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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Freedom of expression, PA-style

From The Lede:

The Palestinian Authority refused to grant permission for a rally to celebrate the overthrow of Tunisia’s authoritarian president on Wednesday in Ramallah, the administrative capital of the West Bank.
The French newspaper Le Monde reported that a few dozen Palestinians who defied the ban arrived in the square in Ramallah where the rally was to take place only to find that they were outnumbered by members of the ruling Fatah party, who chose the same time and place to stage a demonstration in support of Palestinians held in Israeli jails.
A correspondent for Le Monde, Benjamin Barthe, observed that a police cordon around the square and “the presence among the demonstrators of many mukhabarat (secret police) officers left little doubt about the Palestinian Authority’s intention to prevent any expression of solidarity with the ‘jasmine revolution’ ” in Tunisia, which led the president, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, to flee into exile.
The reporter added that just as one young Palestinian began to wave a Tunisian flag, an officer grabbed it, on the grounds that it was disturbing the demonstration in honor of the prisoners.
Omar Barghouti, a leading Palestinian human rights activist who was present at the thwarted celebration told the French newspaper, “It’s unbelievable. … The police are in the process of confirming the charge that the Palestinian Authority is on the side of Ben Ali and that it also fears the people and the street.”
The column also links to this Foreign Policy article from earlier this week, which effectively blames Israel for creating the conditions that cause the PA to act as a police state, andfor  placing it in an impossible situation where it cannot do real democratic state-building. I don't have time to go through the details now, but let's just say that Israel somehow managed to do its own state-building in the 1940s under much more trying conditions than the PA is under today.

(h/t dm)