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Palestinians Call For Civil Unrest Amid Crisis Over New Social Security Law

By Dima Abumaria | The Media Line

October 31, 2018

Palestinians gather in Ramallah's al-Manara Square to protest a new social security law on Monday, October 29, 2018. (Credit: Dima Abumaria/The Media Line).
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Palestinian citizens stormed the city of Ramallah protesting against the recently passed social security law, which is the result of a presidential decree

Thousands of people on Monday stormed the city center of Ramallah demanding that the Palestinian Authority (PA) cancel a new social security law enacted by presidential decree slated to take effect on November 1.

The angry protesters carried posters questioning the legitimacy of the initiative which they described as “biased,” given the move was implemented amid ongoing instability and without being subjected to a proper legislative process.

Numerous activists stressed to The Media Line that there is a huge lack of trust between Palestinians and their own government, whose decisions increasingly are being viewed with skepticism.

“On November 12 we have a special march that will define the next phase of the protest,” a member of the National Social Security Movement (NSSM), who asked to remain anonymous, revealed to The Media Line. “If there is no response to our demands our [possible] moves range from declaring civil disobedience to dropping the whole government,” he proclaimed, before qualifying that the NSSM is giving the PA a limited amount of time to reconsider its position or else will “strongly” escalate the situation on the ground.

Since the formulation last year of the draft-law, the NSSM has spearheaded the largest series of anti-government popular demonstrations in the West Bank in over a decade. The grassroots organization considers the new law “one of the worst” in recent memory, as it was approved by PA President Mahmoud Abbas only four days after he informed members of the defunct Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC).

The Palestinian legislature essentially was disbanded after a 2007 Hamas-orchestrated coup forcibly evicted Abbas’ Fatah faction from the Gaza Strip. The PA leader has since been in charge of crafting all laws, a situation that will persist until new elections are held, following which the PLC will be tasked with reviewing presidential edicts.

“The origin of our disagreement with the government isn’t the social security fund but [stems from] a history of distrust that is without any kind of monitoring system,” Amer Hamdan, a NSSM spokesperson, explained to The Media Line. “Why doesn’t Abbas fight the remarkable and obvious corruption in Palestine?”

He concluded that the PA should simultaneously be pre-occupied with working to achieve a “real” independent state, as well as developing the Palestinian economy and political arena.

“I see the new plan as two cows, one to provide milk for Abbas and the other to provide milk for [PA Prime Minister] Rami al-Hamdallah,” Hashem Nwarah, a Palestinian protester, asserted to The Media Line. “What social benefits are they talking about when the Palestinians don’t even have security,” he affirmed in reference to the Israeli military’s ongoing control over large swaths of the West Bank.

Moreover, Nwarah blamed the PA for not providing its people with basic necessities, including “securing our dignity and ensuring a safe environment before forcing a fund upon us against our will.”

Ashraf Aoun, a Palestinian from Hebron, similarly denounced the move, contending to The Media Line that “any social security project needs a solid economy to finance it. However, in Palestine the situation is far from that as we are economically dependent on Israel.” Additionally, he noted, the PA has for years been unable to implement a multitude of simpler programs, all the while being accused of a lack of transparency.

“The offered [social security] doesn’t serve the Palestinian people,” Abd al-Latef Ibrahim, a representative of the workers’ union at Jawwal, the largest Palestinian telecommunications company, declared to The Media Line. “Unfortunately, after everything we have seen we don’t trust the government’s decisions anymore.”

Previously, Maamoun Abu Shahla, the Palestinian Minister of Labor, told human rights advocates and civil society organizations that the new social security law “wasn’t the result of one hour [of thought]” but, rather, was sanctioned only after lengthy considerations.

He described the legislation as a national project that aims to improve the lives of Palestinians, and reiterated that it will come into force beginning in November.

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