PA continues crackdown on West Bank teachers strike as anger with anti-democratic Palestinian leadership spreads

Israel/Palestine
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Thousands of Palestinian teachers demonstrated yesterday afternoon in cities across the West Bank, marking the start of a third week of strikes. What began as a protest over a bureaucratic 2.5% pay increase in early February has quickly become a wider anti-democratic crackdown against Palestinian society’s beloved and underpaid public servants, teachers.

For a second time in recent days Palestinian Authority police erected checkpoints along routes to the demonstrations, turning back carloads of educators at the security checks. A similar measure was used to prevent teachers from reaching an anti-government protest in Ramallah on February 23 as well.

In addition to the PA officers dispatched to interrupt protests, forces affiliated with the government’s ruling Fatah party have began to attack the protesting teachers as anti-government agents. Masked gunmen from Fatah’s armed-wing released a statement alleging the teachers are agents of Israel, a part of a “conspiracy of four pillars” they accused of stirring up instability that could topple the Palestinian Authority. A member of the al-Aqsa Martyr’s Brigades warned, “There are actors within the Palestinians that are serving the interest of Israel in destroying the unity of our government and suffocating any chances of resolution.”

And before teachers were accused of being agents of Israel, they were first charged with being proxies of Hamas.

On February 16, Palestinian police arrested 20 teachers and two school principals during a demonstration in Ramallah, the seat of government in the West Bank. At that time the strike was one week in. Teachers and Palestinian human rights groups decried the jailing, yet Palestinian officials defended the move stating the detained instructors were were affiliates of their rival party, the Islamic group Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip.

Teachers have uniformly rejected these claims as thinly veiled attempts to malign the validity of their demands for a pay increases. They launched their strike on February 9, 2015 when the 2.5% raise brokered in 2013 during a separate strike, was not paid.

Now more than 2,000 schools in the West Bank open their doors everyday, teachers arrive at their workplaces, some students filter into the classroom, but there is no formal instruction.

Palestinian teachers march in front of security forces during a demonstration for increased salaries in Ramallah, February 23, 2015. (Photo: Allison Deger)

Palestinian teachers march in front of security forces during a demonstration for increased salaries in Ramallah, February 23, 2016. (Photo: Allison Deger)

There is also no formal union representative leading the teachers in their strike. Teachers asked for the resignation of the former head of the teachers union Ahmad Sahwil after he made an agreement to end the protests at a meeting last week with Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and the Minister of Education Sabri Saidam.

Among teachers Sahwil is viewed as aligned with the government. For one, he was appointed to his position by Fatah and not through a union election. He also handed in his resignation to Fatah and not directly to the union.

Anger against Sahwil is strong. Some teachers brought placards to protest him in Ramallah on February 23, the largest anti-government protest held in years. “Sahwil does not represent me,” said one woman’s poster. “He’s a union representative with government ties,” said Jamal Farajallah, an administrator at the Dier Samat school in Hebron.

Palestinian school administrator Jamal Farajallah joins teachers in protesting for a salary increase in Ramallah, February 23, 2015. (Photo: Allison Deger)

Palestinian school administrator Jamal Farajallah joins teachers in protesting for a salary increase in Ramallah, February 23, 2016. (Photo: Allison Deger)

Farajallah explained many teachers are now attempting to form an alternate syndicate. They have formed city clusters of representatives who are in communication over increasing wages. 

“Maybe the new government of teachers are making the difference now,” Farajallah added, noting frustrations were growing against the Palestinian Authority as teachers bore obstacles from both police and their union.

“We were stopped four times from Hebron to here,” Farajallah said of the police checkpoints that prevented many teachers from reaching the demonstration.

When asked how many times Israeli forces stopped his car on the way to the protest, Farajallah chuckled, “well, something different is going on here.”

Before the Sahwil-era teachers were represented in a different syndicate, the public service union, formerly the largest workers’ group in the West Bank. Membership in this organization is now illegal. In 2012, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas made belonging to the public service union a punishable offense by executive order. The union thus disbanded and its last chief, Bassam Zakarneh, was briefly jailed. Over the past week Zakarneh was rearrested on unknown charges.

Sahwil states he tried in good-faith to advocate on behalf of Palestine’s educators, however he was compromised by a few bad apples. “We have solved everything with the government, but there are many actors on the ground who want to ruin what we have achieved,” Sahwil said.

“There are many different claims. Perhaps, most of the teachers are right about some of those claims. They are right,” said Sahwil. “But what was done was done incorrectly,” the deposed union representative said of his firing. “The teachers union usually gets its feedback from the ground then carries the issues and demands and complaints to the largest legal representative in the country.”

“However, this time, the teacher and members of the union incited against the union and its leadership for personal and political gains,” Sahwil continued, adding that members of Hamas visited his office and demanded his resign.

He continued, “The situation started to take a political, partisan direction. If you want to set obstacles to any union you cover it with a political cover or dress. This will exhaust the struggle, and hurt it.”


Mashhour Batran, a teacher at Mahmoud Darwish school outside of Hebron, told Mondoweiss part of the difficulty now in reaching an agreement to end the strike is the absence of a representatives the government recognizes to speak on behalf of the teachers.

Batran said, “Teachers are demanding a financial increase estimated to be $150 in addition to administrative requests. The government is not ready to negotiate with the teachers leadership. Because they do not want to legitimize this leadership. Experience has taught us that undemocratic governments do not pay much attention to the demands of the people.”

“In such abnormal circumstances, teachers are the weaker party. The government is capable of incitement in the local community against teachers. I guess this strike will break, and teachers will return to work without achieving any demands,” he said.

With reporting from Derrar Ghannem.

About Allison Deger

Allison Deger is the Assistant Editor of Mondoweiss.net. Follow her on twitter at @allissoncd.

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10 Responses

  1. niass2
    March 2, 2016, 2:08 pm

    Why don’t they make Palestine great again? Seems to me , a Jew, that the PA sucks big time. As does my mayor, Congress people etc. And Obama, the Democrat, is washed out and looking for as many wars as we can involve ourselves in. Whatever, like my Congress people, Abbas is halfway dead. so what’s next? In a way we are lucky Israel is acting as it is, the cat is so out of the bag, with Jews defending racism and war and hate and all that stuff, its sad but predictable. Liberal Jews supporting Obama and war. They should just make america great again. Like my Trump supporting friend says, he will arrest all of these people including Hillary, and start over. I’m not voting for him, but not everyone who is is a moran, they just want a complete lock down of these idiots from Clinton to Rumsfeld to Abbas. confinement soup is waiting. . Clean house, what is the alternative.

  2. jaspeace2day
    March 2, 2016, 2:33 pm

    Home school as a whole and have all the parents contribute to your salaries thereby effectively bypassing your corrupt Fatah government or get Hamas to take over the West Bank.

  3. Mayhem
    March 3, 2016, 7:20 am

    The paucity of responses to this article about the corruption of the PA illustrates the true demeanor of MondoWeiss. The Palestinians are just used a vehicle to damn and slam Israel – if there was real concern about the demise of the Palestinians then those who genuinely cared about their plight would come out with full force to criticize the PA that is preventing the Palestinians from self-actualizing and achieving statehood. Instead they stay dormant, hypocrites to the core, waiting for the next opportunity to bash Israel – that’s the name of the game.
    And one guy here actually seriously suggests that Hamas should take over the West Bank as though Hamas is any better than the PA!

    • eljay
      March 3, 2016, 9:11 am

      || Mayhem: … if there was real concern about the demise of the Palestinians then those who genuinely cared about their plight would come out with full force to criticize the PA that is preventing the Palestinians from self-actualizing and achieving statehood. … ||

      I condemn with full force the Palestinian Authority for not applying and upholding justice, accountability and equality in areas under its control.

      Leave it to a hateful and immoral Zio-supremacist to blame the P.A. for the lack of Palestinian statehood while his oppressive, colonialist, expansionist and religion-supremacist “Jewish State” of Israel continues:
      – to militarily occupy and colonize Palestine;
      – to commit (war) crimes in Palestine;
      – to refuse to withdraw from Palestine;
      – to oppress, torture and kill Palestinians;
      – to refuse to allow Palestine to be established as an independent state; and
      – to pressure nations around the world in to refusing to allow Palestine to be established as an independent state.

      It’s time for you Zio-supremacists to come out with full force to criticize Israel for preventing the Palestinians from self-actualizing and achieving statehood.

    • echinococcus
      March 3, 2016, 11:03 am

      The PA is a Zionist entity institution, a band of traitors appointed and ordered around by the Zionist entity and paid mostly by the US, with the sole job of suppressing resistance to the invader and providing a fake pretext for shirking the occupant’s fiduciary responsibilities.
      I am delighted when Zionists like you inveigh against your own supremely corrupt dogs.
      Doesn’t show a high level of understanding, though.

    • talknic
      March 3, 2016, 2:42 pm

      WARNING TYPICAL ZIOSPEW THREAD DERAIL ATTEMPT!

      @ Mayhem March 3, 2016, 7:20 am

      “The paucity of responses to this article about the corruption of the PA illustrates the true demeanor of MondoWeiss”

      MW is not the topic

      “… the PA that is preventing the Palestinians from self-actualizing and achieving statehood. “

      Bullsh*t. Independent statehood can’t be achieved whilst under occupation. Israel is the belligerent Occupying Power Only Israel can end its occupation.

      Take the so called ‘Jewish’ state as an example. The Zionist Movement et al had to wait until the British occupation of Palestine under the LoN Mandate for Palestine “terminated”before it could declare independent statehood.

      BTW Israel was recognized and accepted into the UN while at war in territories the Israeli Government itself claimed on May 22nd 1948 were “outside the State of Israel” … “in Palestine”

    • Mooser
      March 3, 2016, 4:07 pm

      “The paucity of responses to this article about the corruption of the PA illustrates the true demeanor of MondoWeiss.”

      That’s right folks, get with it! “Mayhem” demands that Mondo get more hits and UPVs and stuff. He doesn’t like it when the comment threads are too short.

    • Talkback
      March 5, 2016, 2:55 am

      Mayhem, why don’t you support the crackdown of Palestinian protest and any attempt to prevent them from exercising their souvereignity in their allready recognized state?

      Hipocrit to the core, waiting for the next opportunity to blame the victims of Israel’s occupation and crimes against humanity?

  4. Talkback
    March 3, 2016, 8:09 am

    The Palestinian Kapothority has learned quick from its master.

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