RAMALLAH, September 1 (JMCC) - The process without peace, says Palestinian independent and analyst Hani al-Masri. This is how he and other leftist Palestinian protesters cynically describe the launch of US-mediated direct negotiations between Israel
and the Palestinian Authority
For an hour Wednesday, al-Manara Square in downtown Ramallah
became the scene of colorful protest against the resumption of direct talks. Approximately 500 protesters, a coalition of left-wing political organizations, independents and ordinary citizens descended on the roundabout with home-made banners and Palestinian flags.
Their message was clear and united: no peace talks without preconditions. The peace talks with no terms of reference are a formula for failure, parliamentarian Mustafa al-Barghouthi
, who gave a speech at the protest, told JMCC.org.
“The message is that we care for peace, for real peace,” he said, “but I am worried that the results [of this failure] will be much more serious, they are threatening the last opportunity for peace.”
ALTERNATIVE FOR PEACE
Abbas is not listening to the Palestinian people. Stop the negotiations until Israel starts cooperating. These were the slogans booming through the megaphone.
Palestinian business tycoon Munib al-Masri explained the protesters' demands: We want to say no to negotiations on Israel’s terms. We want a peace process
based on UN resolutions calling for an independent Palestine with East Jerusalem
as its capital.
“We have other options,” says al-Masri. “We can concentrate on ending the Palestinian split, focus on peaceful popular resistance such as the boycotts, continue international gathering international support.”
Also present at the protest was Mahdi Abdul Hadi, director of the Palestinian Academic Society, PASSIA. He agrees that there is an alternative to the direct talks to be kicked off Thursday. Palestinians must maintain their identity, their culture and their heritage.
This was the second attempt at holding this demonstration. The first, a week ago at the Greek Orthodox club in Ramallah, was disrupted by 400 sturdy youths in plain clothes until it became unworkable. Curious rumors have circled Ramallah all week about who was behind the disruption. Some identify the Palestinian secret police, the mukhabarat. Finger pointing has even reached the president's office, though President Abbas
’ staff has been adamant in denying the accusation.
Behind the protest is a relatively new coalition that includes many from the Palestinian political left. There were many from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine
and from the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine
, confirms former politician Ghassan Abdullah. The formerly communist Peoples Party
and a number of smaller political factions were also present.
There even some Fateh
members present, said Abdullah, looking around the crowd to spot familiar faces. Not all Fateh members support the negotiations.
The protest is the first that Ramallah has seen in a long time. The Palestinian Authority has been strong in regulating demonstrations in areas of the West Bank
under its control.
Some people are just here for the right to free expression, says Abdullah.
Walking around Ramallah on Wednesday, a voice in support of Abbas and the long-awaited process in Washington is impossible to find. People sound desperate.
“[Israel] doesn’t believe in negotiations, settlements
have increased. I don’t believe it is going to happen, nobody believes anything,” says Suhbi Awad, who owns a trinkets store by al-Manara.
Al-Masri put the source of the skepticism into words, “We have tried negotiating with the Israelis for 17 years and got nowhere. I have been working for the Palestinian peace process for 35 years.”