RAMALLAH, January 29 (JMCC) - If the mole who leaked the Palestine papers was expecting Palestinians to go to the streets against the Palestinian leadership, he or she would be disappointed, reports
For the most part, the papers confirmed what Palestinians knew: that Palestinian negotiators were making dramatic concessions in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
But more than that, the process of shutting down dissent against the government has penetrated society.
Once the most politicised people in the Arab world, Palestinians have been rendered amongst their most docile since Salam Fayyad, a World Bank official, was installed as the Palestinian Authority’s prime minister in 2007. Buffeted by Western funding and diplomatic support, the winds of change sweeping the West Bank have seen the Palestinian parliament muzzled, elections cancelled, and political parties whither. The most prominent signs of institution-building are the lugubrious new concrete fortresses of the security forces looming over Palestinian city centres.
The campaign which the PA initially launched against Hamas has broadened to encompass dissenters of all hues. Students at the shiny new campus of Nablus’ Najah University, once a hive of activism, snigger when asked about politics, and once publicity-seeking academics shy from giving their name, or even interviews. One speaks of empty seats marking where students have disappeared. Lecturers speaking out of line have been detained too; one says he was beaten. “Students film us on mobile phones,” says a reformed lecturer. “There’s not much we can do. It’s how students finance their studies.” Powerless and estranged, a striking number of Palestinians say they no longer bother to tune into news bulletins.
But Palestinian leaders can ill-afford to take their rule for granted. This is a conflict which has regularly sprung surprises. Al-Jazeera’s mockery of Palestinian negotiators, though overplayed, taps into mounting frustration that their leaders are more answerable to Israel and their Western patrons than their subjects. More than ever, Palestinians abroad—not only Hamas—are hailing their rule as illegitimate and unrepresentative. “The Palestinian Authority was only supposed to last five years,” says Karma Nabulsi, a UK-based Palestinian academic, referring to the 1995 Israeli-Palestinian interim agreement intended to pave the way for statehood.