Palestinians Protest Palestinian Authority Sanctions on Gaza—and the Media is M.I.A

In a move that has prompted protests, the Palestinian Authority (PA) is refusing to ease sanctions on the Gaza Strip—and the media is refusing to provide coverage of the authority’s decision. The PA is dominated by the Fatah movement and rules the West Bank (Judea and Samaria). Fatah is a longtime rival of Hamas, the U.S.-designated terror group that controls Gaza.

PA president and Fatah head, Mahmoud Abbas, approved sanctions against the Gaza Strip in the spring of 2017. Abbas called for taking “painful and unprecedented” measures against Hamas in order to “force the terror group to dismantle its de facto government” in Gaza (“Hamas calls on PA government to lift sanctions or disband,” The Times of Israel, Feb. 13, 2018).

Among other actions, the PA approved salary cuts to its employees living in Gaza, suspended social assistance to hundreds of families, and forced the retirement of thousands of civil servants. The authority also reinstated the collection of taxes from Gazans, who had been exempt from paying taxes since 2007. Importantly, the authority also decided to stop paying Israel for the electricity and fuel supplies that the Jewish state was providing to the Strip—resulting in severe power shortages for Gaza residents.

Abbas hoped that the pressure would force reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah, resulting in the latter taking over the Gaza Strip. In 2007, Hamas seized control over the area after a brief and bloody war with Fatah.

Hamas, however, has refused Abbas’s demands to surrender their arms, and the PA’s efforts at reconciliation have met a dead end. Instead, the PA has faced protests for their attempts at strong arming Hamas.

On June 10, 2018, “hundreds” of Palestinians in Ramallah, a city under PA rule, protested the sanctions, according to a Jerusalem Post report. Some estimates placed the crowd size as high as 1,500. Demonstrators called for lifting the sanctions and restoring payments to authority employees and prisoners living in Gaza. Some carried banners saying, “12-20 hours daily with no electricity, lift sanctions,” and shouted “the longest technical mistake in history”—alluding to a May 2018 claim by Abbas that a technical glitch was responsible for delaying salaries to PA workers residing in Gaza.

But hundreds of Palestinians protesting PA sanctions and policies do not, apparently, merit reporting from major Western news outlets. Although Israeli, Arab—and even Iranian media—reported on the protests, The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Baltimore Sun, CNN and others, have failed to provide coverage.

The decision by many Western press outlets to ignore Palestinians protesting their own government is revealing. As CAMERA has documented, many Western news organizations have, in recent months, conducted extensive—albeit deeply flawed—reporting on Hamas-orchestrated violence at the Israel-Gaza border, also known as the “Great Return March.”

Several reporters have claimed that the dire conditions in Gaza were a motivating factor in prompting the violence. Few, however, have noted that Hamas, by choosing to spend resources and aid on attacking Israel instead of improving conditions for Gazans, is responsible. And fewer still have pointed out that the PA is using sanctions to achieve political objectives.

By contrast, Israel’s security blockade of the Gaza Strip has been mentioned—and mischaracterized—frequently by the media. Israel, along with Egypt, maintains the blockade in order to prevent the smuggling of weapons and explosives. Medical supplies and other necessities are still allowed in. And Israel has continued to provide fuel and electricity to parts of the Strip—despite the fact that Hamas calls for Israel’s destruction and has waged three wars on the Jewish state since seizing control of Gaza. Although Israel’s blockade remains a topic of media focus, many in the media have ignored or minimized the PA’s decision to enact sanctions, which exist not for security reasons, but rather to extend Fatah’s power.

And now that hundreds of Palestinians are taking to the streets, the Western press seem intent on keeping their silence.

The day before the protests in Ramallah, The Washington Post’s Jerusalem bureau offered a look at growing tensions in the neighboring country of Jordan, which has been rocked with protests over economic dissatisfaction and corruption (“Economic stress rattles Jordan, a crucial island of stability in tumultuous Middle East”). Whether The Post and others will turn their attention to Palestinians protesting the PA, remains to be seen.