March in Ramallah against PA sanctions on Gaza, 9 June. Photo: Hadf News

A growing popular movement in Palestine is demanding the end of the Palestinian Authority’s sanctions imposed upon the Gaza Strip, especially as Palestinians in Gaza face Israeli siege with the complicity of the United States, Arab regimes and the European Union and repeated massacres as they protest for their rights in the Great Return March. The Palestinian Authority under Mahmoud Abbas has imposed a series of economic penalties on Palestinians in Gaza, including denying payment or sharply cutting payment to public workers as well as halting electricity payments and restricting remittances to Palestinians in Gaza.

These “punishments” by the Palestinian Authority were supposed to be alleviated with the signing of reconciliation agreements – nevertheless, rather than improving the situation of Palestinians in Gaza, they have faced enhanced repressions, more intense sanctions and the ongoing attacks and massacres of the Israeli occupation forces. As Gaza has been under siege for over 11 years, the Strip is already facing economic collapse, especially as so many families are reliant on the salaries of public workers. Over half of all Palestinians in Gaza live in poverty.

There have been over 130 Palestinians killed since 30 March as they participate in the Great March of Return, a series of popular peaceful demonstrations that demand Palestinian refugees’ right to return, denied them for 70 years, and the end of the siege on Gaza.

On Sunday night, 9 June, over 1500 Palestinians took to the streets in Ramallah alongside a simultaneous march in Dheisheh refugee camp, marking a sparking upsurge in the West Bank to support Palestinians in Gaza. A number of cities in ’48 occupied Palestine, including Haifa and Umm al-Fahm, have already been the site of extensive mobilizations for Gaza.

March in Dheisheh against PA sanctions on Gaza, 9 June. Photo: Hadf News

Several protests have taken place over the following days, including a gathering on Tuesday in Abu Dis and another in Ramallah outside the office of the PLO. A new call is being made for a mass demonstration, again in Manara Square in central Ramallah at 9:30 pm on Wednesday, 13 June, as well as in Martyrs’ Square in Nablus at 9:30 pm. 

As the movement in support of fellow Palestinians in Gaza and against the PA’s sanctions and ongoing security coordination with the Israeli occupation has grown, it is also facing intensified repression and attacks.

An advisor to PA President Mahmoud Abbas issued a decree prohibiting marches or gatherings that could “disrupt the movement of citizens” during the Eid holiday, a clear attempt to prevent the forthcoming marches and an act in violation of Palestinian law.

Following the mass demonstration in Ramallah’s Manara Square on Sunday, large banners suddenly appeared spanning entire large buildings, boasting of the PA’s spending in Gaza and denouncing the alleged “Hamas coup” of 2007. The unsigned banners were later removed from the area.

Photo: Quds News

In Dheisheh refugee camp, Bilal al-Saifi, a former prisoner who has been jailed four times for his involvement in the Palestinian struggle and who engaged in a long-term hunger strike while imprisoned under administrative detention withot charge or trial in 2015, was falsely depicted in an anonymous online video. Al-Saifi was one of the leaders of the protest on Sunday evening; the video showed grainy surveillance images of another person, apparently an Israeli soldier (one of the “mustaribeen”) or collaborator, who bears a slight yet distant resemblance to al-Saifi. The creators of the anonymous video falsely attempted to link the Israeli agent in the video to al-Saifi.

Gathering to support Bilal Saifi, 12 June. Photo: Hadf News

In response, a broad range of national and Islamic forces gathered in Dheisheh, in the presence of Mahmoud al-Araj, the father of assassinated Palestinian struggler Basil al-Araj, to defend al-Saifi on Tuesday evening, 12 June. Al-Araj noted that the attack on al-Saifi is part of the coordinated Israeli assault on Dheisheh camp which has seen dozens of youth shot in the legs alongside repeated invasions and imprisonments of young organizers in the refugee camp. He said that the anonymous video was aimed to sow conflict and disunity among Palestinians in Dheisheh, saluting the role of the camp in leading the struggle in the Bethlehem area.

Samidoun’s poster for Bilal al-Saifi, during his 2015 hunger strike.

Organizers with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine emphasized that they will continue to pursue those involved in the production of the video, calling for the expansion of the movement against the sanctions on Gaza. A PFLP statement released earlier on Tuesday, 12 June, noted that elements of the Palestinian Authority security forces were responsible for these distortions in an attempt to stop the growing movement. “The abuse of one of our fellow strugglers and former prisoners from Dheisheh camp, who has spent over seven years in Israeli prisons, with a fabricated video, is a suspicious and blatant attempt to demonize the youth movement and abuse its participants, and it will fool no one.”

Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network expresses its support and solidarity with the rising movement against the sanctions on Gaza and reiterates its call to end Palestinian Authority security coordination with the Israeli occupation. The PA sanctions on Gaza cannot be detached from security coordination, as they operate hand in hand with the Israeli siege that has been systematically targeting Palestinian existence in Gaza for over 11 years. In addition, the PA sanctions come hand in hand with the role of the United States government and Arab reactionary regimes in the area in bolstering the siege on Gaza rather than supporting people struggling for basic rights and freedom. We urge all supporters of Palestine and the Palestinian prisoners to join in this movement in their own international context as part of the campaign to support the Great Return March and break the siege on Gaza.