West Bank: Unionists join protest

As part of the ever-widening Arab intifada, several hundred people took part in a demonstration in Ramallah on 5 February in solidarity with the Egyptian people. Protests have been forbidden by the Palestinian Authority (PA) in recent years, and this rally was only approved at the last minute. Some Fatah and PA leaders had unsuccessfully tried to call a pro-Mubarak rally in the last week. The de facto government in the Gaza Strip has also stopped Egypt solidarity protests.

Saturday’s rally at the Manara in central Ramallah was called by Palestinian civil society groups. Participating were people from affiliates of the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions (but not its central leaders), the General Union of Palestinian Workers, the Democracy and Workers Rights Centre and the Federation of Independent Unions. Unlike Gaza, where flags and signs for Hamas and the Popular Front and some other parties are evident, there were no party flags or banners at the demonstration, but leading activists from the progressive parties took part.

Participants carried small Egyptian flags, and one USA flag was burned on the lions of the Manara monument. There were no religious chants, and slogans from one group initially focussed on bringing back Nasser, and then the chants were about solidarity with those in Tahrir square and in Alexandria, such as “the people will not be humiliated”, “Mubarak is CIA”, “the people want to get rid of the regime”, “first to go Mubarak, second is King Abdullah (of Jordan), third is…” (Abu Mazen of the PA), then later some dared to change the chants: “the PA is CIA” and “the people want to get rid of Oslo”.

The Al Jazeera channel has been knocked off the Nilesat satellite television and many people can’t watch it now in the West Bank, but everyone is following the news minute by minute, not only from Cairo, but also news from Tunisia, Yemen, Jordan, Lebanon and Algeria. Many fear that if Mubarak stays on until elections in September, he will be able to reassert terrible repression and pillaging of national resources and ensure transition to someone who will safeguard the interests of USA and Israel. People are joking about Israel’s oft-repeated claim to be the only democracy in the region, since now so many Israeli leaders are warning against democracy in Arab countries.

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