Michael Lavalette reports from the West Bank on a growing mood of strikes and protests
Transport workers across Palestine’s West Bank were on strike today (Monday) against low wages and rising prices. Pickets were in place early across Ramallah, while barricades of burning tyres stopped all traffic movements into the city.
I spoke to Hassan, a 28 year old bus driver, works a 12 hour shift from 6am for 50 shekels a day (about £7). His wage barely covers basic foods. Bread, milk and yoghurt have all increased in price over the past year.
“I work six days a week, 12 hours day, and can only afford the most basic food for my children,” he said. “The cost of fuel is impossible. We can’t go on like this.”
There have been increasing numbers of demonstrations across the West Bank in recent months. On Saturday refugee camps in the Ramallah area protested against the rocketing cost of living.
Last month public sector workers received only half their salaries, and this month they have been told their pay will be staggered into two payments. This is creating huge discontent.
Two elements are fuelling the protests. There is the fact that prime minister Salam Fayyad has tried to tie the Palestinian economy to that of Israel—with disastrous results for the Palestinian poor.
Fayed was previously a financier with the International Monetary Fund and is committed to pursuing a neoliberal economic strategy on the Occupied Territories.
But there is also the Arab Spring, which has deeply affected the Palestinians. The latest popular protests reflect a significant working class response to the combined pressures of austerity and occupation—and open up a potentially exciting new phase in the Palestinian struggle.