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Palestinians take to the streets for Abbas's speech

Palestinians poured into the streets of West Bank cities to watch and celebrate Mahmoud Abbas’s speech before the United Nations General Assembly. Earlier in the day, clashes erupted at the Qalandia checkpoint and the Israeli shot dead a Palestinian man in the northern West Bank village of Qasra

A Palestinian protester during clashes in Qalandia. Photo by Joseph Dana

A Palestinian protester during clashes in Qalandia. Photo by Joseph Dana

RamallahCarrying Palestinian flags and portraits of Abbas, Palestinians of all backgrounds, young and old, men and women, watched attentively in city’s Yasser Arafat Square as PLO Chairman and PA president Mahmoud Abbas made the case for his people and their desire for state sovereignty in front of the UN’s General Assembly.

“Our people are waiting to hear the answer of the world. Will the world allow Israel to occupy us forever? Are we an unwanted people? Or are we a missing state?” Abbas asked in his speech.

There were wild cheers as Abbas quoted Palestinian national poet Mahmoud Darwish, “Standing here, staying here, permanent here, eternal here, and we have one goal, one, one: to be.”

Press and protesters at Qalandia Photo by Joseph Dana

Press and protesters at Qalandia Photo by Joseph Dana

Mohammed Rahmah, from the small West Bank village of Salfit, came to Ramallah to be a part of the historic day. “The Palestinians have been waiting for this vote for 63 years and finally it is here,” he said half an hour before Abbas addressed the United Nations, “The whole world knows that we deserve a state and finally Abbas is fighting for our rights regardless of what Israel says.”

Protest in Qalandia before Abu Mazen's speech. Photo by Joseph Dana

Protest in Qalandia before Abu Mazen's speech. Photo by Joseph Dana

The excitement that the speech caused and the perception of Palestine as an equal member of the international community allowed Palestinians to momentarily forget about the hardships of their daily lives. But not all were satisfied with the performance of the Palestinian leadership.

Rula Talonisi, a mother of four living in Ramallah, echoed concerns shared by many Palestinians regarding an escalation of violence with Israel in the coming weeks. “I think that Israel is going to tease the Palestinians in the coming days,” she said, holding her two-year-old daughter in her lap.

“I hope that we will avoid confrontation with the Israeli army at checkpoints but I think that they are going to do everything to attack and tease us.”

While Ramallah was preparing for Abbas’s speech and Qalandia was engulfed in a barrage of stones and bullets, Israeli settlers marched into the Northern West Bank city of Qasra waving Israeli flags.

According to Palestinian sources inside the village, Israeli settlers began throwing stones which spiralled into a full-scale confrontation between villagers and settlers.

Palestinians take to the roofs of Ramallah in support of Abbas. Photo by Joseph Dana

Palestinians take to the roofs of Ramallah in support of Abbas. Photo by Joseph Dana

Responding to the clashes, Israeli soldiers entered the village, firing live ammunition which resulted in the death of Essem Odah, a 33-year-old resident of the village and father of seven.

A boy throws stones in Qalandia. Photo by Joseph Dana

A boy throws stones in Qalandia. Photo by Joseph Dana

The Israel Defence Forces said in a press release that soldiers used “riot dispersal means and eventually, live fire during a mutual rock hurling incident between Israeli civilians and Palestinians.”

Palestinians in the West Bank are trying to take advantage of their euphoric hope that Palestine could soon be a state. Many feel that statehood is merely one small step in their 44-year-old struggle for freedom, but it is a step nonetheless.

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    1. ALI ASAD


      Reply to Comment
    2. Ariel

      I’m a frequent reader of this site, and although I never comment, I appreciate the alternative coverage and insight the writers provide.

      But after reading this post and seeing the photos selected to illustrate the situation on the ground in Ramallah yesterday to those who weren’t there, I feel compelled to say something. I was in Ramallah and in Bi’lin yesterday, and experienced an energy that was largely notably devoid of anger and negativity emanating from Palestinians. What was demonstrated by outsiders, including Israelis, Europeans, and Latin Americans is another matter; it seemed many had travelled across the checkpoint expecting fireworks. Anything less, no matter how signifiant to the people that call the West Bank home, would have been a disappointment. We all know images are powerful. While I was not at Qalandia, I can’t help but wonder about the ratio of members of press to protestors and Westerners present. The pictures here suggest the local population wasn’t just outnumbered by IDF soldiers. The only thing that sells more than puppies and babies is blood and violence,

      No people is a monolith, and no opinion hegemonic. But for every angry Palestinian young person throwing rocks at the checkpoint, there were hundreds in the central square. Yet in the mainstream media, we will see 5 photos of the angry Palestinian and the fires they set for every one we see of the other side of Ramallah yesterday, with their pizzas in the shape of the flag and their kids’ faces covered with carnival-style face paint. I would have expected that 972 would have granted the latter group their equal due.

      It is unfair to those people who brought out their families and their children to only show the image that everyone is used to seeing; it is handing a victory to the other side to perpetuate the image of Palestinians as an undisciplined people with no collective recourse but violence and destruction.

      I have the utmost respect and appreciation for this blog and its writers, but I think this post didn’t do the events of last night any justice. Because despite the steady hum of violence and anger, the images I walked away with were of children recording history from their parents shoulders on a cell phone and a whole lot of cheering for a peaceful solution.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Ariel, your point does bear some weight but it might be missed placed for this particular post. It is clear that this post centers on the events in Qalandia and not those in Ramallah or Hebron or Nablus.
      I provide one link to a piece which I have written about the events in Ramallah. In terms of your argument that these photos show the Palestinians in one light, I do not see it. If you read the text which accompanies the photos, I am hard pressed to understand how you reach that conclusion.

      Reply to Comment