’Palestinian Authority is tyrannical’: Joint Gaza, West Bank conference amps criticism of Abbas and Hamas
At a recent confab, panel members and everyday Palestinians discuss democracy, with their openness only highlighting the obedience enforced on Fatah and PLO
Jul 06, 2019
A man with flowing white hair appeared on the large screen in the Red Crescent Society building in El Bireh in the West Bank. It was hard to catch the name of the man, who was speaking in the Red Crescent building in the Gaza Strip. The technique of video conferencing between Gaza and the West Bank, as the sole alternative to the forbidden hour-and-a-half trip, has improved greatly over the past 20 years – as the blockade has tightened on the coastal enclave and amid a drastic drop in the number of people authorized to leave it.
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This is how the conference of the Masarat center for policy research and strategic studies was carried out without any technical disruptions. Each panel had speakers in El Bireh and Gaza, and at the end of every discussion, people in the audience could make comments, from both places. Two moderators ran the panels, one on each screen. But sometimes you could hear voices from the other hall, or the other microphone was left on and a few words that you were meant to hear got swallowed up – like the name of the man with the mane of white hair.
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He voiced his comments after the discussion entitled “The Palestinian Authority: Between survival and collapse.” From the podium he said with great emotion: “We analyze and analyze the situation, but on the ground there is no change. The Palestinian people want democracy. I advise Masarat to organize a conference on building democracy in the Palestinian homeland. If there is no democracy, there is no point in anything. We must concentrate on building democracy, to stand against those who don’t want democracy, who control everything.”
The pain could be heard in his voice. It was clear he didn’t distinguish between Hamas rule and Fatah rule when he said “those who don’t want democracy.” A few people in the hall on the screen applauded, but regrettably his time ran out.
An anti-U.S. protest in Ramallah, June 2019.
An anti-U.S. protest in Ramallah, June 2019.AFP
The regular opinion polls by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research in Ramallah, headed by Khalil Shikaki, include a question on the degree of fear to speak out against the two regimes. In a poll released this week, 40 percent of respondents in the West Bank answered that they could criticize the PA without fear, while 57 percent said they couldn’t. The latest figures for Gaza are 44 percent and 52 percent, respectively.