Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Democratic suspicion

By Amira Hass

"A Palestinian public sector strike, such as the one that began yesterday and is expected to continue today, is the type of news that here is considered a purely "internal Palestinian matter," lacking any media importance. But beyond the basic fact that the modest wage demands are a direct result of the policy of closure and economic attrition on the part of the true sovereign - Israel - the strike presents a genuine challenge to the stability and strength of Salam Fayyad's government, and demonstrates the erosion of its public credibility......

Government spokesmen, headed by Fayyad, have often spoken against a "culture of non-payment of bills," thus portraying the general Palestinian public as prone to being debt offenders. By doing so, they only angered this public even more: After all, the PA itself has not paid all its debts to its employees, various institutions and private firms, and asks for consideration because of the "economic situation." The sweeping statements ignore the years of economic crisis that caused a large percentage of Palestinian families to lose sources of income and savings.

Most of the political forces in the Palestinian Liberation Organization, including Fatah, have expressed their support for the workers' demands and their opposition to the "debt-payment certificate." Over the past two days the collective action against the government has begun to bear fruit: Somewhat vague official statements indicate that changes will be introduced into the regulation, so that it will be aimed at those prone to debt, and not the general public.

The strike, and all the public and internal discussions accompanying it, is a fascinating lesson of how Palestinians still acknowledge the power of the collective; how they oppose a liberal economic policy under occupation and colonization, and nurture a democratic suspicion as to the motives of the leading class. "

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