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Why Palestinians remain so quiet as Egyptians loudly rail against Mubarak

Hamas and the Palestinian Authority dispersed rallies supporting Egyptian protesters, but Palestinians don't seem eager to push back.

By Daniella CheslowCorrespondent / February 2, 2011

Israeli-Arab protesters hold a poster depicting Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak (r.), a Palestinian flag (c.) and a sign, which reads 'Honor and freedom are demanded for all Egyptians,' during a demonstration outside the Egyptian embassy in Tel Aviv, to show support for the people of Egypt on Feb. 1.

Ammar Awad/Reuters

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Jerusalem

Cries for President Hosni Mubarak's ouster in Egypt are being echoed in Jordan with antigovernment protests and a "day of rage" planned for Syria this Friday. But in the Palestinian territories, it's the silence that is most notable.

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Part of that quiet is due to a rare common effort from the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank and Hamas in the Gaza Strip to suppress vocal support for Egyptian protesters. Both sides dispersed solidarity demonstrations that were planned for last Sunday and Monday.

The PA and Hamas both maintain close ties with the Egyptian government. Mr. Mubarak has been a key supporter in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks that have involved the PA. Although Egypt has helped maintain the blockade on the Gaza Strip, Mubarak also turned a blind eye to the brisk tunnel trade under the Gazan-Egyptian border, and has allowed aid into the strip. Further, Mubarak has attempted to mend the rift between the Gaza-based Hamas and Fatah, which rules the West Bank.

"[The Gazans] don’t want to get into a bad relationship with the Egyptian regime," says Sameeh Hammoudeh, a political scientist at Birzeit University. "Egypt can really harm them if they close the border, if they close everything and prevent the Gazans from getting what they need through the tunnels in Sinai."

Still, there have been some calls online for Egyptian-like protests in Gaza, where more than 7,000 people have joined a Facebook page calling for an anti-Hamas rally planned for Feb. 11. Another 1,100 people have joined a page "Against the corrupt Zionist Fatah government."

But the bigger factor in preventing protests from breaking out in the Palestinian territories appears to be a sense that a protest – either against the Palestinian leadership or against Israel – will not bring about any positive change.

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