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Khaled Abu Toameh: Palestinians’ Islamist Spring?


Palestinians demonstrated in Ramallah against Palestinian Authority repression.

Palestinians demonstrated in Ramallah against Palestinian Authority repression.
Photo Credit: Issam Rimawi/Flash90

Originally published by Gatestone Institute http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org

After the recent wave of protests and clashes with Palestinian Authority policemen in the West Bank, the Palestinians are asking if the “Arab Spring” might be finally knocking on their door.

The protests, organized by young Palestinians through Facebook and Twitter, are a reflection of increased discontent with the Palestinian Authority leadership.

Recent public opinion polls have shown that the popularity of Abbas’s ruling Fatah faction has declined and that Palestinians are eager for change.

Most Palestinians would like to see new faces among the top brass of their leadership. They are fed up with the fact that the same leaders have been in office for decades.

Many Palestinians feel that under Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority has joined the club of corrupt Arab dictatorships that suppress the opposition and crack down on freedom of speech.

Hundreds of angry men and women continued to demonstrate in the city against police brutality. The protesters accused the Palestinian Authority of ordering the police to use excessive force to stop the demonstrations.

At least five Palestinian journalists were injured when Palestinian security officers and Fatah activists beat them in the center of Ramallah. Many protesters, including women, were also beaten during the demonstrations.

The clashes erupted last weekend in protest against a planned visit to Ramallah by Israeli Deputy Prime Minister and former IDF Chief of General Staff, Shaul Mofaz. Mofaz’s planned visit to Ramallah was used an excuse to vent out frustration and anger with the Palestinian Authority leadership.

The protests forced Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to call off the visit, but the cancellation did not calm things down, especially in Ramallah, the de facto capital of the Palestinians.

In March last year, thousands of Palestinians, inspired by the “Arab Spring,” launched their own protests in the West Bank to demand reforms, democracy, and regime change. But the Palestinian revolt was short-lived.

Abbas’s security forces, backed by Fatah thugs, attacked the young men and women who were protesting in the center of Ramallah, torching their tents and beating them with clubs and rifle butts. But now the Palestinian youth groups appear to have reorganized themselves and are preparing for another wave of protests in the West Bank. In recent days, the protesters have even begun chanting the same slogans that Egyptians used against Hosni Mubarak and the Supreme Council of the Egyptian Armed Forces.

The Facebook and Twitter protesters say they have no political affiliations and that their only goal is to replace the old-guard leaders in Ramallah with young and charismatic faces.

The Palestinian Authority, however, says that the protests are part of a foreign conspiracy designed to undermine the leadership of Abbas and harm the interests of the Palestinians. Some Palestinian officials in Ramallah have gone as far as claiming that the US, Israel and even Hamas are behind the unrest.

These accusations are similar to those that were made by Arab dictators in the past year, including Mubarak, Muammar Ghaddafi and Yemen’s Ali Abdullah Saleh. Arab dictatorships often try to discredit their opponents by accusing them of being Israeli and American spies and agents.

Yet in the absence of a credible and organized Palestinian opposition in the West Bank, it is most likely that Hamas will hijack any “Palestinian Spring.” Unfortunately, the young men and women who are leading the anti-Palestinian Authority campaign in the West Bank do not represent the majority. That is why a Palestinian Spring could quickly turn into an Islamist Spring, paving the way for Hamas to seize control over the West Bank.

The only way this outcome might possibly be avoided is if the international community immediately demands reforms from Abbas: the end to corruption, and the end to repression of free speech.

About the Author: Khaled Abu Toameh, an Arab Muslim, is a veteran award-winning journalist who has been covering Palestinian affairs for nearly three decades.


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One Response to “Khaled Abu Toameh: Palestinians’ Islamist Spring?”

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