On Thursday, the people of the West Bank began a general strike and on Friday, there will be a day of protest against the occupation. Shops were closed, and Palestinians congregated in support tents, which I have seen popping up around Palestine over the past few weeks.
These tents pop up often. They are a common sight when someone from a village has been killed or imprisoned, but rarely is there one in every village at the same time. Adorning them is usually the paraphernalia of the dominant party in the area----as Lori Allen has written on extensively through her ethnographic work in Palestine. In the past, one could see Hamas, Fatah, or PFLP slogans and faces everywhere.
These tents are different. They are covered with multi-party posters. PFLP posters have pictures of Fatah leaders. One can see more Hamas posters than have been allowed in recent years in typically Fatah villages. In short, something has changed.
Yes, the strike and the day of rage is a tactic to ensure Mahmoud Abbas's political survival, but that doesn't mean the underlying unity of this movement is contrived or disingenuous. Marwan Barghouti, the leader of the hunger strike, is a genuine leader and unifier. The camaraderie he engenders is not merely a power move. He draws on a pre-existing national unity, which is support by a shared commitment to national autonomy. This social movement has been practiced for decades and decades, built and shaped----outlasting any particular leader.
I have had interesting conversations in my past few days in the Palestinian Territories. People tell me the leaders are awful and the parties are useless. They have flocked back to political action as a means to their liberation. Instead of an apathetic shrug, there is a raised fist. Tomorrow, just as in the past, a people who have aspired to liberation since 1948 will continue to struggle. That is what commitment to an ideal really looks like. Those reading this as loyalty to any particular leader are misguided or misinformed.
Deutch is a graduate of Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA). He currently resides in Jerusalem and Ramallah, where he works for UNRWA in Jerusalem.