Palestinian Authority Police Sabotage Solidarity with Tunis Event in Ramallah and Confiscate Tunisian Flag

Occupied Palestine – Ramallah – January 20, 2011

Palestinian security forces sabotaged an event that was organized to celebrate the Jasmine revolution and express solidarity with the Tunisian people. Their excuse for shutting down the event was: “We are the authority here, we are the government, and we decide the laws around here.”

We are a group of Palestinian college-aged youths with no political or institutional affiliations whowere inspired by Tunisia’s revolution and planned a peaceful assembly in different cities throughout historical Palestine (Ramallah, Yafa, Jerusalem, and Gaza). We utilized our personal connections,sent out text messages, and created an event on Facebook to spread the word.

In organizing the event we followed all the legal procedures in accordance with the right to freedomof assembly. We were within the confines of Palestine’s Basic Law and Law 12 of 1998, which outlines the procedures for planning a public event. We informed the authorities more than 48 hoursin advance so that Ramallah’s governor’s office could have ample time to coordinate with the policeand other security forces to ensure our safety and redirect traffic. More than 24 hours after we submitted the request we were informed that a decision was made by the leadership of thePalestinian Authority to ban public events that celebrate or stand in solidarity with Tunisia. We were threatened by the authorities and were told that the police would oppose and prevent any such gathering and arrest those who defied their orders. However, we refused to yield to their threats, and insisted on assembling to celebrate and support the Tunisian people’s victory over tyranny.

On the day of the event, we were surprised to find that the security forces and governmental institutions had approved a media event to shed light on the case of Haytham Salhia, a Palestinian political prisoner held in Israel’s Eshel Prison, who was poisoned by an Israeli recruited agent and isnow in very critical condition. We found out through acquaintances who work with the decision-making authorities in Ramallah that the approval of the event for the Palestinian political prisoner, Haytham, was initially stalled and was not going to be given because its organizers had not followed standard procedure. Suddenly though, the governmental institutions and security forces, which hadpreviously forestalled those wanting to hold the public assembly for Haytham, reversed their decision and arranged to hold the public event.

It later became clear that the governmental officials who approved the political prisoner’s event demanded that this event occur at 4PM at Al-Manara Square in Ramallah – the exact time and placewe had scheduled our Tunisia solidarity event. This was the only option presented to thoseorganizing the event for the political prisoner, and this time was chosen after we informed theauthorities that we insisted on having our event in solidarity with Tunis. It thus became clear to us that this was not a problem of coincidental scheduling. The authorities’ goal was to construe us as antipatriotic troublemakers trying to steal attention away from the political prisoner, and thus turnpublic opinion against us. We had two hours’ notice of the decision to have the political prisoner’s event, leaving us little time to inform anyone about the changes.

We decided to have the crowd convened for the Tunisia solidarity event stand in support of Haytham, given the urgency of his case. At the gathering we planned to announce that we were postponing the Tunisian solidarity assembly for another day. We planned to inform the crowd that we were giving priority to the case of the poisoned political prisoner. We explained to those organizing the rally for the political prisoner the situation at-hand. We also asked the police and those working with the Palestinian Authority’s offices to allow us to announce to the crowd that the Tunisia event was postponed and ask that the crowd congregate near the prisoner’s family to provide them with moral support. We felt compelled to make this announcement to avoid any confusion in the crowd, especially since significant numbers of police and undercover intelligence forces were deliberately waiting to punish anyone who attempted to celebrate the Tunisian revolution.

The police and governmental officials at the event refused to give us the opportunity to make our announcement, and began to intimidate and threaten our participants to silence us. When a member of the assembly took out his Tunisian flag, the police forces quickly seized him and confiscated his flag. A policeman then threateningly declared: “We are the Authority here, we are the government,and we decide the laws around here.”The Palestinian Basic Law, which serves as our de facto constitution, grants us freedom of assembly.We believe that our future Palestinian state must be built on the firm grounds of civil and political liberties. We planned this public event for the sole purpose of standing in solidarity with the Tunisian people who have also stood by us in our time of need. The Tunisian people have consistently expressed solidarity with Palestine, both after and during our revolts against Israeli oppression. This event was not planned to protest the difficult internal conditions that currently inflict the Palestinian people, although we should have the right to openly protest, regardless of the issues or opinions being expressed.

We categorically refuse to submit to these threats. We will never surrender our right to freedom of expression and assembly.

Regardless of the threats used against us and the rejection we have received from the Palestinian Authority’s governmental and security institutions, we are determined to have our event. As Palestinian youth we understand that the future of the Palestinian people depends on us. We know where we must focus our energies to bring about positive change to ensure that our people will one day celebrate their freedom.

The time and place of our event will be announced soon, and the event will occur during this week.We invite you all to join us to celebrate the Tunisian people’s revolution against oppression.

May Palestine One Day be Free – Like the Spirit of her Children

For more information please email us at:

Article 3 of Law (12) for the year 1998:“Citizens have a right to public assembly. Those planning an assembly must give the governor andthe director of the police 48 hours notice.”

Article 5 of Law (12) for the year 1998:“The responsible governmental parties must take all necessary procedures to ensure the protection ofthe population. The procedures followed by the governmental institutions must not interfere with theorganizer’s freedoms or their assembly.”

Article 32 of the Palestinian Basic Law:“Any violation of any personal freedom, of the sanctity of the private life of human beings, or of any of the rights or liberties that have been guaranteed by law or by this Basic Law shall be considered acrime. Criminal and civil cases resulting from such violations may not be subject to any statute oflimitations. The National Authority shall guarantee a fair remedy to those who suffer from such damage.”

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