Striking Palestinian teachers subjected to smears and threats

Striking Palestinian teachers subjected to smears and threats
As Palestinian teachers continue their strike, they have faced threats and smears from political leaders and armed groups, with one Fatah leader branding them as "scum".
3 min read
09 March, 2016
Al-Aqsa martyrs brigades said the strike was the work of Israeli intelligence [twitter]
As a massive teachers strike in Palestine refuses to die down, Fatah leader Azzam al-Ahmed called the striking teachers "scum" and idiotic.

He said that the continuation of the strike posed a threat to "Palestinian national security" and could mean "the collapse of the education system in Palestine".

The teachers say the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority has not fulfilled a 2013 pledge to give them a 10 percent raise - which would only be in line with inflation.

Responding to Azzam's comments, a headmistress and her daughter who is also a teacher issued a video insisting that they are not "scum" and demanded that al-Ahmed apologise to the teachers.

"You don't give us our dignity, we take it", said the teacher.

The strike has been subject to multiple smears and threats since protests grew to involve  thousands of teachers.

Osama al-Qassami, a Fatah leader said "Israel is the sole beneficiary of closing schools".

Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the armed wing of Fatah in the West Bank issued multiple threats against the striking teachers.

During a press conference last week they said that Israeli intelligence was behind the strike and had "succeeded" in their task.
Teachers make up the largest group of public sector employees and say their salaries are meager in comparison to others.
"We will only communicate with them in the language they understand," said a spokesperson.

"That is the language of bullets that tore through the bodies of those who previously precede them in the path of betrayal. We promise they will be met with the same fate and God is witness to our pledge."

Following the announcement, human rights workers in Palestine voiced concerns to The New Arab that thugs from the group could infiltrate protests and intimidate teachers. 

Last week, one teacher in Hebron said that she was attacked by a bearded man, alluding that it was a Hamas operative.

Teachers have strongly denied accusations by the Fatah-dominated PA that the strike is in any way affiliated to Hamas. 

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine denounced efforts by the PA to quell the teachers strike which has been growing in the West Bank, and held the government responsible for the continuing strike.

"The strike of 2013 was solved by agreement and the commitment to engage in dialogue with the teachers and their legitimate demands, not accusing them of being publicized, and attempting to force them to accept partial demands," a statement read.

The leftist political party also condemned the threats, harassment and intimidation of teachers, saying that "these unacceptable and absurd decisions violate Palestinian law and will not solve the problem, but aggravate a complex situation."

The statement also condemned the PA's decision to ban demonstrations, saying this contravenes Palestinian law.

The PA is going through a severe fiscal crisis and is struggling to pay government employees.

Teachers make up the largest group of public sector employees and say their salaries are meager in comparison to others.

Considering the PA has often come under fire for overt security cooperation with Israel and has limited powers in the face of the occupation, its inability to pay adequate wages has caused critics to question the point of its existence.