Instead of Throwing Rocks: a Census, a Tuition Protest
RAMALLAH, WEST BANK — Perhaps in a sign that most Palestinians are today longing for normalcy - or prefer peaceful protest - the tenth anniversary of the Palestinian intifadah, or uprising, was used to kick off a new census. It aims to include residents of East Jerusalem, raising the ire of the Israeli government.
And in Ramallah, students from An-Najah University in Nablus came to the Palestinian parliament to protest the bane of students worldwide: a possible tuition hike.
"The intifadah is still a priority but education is the weapon we can fight with," says student Fathi Khoran. Whereas he once protested against the Israeli army presence in Nablus - which the 1993 Olso accords removed - this demonstration targeted the Palestinian Authority and Hanan Ashrawi, the minister of higher education.
The mood is different in areas where Palestinians still live under Israeli control. Boys in the Shuafat refugee camp near Jerusalem took advantage of the anniversary to stone cars with Israeli license plates.
The effectiveness of the intifadah as a tool was diminished by the success of the Oslo accords. With their signing four years ago, autonomy was granted to major Palestinian population centers. And the main target of rebellion - Israeli soldiers - was removed.
But periodic intifadah-style clashes outside the mains cities, as well as a three-day relapse into violence last year when Palestinian police and Israeli soldiers turned their guns on each other, suggest that a new intifadah could be deadlier than before.
"For those people in Shuafat nothing has changed," say Hussan Khader, a onetime demonstrator now in Yasser Arafat's government. And for the people who live in areas of the West Bank and Gaza Strip where there has been real change, many feel they haven't been compensated for losses they sustained in the intifadah. Many veterans were given jobs as Palestinian police.
But even low-paying sectors can't absorb all the young and unemployed. As one official said: "For every intifadah leader who is now director-general in a ministry, you have a hundred who are in bakery shops."