Last week, a massive wave of protests rocked the Occupied West Bank. This time, the protests were not aimed at Israeli oppression, but against the corrupt leaders of the Palestinian Authority.
Over the coming week, government employees union will undertake strike action in the West Bank. On Tuesday, all workers will leave their offices at 2pm and on Thursday employees will stop working at 1pm. A meeting will be held on September 23 to discuss further potential strike action, head of the government employees union Bassam Zakarneh told Maan News Agency.
On Sunday, September 16, the union of Palestinian teachers also announced that classes in West Bank schools will be suspended after the third lesson on Monday [today].
This comes after a week of mass protests and a wave of strikes that forced the Palestinian Authority (PA) to make some concessions to the workers, including a law setting a minimum wage for workers in both the public and private sectors. The protests started in Ramallah and have spread to all areas of the West Bank.
The protests have been fuelled by rising prices and an intolerable level of unemployment. According to the World Bank, unemployment in the West Bank stands at 21 percent. The real figure, however, is much higher.
The target of the anger is the leaders of the PA and especially Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. The protestors are angered about the high cost of living and the inability of the PA to pay its workers their full salaries on time. The financial crisis facing the PA is the worst since its inception and is especially due to a dip in the donor funding that makes up a huge part of the Palestinian economy.
Last Monday, the transport unions staged a “general strike” to protest the rising petrol prices. Angry protestors set light to tyres across the occupied territory. There were no public buses, minibuses or taxis in operation. The streets were emptied. In Hebron, protestors used heavy boulders to block the streets. In Bethlehem, trucks were parked across roads leading to the town centre. Similar scenes were seen in Nablus. At the important Qalandia checkpoint between Ramallah and Jerusalem, groups of bus and taxi drivers were on patrol to stop strike breakers.
The protestors are demanding that Fayyad resigns as Prime Minister. For the masses of Palestinians, Mr. Fayyad has become a symbol of everything that is wrong with the PA: blatant corruption, a friendly approach to Israeli imperialism and servility to the imperialist institutions such as the IMF, where Mr. Fayyad used to represent the PA. Over the years, the PA has carried out directives from the IMF and the Wold Bank, raising prices for basic commodities and increasing regressive taxes.
Even though that the public transport union suspended its strike action on Thursday – due to negotiations with the PA – other unions have continued the strikes and protests.
On Tuesday, September 11, the cabinet announced a series of economic concessions, but most of the factions and leaders said that the measures were insufficient. This weekend more protests took place. The concessions are, however, a clear sign of weakness on the part of the corrupt clique around Mr. Fayyad.
The protests have been linked with anger at the Oslo Accords and the so-called “peace process”, including the Paris economic convention that reaffirms Israel’s control over the Palestinian economy.
The PA = Policing the Arabs
Since the inception of the PA, this institution has failed in everything. None of the promises of the past have been delivered. The Palestinians have no more freedom than they had before. They are robbed of any dignity. The PA is unable to deliver even basic jobs and economic growth. Its sole “justification” lies in the fact that it acts as a policeman for Israeli imperialism and thus is enabling the occupation.
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) has supported the protests. They have correctly pointed out that the protests must be linked to confronting the Israeli occupation and the economic foundations of the so-called market economy. In themselves, such slogans are a step forward, but if we consider the situation as it stands today, they actually lag behind the mass movement. Protestors have already marched in their thousands to demand the resignation of Fayyad and the annulment of the Oslo Accords. The PFLP should offer a way forward instead of just stating its agreement with the slogans on the street.
Back to Lenin
The current PFLP leadership, although supporting the mass movement of the Palestinians, has unfortunately been remarkably silent about the mass social protests in Israel in recent months. It is true that some of the so-called “moderate” leaders of these protests have behaved scandalously (such as excluding Arab speakers and so on) in order to appease so-called Israeli “public opinion”. But this is absolutely no excuse for not trying to link the social protests among Palestinians with the social protests among Israelis.
Protests on both sides of the divide offer an opportunity to point out the common class interests of Jewish and Arab workers, and can serve as an instrument in beginning to break down the grip of Zionism over Israeli society. Dividing Israeli society along class lines is the only way of weakening Zionism and thus strengthening the cause of the Palestinians.
The miserable conditions that the Palestinian masses are suffering are themselves proof of the bankruptcy of the “Oslo road”. The PA’s experiment of capitalist diplomacy has failed utterly to achieve any meaningful progress for the Palestinian people. The present protests highlight the fact that there are class differences among the Palestinian people, as the protests inside Israel also highlight the class divide among Israelis.
The “moderate” leaders of the Palestinians have refused to raise the class issues and have limited themselves to begging for crumbs from the Israeli ruling class. These same leaders have always tried to portray socialist internationalism (i.e. a revolutionary alliance across national boundaries) as utopian. But who are the real utopians today: the “Osloists” or the genuine socialists who defend the idea of workers’ internationalism? The present-day Palestinian leaders have tried to go forward on the road of capitalism, and they have utterly failed. Marxists, on the other hand, argue for the unity of the workers across national boundaries. The protests within the PA and within Israel both stem from the present world crisis of capitalism. In this situation there is the potential to build workers’ unity, but for this to become real what is required is a genuine socialist programme that can answer the needs of all workers, both Israeli and Palestinian.
The Palestinian people have marvellous revolutionary and Communist traditions. The Palestinian workers and youth of today must turn their backs on out-dated nationalism and fruitless “moderation” proposed by their leaders, and instead turn to the revolutionary internationalism of Lenin. That is the only way to defeat the Zionist state and at the same time put an end to the corrupt, degenerate monster of the PA.