The security men delivered a beating like there was no tomorrow, as if they were defending their lives. No, it wasn't the riot police in Tel Aviv, but rather the Palestinian police in Ramallah. On Saturday, cautiously and moderately in comparison with their Israeli counterparts, and again on Sunday with mounting brutality, the Palestinian police tried to prevent a small group of demonstrators from advancing on the grand presidential compound, the Muqata. In Ramallah, as in Tel Aviv, the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh and New York, the violence of the security forces is never committed on the personal whim of commanders or their underlings. The order always comes from above. Even if at first it is difficult to understand the logic.
Armed with the slogan "down with security coordination," the members of the group calling itself "Palestinians for Dignity" showed admirable courage in the face of the flying batons and fists of the personnel trained by the police and intelligence forces of Jordan, Russia, Egypt, France and the United States. If they had not been beaten, the demonstrators would have gotten less attention. Now everyone is talking about them, not just their sympathizers who have qualms about some of the harsher slogans and the epithet "traitor" pinned on certain police commanders.
An ambiguous but hard-hitting slogan of the protest was "oh, the shame of it." Every Palestinian understands the intent of the protesters - most of whom are children of well-to-do parents who are connected somehow to the Palestinian Authority's institutions - when they say they have had enough humiliation. They are expressing the feelings of many people.
Like any unelected regime, Israeli rule over the Palestinians by its nature needs to humiliate and debase them. The arrogant tone of a Civil Administration inspector, the falsely kind gesture of an Israeli liaison officer, cutting off the path to olive grove and home when across the way an outpost is flourishing - every little thing about Israeli rule is humiliating.
The trigger for the demonstrations was the humiliation in the very willingness of PA President Mahmoud Abbas to hold another empty meeting. This time it was to be with Vice Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz, who, during his tenure as Israel Defense Forces chief of staff, besieged Yasser Arafat, and whom Palestinian human rights groups include in their list of war criminals who should be brought to international justice for harming civilians.
Collaboration with the humiliation does not begin and end with Mofaz's visit. What is humiliation, if not Prime Minister Salam Fayyad's request to Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer that Israel secure a $100 million loan from the International Monetary Fund so the PA doesn't collapse and can pay salaries, including to its security forces? What is humiliation, if not Fayyad's PR-conscious remarks about the huge economic damage the Israeli closure policy is causing, the annexation for all intents and purposes of Area C (61 percent of the West Bank ), and the prevention of export from Gaza, while secretly begging from Fischer as if the latter were still his colleague in the IMF and not the representative of the government that is causing the Palestinian economic collapse?
Thus, once again, the artful deal of Oslo is exposed: The world pays the PA to fund the Palestinian public sector, including its security forces, whose job it is to repress their own people protesting the transformation of the PA into the subcontractor of the IDF, the Civil Administration and Shin Bet security service, which in turn implement the Israeli government policy to smash the aspirations of Palestinian independence.
Some of the young Ramallah protesters' slogans may reflect political immaturity. But their message is deeper than the slogans. The protesters are demanding that the PA stop cooperating, at least, with the humiliation. That is their contribution to the growing demand to build a new strategy against foreign rule. That is the reason the people delivering the beatings, the PA's henchmen, did so as if their lives depended on it.