RAMALLAH, Feb 17 (JMCC) - Palestinian flags rippled through Manara square Thursday afternoon where hundreds of Palestinians called for an end to political division.
Chants focused on the many hues of competing political parties that highlight the Palestinian political divide.
“Today don’t ask me what my colors are, today, my colors are Palestine!” called out demonstrators in unison.
Protester's messages were mild and not directed at the Palestinian government but rather a general call to unite.
But some who attended the demonstration said the message was superficial. “They say colors don’t matter, but if you attack the yellow flags of Fatah
, they will hunt you down,” one bystander who asked not to be named said.
As the demonstration came to a close, some protesters criticized the Palestinian Authority
's negotiations with Israel
and called for the Palestinian right to return.
According to witnesses, police in civilian clothing immediately and violently disrupted the protest and arrested a total of 17 people, including two students from the Friends Boys School in Ramallah
An official of the Friends school confirmed the release of the two boys but refrained from commenting further.
“They didn’t even say anything that critical about [President] Abbas
or the Palestinian Authority for them to attack them that way,” one witness said. “It was very uncalled for.”
Another witness said the police action confirmed her skepticism about the demonstration and its seemingly bipartisan messages.
“I didn’t feel good about this demonstration,” Suha T. said, “I felt it was Fatah supporters’ attempts to show that they are the only party that wants to unite. They waited around and chanted with everyone else until someone said something they weren’t supposed to.”
For others, like Samar Dejani, a 28-year old unemployed teacher, it made little sense to dwell on the “hidden messages.”
Teary-eyed at the sight of Palestinian flags and the sound of Palestinian nationalist anthems, Dejani expressed hope and optimism. “I am so happy that we are here together as Palestinians who want the same thing. That is unity,” she said.
The demonstration was organized by a group calling itself the “Youth of February 5,” after an earlier successful Ramallah demonstration. The group, not associated with any political party, circulated e-mails about the demonstration for more than a week and aimed to attract Palestinians outside the West Bank
Turnout, however, was lower than previous protests that took place in the Manara in recent weeks.
For Dejani, however, it wasn’t the quantity in numbers, but the quality of the message that made this protest special.
“This protest was not about Egypt, it was not about Tunisia or any other country, this was about Palestine,” she said.