Pride is a funny thing and it can really stuff you into a corner sometimes. Seeing this in the center of Ramallah might cause some real confusion if you don’t factor in pride first. As I took this photo a plainclothes policeman came and hassled me to move along. Nameless youth – the same who have busted up meetings on democracy and attacked Al-Jazeera offices in the past – were in the streets standing firm with the Palestinian Authority. The intelligentsia were taking the opportunity to loudly vocalize their support of Abu Mazen and their indignation at Al Jazeera, who was called a CIA agent, Shin Bet service, Israeli Foreign Ministy, and more.
So the question is why this kind of reaction to what is surely at least partially true – and it must be because no authority takes nearly a billion dollars from the Americans without being subject to their terms in some way.
First, we must address the issue of pride. The Palestinian people hold fiercely to their pride because it is almost the last thing many of them have. How can one expect them to react in such a situation? Israel has two very important opportunities with this leak: one, they come away as being strong actors in the negotiations, actors who have whittled their opponent’s demands to nearly nothing at all. Indeed, the “right” in Israel can now voice horror over the supposed “concessions” being made by Israel in these sham negotiations. Secondly, as an editorial in Ma’ariv pointed out:
The real answer to the question as to whether we have a partner or not is not to be found in the documents that were published by al-Jazeera but, rather, in the streets of the West Bank. If the Olympian quiet that was maintained there yesterday continues, that is a sign that the Palestinian Authority of Abu Mazen and Salam Fayyad is a genuine sovereign power, and that its policies have the support of a majority of the public.
Their silence is their assent. Like some blushing bride guarding her modesty, the silence on the streets of Ramallah is a result of their assent and not their fear of the Palestinian Authority, which, as pointed out, has become more and more ubiquitous and powerful in the past few years. The Palestinian intellegentsia, unable to rear their heads because of both this powerful police state and the threat of turning out as their Gazan brothers and sisters have – starving and without power and under threat of installation at any time – must rally to protect their pride by loudly agreeing with the Palestinian Authority’s position on the leaks. If they do not, they risk their positions in Palestinian society and their grip on the hope that their system can be reformed through foreign aid and talks of democratization, rather than the kind of reform being discussed in in the streets Tunisia, Egypt, and Jordan this week.