The Palestinian Authority government in Ramallah is not representative of the Palestinian people.
During the fourth national Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions conference in Bethlehem earlier this month, BDS and normalization weren’t the only topics brought up. The very legitimacy of the PA’s government as a representative of the people was questioned by conference attendees.
The third session during the conference consisted of Omar Barghouti representing the Boycott National Committee, Taisir Khaled representing the Palestine Liberation Organization, and finally the PA government’s minister of economy, Jawad Naji. This conference, with an estimated attendance of more than 700, was a platform offering a rare opportunity for ordinary members of the public to question those who supposedly represent them.
As expected, the majority of people in the audience weren’t fond of the minister and the PLO representative; heated discussions took place between the representatives and the attendees, and one discussion even led to the kicking out of the economy minister by conference attendees.
“Don’t disrespect your leader”
The scene during Jawad Naji’s departure was a clear indicator of the government’s lack of popularity among the people. At one point, as Naji was speaking, he said: “This [current government in Ramallah] is the government of the Palestinian people” and repeated that phrase four times. This prompted many frustrated audience members to yell out saying: “stop insulting people’s intelligence.”
The minister kept trying to argue against plenty of evidence that the PA is involved in normalization activities from head to toe. But it is safe to say that conference attendees didn’t appreciate the minister’s generic statements and avoidance of the real issues at hand.
During the question-and-answer period, conference attendee Nizar Banat had two questions for the minister. The first was about the Palestinian Authority’s financial normalization with Israel, and the second was about PA leader Mahmoud Abbas’s statement of a couple of weeks back, where he said he was proud of the PA’s security coordination with Israel.
The notion that Abbas was mentioned in a critical way irritated Naji, and consequently the minister said: “Don’t disrespect your leader, stop barking.” As a result, most of the attendees in the hall considered the minister’s insult to be directed at everyone dedicated to the fight for justice in its different forms. The minister did not apologize for his offensive insult. Later on, what happened instead was that PA thugs brutalized the citizen who dared challenge the minister on these critical issues.
PA ministers unpopular
Jawad Naji is not the only minister to have insulted a large group of the people he claims to represent, and continues to be a legitimate minister according to the Palestinian Authority.
In late 2011, the Minister of Labor at the time, Ahmad Majdalani, referred to civil servants as “brothers of whores” during a radio interview, not realizing his microphone was still on. The minister went through the usual procedure: denying accusations, internal investigation, issue of apology and resignation.
But today Ahmad Majdalani has been reassigned as a minister by former Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, and by the new Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah in the newly sworn-in government.
Protests in the West Bank continue against consecutive PA governments and their economic policies, but the people aren’t being given any attention by the ministers who supposedly represent them; what they get instead are insults. Prominent political parties within the Palestinian territories, mainly Hamas and the PFLP, have also denounced the PA’s government.
Ministers are not popular among Palestinian citizens, and occasions where ministers are set to debate members of the public are rare. The events at the BDS national conference serve as proof.
It is unfortunate that whenever a minister’s reputation is at stake, figures from the PA release generic statements stating that those ministers are part of “PA’s struggle to achieve the Palestinian national project,” while in the background, anyone who dares to challenge the government’s fraudulence is either locked up in jail or brutalized in the street.
What is happening now in the West Bank is expansion of Israeli settlements, attacks on Palestinian villagers by the Israeli occupation army and settlers, the theft of resources, and a continuous entrenchment of the colonial occupation. The PA’s only current role is to hinder any efforts that set out to challenge this heinous occupation.