Will the popular uprisings that brought down Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and Hosni
Mubarak, and which are threatening to topple other Arab dictators, arrive one
day in the Palestinian territories? This is the question that many Palestinians
have been asking in wake of the antigovernment tsunami sweeping the Arab world
in recent weeks.
When and if the Palestinians revolt, they will be
shooting in all directions: against Fatah, Hamas, Israel, the UN, the US and
many Western powers and Arab regimes that allegedly turned their backs on them
all these years.
Signs of the impending intifada are already evident on a
number of Facebook campaigns launched by disgruntled Palestinian
“F... Hamas. F... Israel. F... Fatah. F...UNRWA. F...
USA!” shouted a posting by one of the youth groups in the Gaza
“We, the youth in Gaza, are so fed up with Israel, Hamas, the
occupation, the violations of human rights and the indifference of the
international community. We want to scream and break this wall of silence,
injustice and indifference like the Israeli F-16s breaking the wall of
Inspired by the uprisings in the Arab world, young Palestinian
men and women are now using the Internet to stage similar campaigns in the West
Bank and Gaza Strip.
One group wants to launch an intifada against
Israel, while a second wants to organize a mass protest next week to demand that
Hamas and Fatah end their power struggle.
Even Hamas and Fatah have
discovered the power of Facebook. Each one of the two rival parties has in
recent weeks been inciting Palestinians to revolt against the
Fatah and Hamas are obviously not happy with the Facebook
campaigns that are urging Palestinians to take to the streets to achieve their
Fatah is worried that mass demonstrations in the West Bank would
undermine the Western-backed Palestinian Authority which, in the eyes of its
enemies, had aligned itself with US “puppets” in the Arab world. As far as some
Palestinians are concerned, Mahmoud Abbas is not much different than other
corrupt dictators in the Arab world.
WHEN SOME Palestinians tried to
organize a small demonstration in the center of Ramallah in support of the
Egyptian revolution, Abbas sent his policemen to disperse them by force. He
later banned a popular political satire program from mocking Libyan tyrant
Muammar Gaddafi on Palestine TV.
Earlier, Abbas had issued an order
banning criticism of the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, in
the Palestinian media. The decision came after Fatah supporters chanted
anti-Qatar slogans during protests against Al Jazeera’s Palestine Papers, which
claim that Abbas and his negotiators had mad far-reaching concessions to Israel
on the issues of Jerusalem and refugees.
Similarly, Hamas has been giving
the Facebook youth a hard time. In the past two weeks, its leaders sent
policemen in civilian clothes to break up a gathering of Internet activists who
called for an end to the Hamas-Fatah crisis. Hamas has also summoned dozens of
activists for questioning over their role in organizing demonstrations through
Yet the clampdown on the Facebook youth in the West Bank and
Gaza Strip has also been accompanied by a number of measures by Hamas and Fatah
to avoid popular uprisings.
Abbas was the first to respond to the events
in Tunisia and Egypt. One day after Hosni Mubarak was forced to resign, he
called new elections for president, parliament and municipalities.
power struggle between Hamas and Fatah, which began after the Islamist movement
won the January 2006 parliamentary vote, has prevented agreement on new
elections. Presidential and local elections were supposed to be held in early
2009, while Palestinians were supposed to vote for a new Palestinian Legislative
Council in January 2010.
In addition to the decision to call new
elections by September (which seems unlikely to happen in light of Hamas’s
refusal to allow the vote to take place in the Gaza Strip), Abbas also did what
other Arab leaders have already done: reshuffle the cabinet.
Minister Salam Fayyad, whose government had never been approved by parliament,
has been asked to form a new cabinet that would consist of representatives of as
many factions as possible.
In keeping with the spirit of the current Arab
uprisings, Fayyad chose to go on Facebook to “consult” with Palestinian youths
about the makeup of his new cabinet and to listen to the their demands and
However, his efforts to persuade factions to join his cabinet
have thus far run into obstacles. First, Hamas said it would never join any
cabinet headed by Fayyad. Second, Fatah has also come out against Fayyad for
offering to include Hamas in his cabinet unconditionally and for “marginalizing”
the secular faction, which is headed by Abbas.
Fatah fears that Fayyad’s
latest initiative to invite Hamas into his cabinet would perpetuate the
political split between the West Bank and Gaza Strip, especially after reports
suggesting that the prime minister was prepared to allow the Islamist movement
to retain security control over the Strip.
Hamas leaders have also not
remained indifferent to the tsunami sweeping the Arab world. They too have
announced plans to reshuffle the cabinet of Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh in the
near future. Moreover, the tone of many Hamas leaders has suddenly changed, with
many talking about the significance of reforms and democracy.
being held responsible for thwarting national unity, Hamas and Fatah have
separately come out with initiative aimed at ending the power struggle between
Many Palestinians are convinced that, under the current
circumstances, achieving unity between Hamas and Fatah has become an impossible
mission. “All the Facebook revolutions in the world won’t solve the crisis,
because the gap between the two parties is too wide,” said political analyst
Ghassan Shehadeh. “Palestinians will have to live with the two regimes until a
new leadership emerges one day.”
Another analyst, Suhail Kiwan, believes
that it’s not the Palestinians who are divided, but their leaders. “Unity can’t
be achieved under the two leaderships [of Hamas and Fatah],” he concluded. “The
two sides have been hurting each other very badly. Hamas supporters in the West
Bank are oppressed, just like their Fatah rivals in the Gaza Strip. The motto of
unity would never be achieved unless new leaderships emerge on both sides and
put the interests of Palestinians and freedom above factional and ideological