Angered by price hikes, Palestinians call for prime minister to step down

 
Palestinians are tired of the high costs of living in the West Bank. Resentment at high prices that appeared on Facebook has spilled over into the streets over the past week. Protests throughout the West Bank’s urban centers culminated on Monday, with the biggest show of popular discontent since the governing Palestinian Authority came to power 18 years ago. The main cause of this anger is the government’s decision to increase the cost of gasoline by eight percent, even though inflation has led to increasing food prices.
 
The protests were triggered by the death of a Gaza teenager, who set himself on fire on September 2. Aged 17, Ehab Abou al-Nada worked 13 hours a day for 30 shekels (about six euros) in order to help his family survive. His suicide is reminiscent of that of Mohammed Bouazizi, the Tunisian produce vendor whose self-immolation set off the Jasmine Revolution in January 2011. On Wednesday, a resident of Ramallah also doused himself in gasoline, but was stopped by security forces before he could set himself on fire. Hussein Qahwaji, 37, had called for the Palestinian Authority to reimburse a trip to Jordan that he made in an attempt to find medical care for his five-year-old daughter.
 
Throughout these protests, Palestinian demonstrators chanted Arab Spring slogans, urging their prime minister to “get out”. Many hold the Palestinian Authority’s prime minister Salam Fayyad responsible for the rising costs and consier him to be corrupt. Effigies of the Fayyad were even burned in Hebron. Adding to the difficulties Fayyad faces, the president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, did not immediately come to his defence, and, surprisingly, even said he believed the “Palestinian Spring” had begun. Many protesters perceive this position to be a political manoeuvre to get more popular support.
 
Protesters in Ramallah on Monday.
 
The protestors are also calling for the abrogation of the Paris Protocol. This protocol is an annex to the Oslo Accord of 1993 and requires imports into the Palestinian territories to be subject to the approval of Israel, which controls the borders. It also stipulates that the Palestinian value-added tax be pegged to the Israeli currency, putting the Palestinians at a disadvantage compared with other Arab countries.
 
The protests over the rising cost of living also happen against the backdrop of a very challenging economic environment: about 20 percent of Palestinians in the West Bank are unemployed.
 
Protesters calling for Prime Minister Salam Fayyad to step down in Ramallah, on September 5.
Contributors

'In one week, the price of gas increased by 12%'

Ayman lives in Ramallah. He participated in the protests there.
 
The protests started ten days ago, but a Facebook group entitled “Young people against price increases” has gained popularity over the last two or three months. And it’s not the first time we protest about this.
 
The protesters are calling for the abrogation of the Paris Protocol and the Oslo Accords, to which the Protocol is annexed, as well as the resignation of certain political leaders.
 
The protesters also want the government to focus on social security programs, implement controls on market prices, and otherwise regulate prices as necessary. These demands are a reaction to the increase in the prices of fruits, vegetables, gasoline, eggs, milk, and other basic products. For instance, since September 1, the price of gas increased by 12 percent, the price of gasoline increased by 6.12 percent, and the price of diesel increased by 2.9 percent.
 
Our political and economic situation is very difficult, and we suffer enormously from the Israeli occupation. Palestinians are losing hope with each passing day. I believe that the protest movement is also linked to this morale problem, and that, generally speaking, it will not go away as long as Palestinians do not regain some hope and dignity in their daily lives.
 
Protesters in the streets of Ramallah on September 5.

'The majority of protesters oppose all acts of vandalism or arson'

Jenny is an unemployed translator. She participated in the protests in Bethlehem.
  
People took to the streets several days ago, when the prices of food and gasoline began to increase. Overall, protesters are peaceful, holding placards and asking for decreases in prices. Many are now no longer capable of feeding their families.
 
On Thursday, about 300 people of all ages protested in downtown Bethlehem, on al-Madbasa street. More protests continued through the night, bringing out even more people than during the day. Tires were burned, and most of the streets of the city were closed. But the large majority of protesters who went out in the streets during the day were opposed to acts of vandalism or arson. On Friday morning, young Palestinians cleaned up the streets.

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