a mint, concentrating their support in the north of the West Bank. The PA, centralized in Ramallah, has ignored and marginalized the cities and villages in the north of the West Bank.

Abbas was put on the alert by several incidents in the Jenin governorate, including an incident that resulted in the death of the Governor of Jenin. Abbas decided to strike at his rivals’ loyalists within the security forces in the north, announcing on Sunday that at least 200 men had been rounded up in Jenin in an illegal weapons trade, including Fatah men. The level of success remains unclear.

But Abbas’ problems are not confined to the north, as the PA is also facing growing opposition in the marginalized south of the West Bank. The brewing trouble in Hebron is becoming a real threat to Abbas’ control over Fatah. The northern and southern edges of the West Bank face the worst attacks by illegal Jewish settlers and Israel’s Occupation Forces, adding to the people’s anger.

This week, Palestinians from all over Palestine will continue their demonstrations in Ramallah to protest the security forces’ brutality. This is a critical time for the PA. Although the youth movement remains limited in numbers, it is stacked with brave and determined women and men. The security forces’ brutality has so far only strengthened the bonds between the youth.

Along with the actions taken during the prisoners’ hunger strike, the recent agitation has also strengthened the bonds between activists within the ‘48 occupied territories, the ‘67 occupied territories and in exile. Judging from the Arab uprisings, we know what to expect from a police-state, but we have also learnt the key to success: determination and sacrifice. This week’s protests might not trigger a mass revolution yet, but it is certainly the first step to liquidate the collaborator and corrupt Palestinian leadership and return to the path of liberation.

Maath Musleh, a Palestinian journalist and blogger based in Jerusalem. Follow him on Twitter @MaathMusleh.

The views expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect al-Akhbar’s editorial policy.

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