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Placing Curfews on Themselves

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Issue: 49 Section: Opinion Geography: Middle East Palestine Topics: Israeli Occupation

January 13, 2008

Placing Curfews on Themselves

Israel and America don't have to worry when Palestinians repress their own protesters

by Chris B

Palestinian women defy an order by Palestinian security forces to leave the protest area.

Palestinian women defy an order by Palestinian security forces to leave the protest area. Photo: Chris B

RAMALLAH -- It is a sad day when one observes a Palestinian member of the security force tearing a sign that reads “end the occupation.” This was what took place during the anti-Bush protest in Ramallah. Observing the current situation in Palestine, I admire the will and perseverance of the Palestinian people, who are met with inconveniences and disturbances on a daily basis.

George Bush’s visit to the occupied Palestinian territories on January 10, 2007 illustrated the grim reality on the ground created by Abu Mazen’s takeover of the West Bank. Walking in the streets, many Palestinians remarked that it felt they were under curfew as they were during the days of the intifada.

Most shops and roads were closed and Palestinian residents were cautious to leave their homes. Some could not, even if they wished to. These road closures and curfews were not enforced by the Israeli military, but rather by our very own Palestinian government in cooperation with the United States and Israel. In the main square of Ramallah, known as Al Manara Circle, one needed permission to take pictures. I, along with a young Palestinian student, learned this after our passports and cameras were confiscated.

Neither Bush nor Israel have nothing to worry about. Abu Mazen and his gang are doing a phenomenal job in maintaining order and crushing any form of resistance or civil disobedience in the West Bank. Even before Bush’s arrival, the Palestinian Authority (PA) took precautionary steps to ensure that Bush’s visit would be as smooth as possible. Two days before Bush's arrival, two helicopters landed in the Muqataa’, Yasser Arafat's former compound and his current burial ground. The people who guarded the Muqataa’ during Bush’s visit came from outside a day or two before, while Palestinian police guarded the outside. Roads were dug and repaved, and every sewer in Ramallah was checked for security purposes.

Residents living around the Muqataa’ particularity felt the high security alert and curfews as they were told that for their own security not to open the windows of their homes or climb their rooftops. In case of an emergency, residents were given a number to call in which a helicopter would come and take them from their homes. A curfew was imposed in these closed areas from 3am until 4pm and residents were not allowed to move by car or foot. Some residents in this area were even placed in hotels. When the high security alert was at its peak, the stress and anxiety was palpable in the streets of Ramallah.

Palestinian women defy an order by Palestinian security forces to leave the protest area.

Palestinian women defy an order by Palestinian security forces to leave the protest area.

Demonstrators attempt to stop police from arresting one of their number.

Demonstrators attempt to stop police from arresting one of their number.

The hospital in Ramallah where injured demonstrators were treated.

The hospital in Ramallah where injured demonstrators were treated.

A protester's banner, ripped by Palestinian security forces.

A protester's banner, ripped by Palestinian security forces.

Demonstrators decry Bush's talks with Palestinian elites in Ramallah.

Demonstrators decry Bush's talks with Palestinian elites in Ramallah. Photo: Chris B

Bush met Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) in the Muqataa’, and the Palestinian political elite welcomed him as a man of peace and a president that would help create a viable Palestinian state by January 2009. At the same time, at least 1,000 protesters took to the streets for an anti-Bush demonstration, despite a ban on public protests. Protesters were gathered at Ramallah's Orthodox Club, not too far from the presidential compound, and attempted to move towards the Clock Square but were violently pushed back by Palestinian security forces.

In addition 25 protesters were seized by Palestinian security forces, of whom ten were arrested and two injured and taken to the government hospital in Ramallah. Bashir Kahyri, a senior leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PLFP) who served 16 years in an Israeli prison, was treated in the hospital for a fractured shoulder. Another demonstrator suffered from a broken nose while others were being treated in the hospital for tear gas suffocation.

I am a Canadian-Palestinian that has attended countless demonstrations in Montreal, and it was the first time I had attend a protest in Palestine. It was disheartening to see the way the Fatah-allied PA is dealing with its Palestinian citizens protesting Bush’s policies in the region. Demonstrators were met by pepper spray and clubs and security forces began tearing posters and banners. Arguments broke out between the security forces and the citizens. The latter decried the shame of Palestinians denying other Palestinians from their right to protest, and taking over the role of the occupation forces.

The demonstrators remained and continued to chant in Arabic slogans such as "CIA out," and "Bush not welcome." For Mahmoud Abbas demonstrators chanted that "Palestine is one nation" and even turned against security forces saying "enough from the police." Later, Palestinian women sat down in defiance of police demands to move and disperse and instead began to sing national songs such as the Palestinian national anthem among others.

Seeing Palestinian people stand against Bush renewed my faith and re-instilled hope for continued resistance against imperial policies in Palestine and a "peace" forced on the Palestinians that in no way would bring justice to the people. Unfortunately for Palestinians citizens in the West Bank, the Palestinian quasi-state that Abu Mazen is attempting to create already seems to mirror other corrupt Arab regimes in the region that ban its people from protesting. To deny one of the few means of fighting for political and social justice is to jeopardize the very essence of the Palestinian cause and its resistance.

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Comments

in-fighting between palestinian

good article. but is this Bush-ass-kissing anything new? are they really protesting against bush and his (general) foreign policy (as one of the banners alluded to), or was the protest about the kind of peace plan bush is bringing? when abu ammar ratified clinton's oslo treaty, it erupted quite a bit of resistance by people who do not agree with that sort of solution. i am imagining it was the same here. comments?

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The Dominion is a monthly paper published by an incipient network of independent journalists in Canada. It aims to provide accurate, critical coverage that is accountable to its readers and the subjects it tackles. Taking its name from Canada's official status as both a colony and a colonial force, the Dominion examines politics, culture and daily life with a view to understanding the exercise of power.

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