News / Middle East

Amid Gaza Conflict, Dissent Plagues Palestinians

A protester in Ramallah holds a picture of a young Gazan girl and says the violence must stop. He blames Israel but says his leadership must do more. (R.Collard/VOA)
A protester in Ramallah holds a picture of a young Gazan girl and says the violence must stop. He blames Israel but says his leadership must do more. (R.Collard/VOA)
Rebecca Collard
While Palestinians in Gaza buried those killed in Israeli air strikes, Palestinians in the West Bank were holding demonstrations in support of Gaza residents. Hundreds took to the streets in Ramallah - home to the Palestinian Authority - many hoisting Hamas flags, a rare sight in the city.

Protests were also held outside Israeli military installations, including Ofer prison and the Bet Eil base near Ramallah.

Across the West Bank, protesters demanded an end to Israel’s Operation Pillar of Defense in the Gaza Strip, To date, 40 Palestinians and three Israelis have died in the renewed conflict, which is likely to claim even more lives. In Ramallah, activists at a small protest in the city’s central Manara Square called on Israel to end the operation in Gaza, but also appealed to their own West Bank-based Palestinian Authority and President Mahmoud Abbas to do more to help their fellow Palestinians in the isolated strip.

Ali Qaraqe at a protest in Ramallah's central El-Manara square. He says Palestnian leadership is not doing enough. (R. Collard/VOA)Ali Qaraqe at a protest in Ramallah's central El-Manara square. He says Palestnian leadership is not doing enough. (R. Collard/VOA)
Ali Qaraqe at a protest in Ramallah's central El-Manara square. He says Palestnian leadership is not doing enough. (R. Collard/VOA)
Ali Qaraqe at a protest in Ramallah's central El-Manara square. He says Palestnian leadership is not doing enough. (R. Collard/VOA)
Against the chants that filled the square, Ali Qaraqe expressed disappointment with his leaders – referring to Abbas as Abu Mazen, as he is called by many here.

“Abu Mazen, the government, the authority - everyone who controls the West Bank - hasn’t done anything. It’s not enough just to say you want to send something to Gaza,” said Qaraqe echoing the sentiment of many Palestinians.

Following a visit to Gaza by the Egyptian prime minister, Qaraqe suggested that Abbas also visit the besieged strip.

“Abu Mazen should go to Gaza now.  He has to do that. It means a lot, and everyone knows that. He is not better than the people in Gaza; he is one of us,” said Qaraqe. “So he should go to Gaza now. Not wait for the bombing to stop there.”

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a meeting of the Palestinian leadership at his compound in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Friday, Nov. 16, 2012.Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a meeting of the Palestinian leadership at his compound in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Friday, Nov. 16, 2012.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a meeting of the Palestinian leadership at his compound in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Friday, Nov. 16, 2012.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a meeting of the Palestinian leadership at his compound in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Friday, Nov. 16, 2012.
The Palestinian president hasn’t been to Gaza since bloody clashes forced his Western-backed Fatah movement to abandon the strip five years ago. Since then, the division between the Fatah movement, which rules the West Bank, and Hamas, which rules Gaza, has left Palestinians without a unified voice, and some say also more vulnerable vis-a-vis Israel. 

Observers say that it is the Palestinian’s inability to achieve reconciliation amongst themselves coupled with the resulting lack of cooperation with Israel that has hurt the popularity of Abbas and his Palestinian Authority. There are signs that the conflict in the Gaza Strip might increase the Palestinians’ displeasure with Abbas. Even despite his push for limited statehood at the United Nations, a September poll showed less than half of Palestinians satisfied with his performance as president. The results also revealed Palestinians would choose imprisoned leader Marwan Barghouti over Abbas in an election.

Dr. Samir Awad, a professor of Political Science at Birzeit University near Ramallah, says the popularity of the current leadership is very low and most West Bank residents are not happy with how Abbas is handling this latest crisis.

“Though he condemned the attacks strongly, he did not take any steps to ensure the people of Gaza and us are the same people,” said Awad. “The Palestinian Authority did not do anything to stop security coordination with Israel or even threaten the future of peace talks during these attacks on Gaza.”

Security cooperation with Israel has been a grievance of many Palestinian activists. The Palestinian Authority’s security forces help control protests in the West Bank and human rights organizations report severe abuses of Palestinians detained by these forces.

Palestinian police stood by the rally in Manara Square as protesters shouted for unity between the West Bank and Gaza - chanting that they are one people - despite the geographical and political divisions.

So far, said Ilia Ghorbia, another protestor who participated in the Manara Square rally, the Palestinian authority has offered only lip service.

“They just speak, speak, speak,” said Ghorbia. “But [the Palestinian Authority] doesn’t do anything real to help people in Gaza. We are standing up for our brothers and sisters in Gaza. We can’t go there; so, at least we can stand up here and say that we are supporting them, that we are with them. They are part of our Palestine. This is what we can do for them,” said Ghorbia.

But the division between the West Bank and Gaza appears to be growing. The divergent economic, social and political conditions are now compounded with the realities of a conflict with increasing casualties.

Yet some see a silver lining. Mahdi Abdul Hadi, director of the Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs, says the events in Gaza could change the existing dynamics and provide an opportunity not only for reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas but also for a strengthening of their relationship with Egypt’s new government.

“President Abbas has a golden opportunity to share the responsibility,” says Abdul Hadi. “Abbas has an opportunity with the Hamas leadership and the Egyptian leadership. The leaders are in a unique position to work together to face these challenges.”

Nonetheless, few in Ramallah seem optimistic.

“We have a very difficult situation now,” said one young Palestinian at the protest in Manara Square who asked that his name not be used. To build a better future, he said,“in the West Bank we are looking to the U.N., and in Gaza they are looking to rockets.”

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Comment Sorting
by: T. Spanton from: Ottawa
November 18, 2012 7:35 AM
How many Palestinians must die before Hamas realizes the consequences of their actions?

by: Steven from: US
November 17, 2012 5:21 PM
First thing first “Seriously These Attacks on Gaza" Last time I check it has been Hamas that has started every conflict with Israel. Wake up you want them to stop then the Palestine people should rise up and oust there terrorist cells that hide behind your children because there to chicken to step out in the street and fight for what you want. Because they know it’s easier to hide in a school and fire off rockets and wait for Israel drop a bomb on them, and then cry foul so the western media can twist the true and get people to feel sorry for you.

It’s easy to point fingers and blame the other side but it takes hard work determination to have what you want, but instead of you working together with Israel to make the country better you allow these Muslim radicals to infest your peoples mind and make them think that the world owes you something. No own owe you crap you want respect then earn it because all you’re really doing is turning the rest of the world against you because of the few bad apple that feel strapping a bomb to their chest and killing Americans or Jews will get you glory.

Killing innocent people that has nothing to do with some other donkey that disrespected your Prophet or your Koran doesn't help your cause. It turns the rest of the world religions against you and makes them thing you can't be trusted. That's the reason Gaza, and the west banks are isolated because a few radicals Muslims thing going into Israel with a bomb on their chest and killing dozens of Jews is justifiable and glories. When in fact all you have really done is showed the Jews that they can't trust you so instead of letting your people share the land with them they pushed you into a section of the country where you can't hurt there people.

Before you try to remove the splinter for you neighbors eye you might want to remove the torn from your own eyes. You want a prospers country learn to work together to build it, Why you thing the United states and all the other super powers of the world are so powerful, Simple we work together we don’t always agree with each other’s belief, but we look past it and strive for the bigger picture ways to solve the problems and make our country a better place for everyone.

Take a look at stable countries in the middle east that are prosperous you say there influenced by the western counties, maybe they are but they have learned to work together to make their country’s better and to give there people a chance at a better life. Killing each other will get you nowhere fast, and when the firing starts it is only the innocent people that will truly suffer.

by: Joel Sidney from: Los Angeles
November 17, 2012 4:58 PM
To Khalid
If Hamas does not have an Army or Soldiers who is sending the rockets & missiles to Israel ?, they are the mules of Iran and Iran pulls there strings. Remember if you play with fire you will get burnt. Iran is siting back drinking tea and laughing at Hamas for there stupidity.

by: Nikos Retsos from: Chicago, USA
November 17, 2012 10:02 AM
I don't see how the Gaza conflict can generate dissent against the Palestinian leadership. Let's not forget that there were elections, and Hamas trounced the Palestinian Authority (PA) that is the darling of the West and Israel. The PA is regarded by most Palestinians as "do nothing" bureaucrats who live in luxury villas and driving around in brand new Mercedes, while sewer is running in the middle of Palestinian neighborhoods - as shown on CBS News by correspondent Bob Simon.

Hamas, the current target of Israel, on the other hand, has been gaining international recognition with a recent visit by the Emir of Qatar, a visit planned by Turkish prime minister Tayyip Erdogan, and the visit this week by the Egyptian prime minister. And all that recognition by U.S. allies while Hamas is listed as a "terrorist organization" by the West. Under U.S. law, the U.S. is supposed to punish Qatar, Turkey and Egypt as terrorist supporting states. The U.S., however, won't alienate all its Middle East allies to help Israel keep the Palestinians isolated!

There won't be Palestinian dissent against their leadership, because the Palestinians yearn for an Arab Spring too. And results in all Arab Springs were achieved with bloody sacrifices!
Nikos Retsos, retired professor

by: jasonalanward from: London
November 16, 2012 9:24 PM
It is no approbation Of Israel's response? to the recent events (which ought to be considered on a case-by-case basis, with the following considerations); but were Hamas to congregate on a plain, like all normal, self-respecting armies and soldiers do, how many civilian casualties do you suppose there would be then?
In Response

by: LKhalid from: Ramallah
November 17, 2012 7:05 AM
On a plain? What is this, the seventeenth century? Are you picturing cavalrymen and cannons?

Hamas don't have an army or soldiers in any "normal" sense of the word.

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