Monday, January 24, 2011

Ramallah Tunisia Solidarity Rally Sabotaged by PA

On Wednesday the 19th, at four pm, a rally was supposed to kick off at the Manara square in Ramallah. It was a rally showing solidarity with Tunisia, organized by university students with no political affiliations and who were simply impressed by the Tunisian people's revolution. The event was synchronized to start in other cities such as Nablus, Jenin, Gaza City, Jerusalem, and Yafa. Generally, we hold rallies and 'protests' in Ramallah in a belittling view, as the turn out is always disappointing and plainclothes police are sauntering everywhere-which ensures the democratic PA regime is watching. However, since this was a solidarity event, we decided, sure why the hell not. As we started walking toward the Manara, we could tell that something was wrong. We expected to find a small sea of red flags, and instead the vile yellow Fateh flags were fluttering everywhere. We rolled our eyes. Another rally despotically overridden by Fateh for the childish reason of reminding everyone just who is in charge around here, if by being in charge means under the thumb of Israel and moonlighting as their lapdogs. We pushed our way through the crowd and found out that in fact, this was no Solidarity-With-Tunisia-Cum-Display-of-Fateh-Masculinity. There was not a single Tunisian flag to be seen, no banners or posters or anything related to Tunisia. Instead, there were posters of the prisoner Haytham Salhia, whose assassination attempt in the Israeli Eshel prison failed and resulted in his paralysis (some say 'critical condition', not wanting to give the deets away).

It wasn't too hard to figure out what just happened. Those who had initially arrived for the Solidarity rally were huddled off at one side, while others were just standing among the Fateh supporters with a nonplussed expression on their faces. Apparently, the poor bitty PA is scared. For all of its brutal crackdowns and suppression of the freedom of speech, it still lives in fear that the West Bank will rise up and swallow them whole. Anyone who shows admiration for the Jasmine Revolution becomes a dissenter, and we all know what happens to that kind. Abbashole is on the unpopular side of Ben Ali, and he fears the people on the streets. Therefore, no Tunisian rally. No expression of solidarity. One man who unfurled his Tunisian flag promptly had it confiscated from him.  Fateh Fateh Fateh, all the way bitches!

A Statement by a Group of Palestinian Youths

Palestinian security forces sabotaged an event that was organized to celebrate the Jasmine revolution and express solidarity with the Tunisian people. Their excuse for shutting down the event was: “We are the authority here, we are the government, and we decide the laws around here.”

In organizing the event we followed all the legal procedures in accordance with the right to freedomof assembly. We were within the confines of Palestine’s Basic Law and Law 12 of 1998, which outlines the procedures for planning a public event. We informed the authorities more than 48 hoursin advance so that Ramallah’s governor’s office could have ample time to coordinate with the policeand other security forces to ensure our safety and redirect traffic. More than 24 hours after we submitted the request we were informed that a decision was made by the leadership of thePalestinian Authority to ban public events that celebrate or stand in solidarity with Tunisia. We were threatened by the authorities and were told that the police would oppose and prevent any such gathering and arrest those who defied their orders. However, we refused to yield to their threats, and insisted on assembling to celebrate and support the Tunisian people’s victory over tyranny.

We decided to have the crowd convened for the Tunisia solidarity event stand in support of Haytham, given the urgency of his case. At the gathering we planned to announce that we were postponing the Tunisian solidarity assembly for another day. We planned to inform the crowd that we were giving priority to the case of the poisoned political prisoner. We explained to those organizing the rally for the political prisoner the situation at-hand. We also asked the police and those working with the Palestinian Authority’s offices to allow us to announce to the crowd that the Tunisia event was postponed and ask that the crowd congregate near the prisoner’s family to provide them with moral support. We felt compelled to make this announcement to avoid any confusion in the crowd, especially since significant numbers of police and undercover intelligence forces were deliberately waiting to punish anyone who attempted to celebrate the Tunisian revolution.

The police and governmental officials at the event refused to give us the opportunity to make our announcement, and began to intimidate and threaten our participants to silence us. When a member of the assembly took out his Tunisian flag, the police forces quickly seized him and confiscated his flag. A policeman then threateningly declared: “We are the Authority here, we are the government,and we decide the laws around here.”The Palestinian Basic Law, which serves as our de facto constitution, grants us freedom of assembly.We believe that our future Palestinian state must be built on the firm grounds of civil and political liberties. We planned this public event for the sole purpose of standing in solidarity with the Tunisian people who have also stood by us in our time of need. The Tunisian people have consistently expressed solidarity with Palestine, both after and during our revolts against Israeli oppression. This event was not planned to protest the difficult internal conditions that currently inflict the Palestinian people, although we should have the right to openly protest, regardless of the issues or opinions being expressed.

We categorically refuse to submit to these threats. We will never surrender our right to freedom of expression and assembly.

Regardless of the threats used against us and the rejection we have received from the Palestinian Authority’s governmental and security institutions, we are determined to have our event. As Palestinian youth we understand that the future of the Palestinian people depends on us. We know where we must focus our energies to bring about positive change to ensure that our people will one day celebrate their freedom.

The time and place of our event will be announced soon, and the event will occur during this week.We invite you all to join us to celebrate the Tunisian people’s revolution against oppression.

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