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Why Is the West Bank Quiet?

Writing for the Jerusalem Post in Ramallah, the Palestinian capital, Khaled Abu Toameh offers a crucial picture of the other Palestinians: those in the West Bank. While protesters denounce Israel by the tens of thousands not only in Europe, but also in Israeli-Arab towns like Sakhnin and Um el-Fahm, protests in the Palestinian-Authority controlled West Bank have not been able to attract more than a few hundred at a time. This, despite calls by Hamas leader Khaled Mashal for a “third intifada.” Why?

Abu Toameh offers a series of answers. Here’s the first:

One [reason] has to do with the tough measures imposed by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s security forces in the West Bank. The PA has banned pro-Hamas rallies, and Palestinians who were caught carrying Hamas flags were either beaten or detained by Abbas’s forces.

We get it, right? PA leader Mouhammed Abbas is worried that too much support for Hamas will undermine his regime, perhaps even leading to an overthrow similar to the one that brought Hamas to power in Gaza.

But wait: What about the famous “Arab street”? Aren’t the Palestinian people just beside themselves with anger at Israel’s wanton killing of Palestinian children in Gaza? So the demonstrations don’t have to support Hamas — but shouldn’t there still be widespread rioting, violence against IDF soldiers, or massive protests against Israel? Here’s Abu Toameh again:

Another reason behind the relative calm is attributed to the fact that some Palestinians blame Hamas for the latest cycle of violence. They are convinced that Hamas was responsible for the misery of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip because of its refusal to extend the cease-fire and its continued rocket attacks on Israel.

It’s also possible that the West Bankers today feel that they have more to lose by resorting to violence. Over the past two years, their economic situation has improved remarkably as the international community resumed financial aid to the PA. In contrast, the situation in the Gaza Strip ever since Hamas took full control over the area has only been deteriorating, on almost all levels.

Now, there’s a headline. The great majority of Palestinians, it is being suggested, don’t feel that the war in Gaza is really something worth protesting. According to this theory, the Palestinians know what the alternatives are, know who’s to blame, and recognize that there might be another way to go on with their lives other than by dedicating them to suicidal support for fanatical terrorists.

Of course, maybe this is wrong. Maybe the first answer is closer: they are not protesting because they have been told not to, and they do what they’re told.

All this leaves us with a small number of possibilities regarding the Palestinians, at least one of which must be true, but none of which fit well with the anti-Israel narrative:

1. That the “Arab street” is a myth, and that violent protests are always directed top-down, even in the face of so-called Israeli atrocities;

2. That West Bank Palestinians are starting to understand that renouncing terror and violence might have serious advantages;

3. That the destruction of the Hamas regime is of importance not only to the West, and not only to the tacitly supportive Egyptians, but even to most Palestinians, even at the cost of civilian casualties in Gaza;

4. That Palestinian national identity is a lot weaker than we are usually told — that West Bankers are more willing to support their local regime and way of life than their brethren in Gaza.

World leaders, take note.



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