by Nick Clark
A month-long teachers’ strike in the West Bank has exposed growing dissatisfaction among Palestinians with the governing Palestinian Authority (PA).
Around 35,000 teachers had been on indefinite strike since the middle of February when they agreed to suspend the action for one week last Sunday.
Strikers want the PA to give them a pay increase originally promised in 2013.
But the strike has taken on a wider significance after growing larger and becoming more militant.
Leaders of the teachers’ union resigned last month after strikers rejected a deal cut with the PA to end the strike.
The strikers elected their own representatives, criticising the union leaders for being too close to the PA.
They have staged mass protests including a 20,000-strong demonstration outside the PA’s cabinet headquarters in the city of Ramallah.
The protests defied roadblocks set up by PA forces. Some strikers have been arrested by PA forces in night-time raids.
Strikers are also demanding that women teachers get the same benefits as men.
The strike’s slogan, dignity for the teachers, has come to embody resistance to the poverty which many Palestinians suffer.
The PA has pointed to the Israeli occupation and a fall in international aid as reasons for not paying the increase.
But the PA has implemented economic reforms that benefit Israeli and Western businesses and the Palestinian ruling class, but leave the majority of Palestinians impoverished.
And its leaders try to contain or suppress resistance to the Israeli occupation in the hope that Israel will let them establish a Palestinian state.
Figures revealed earlier this year show that the PA spends as much on its security forces as it does on health and education combined.
It has used these security forces to suppress the strike.
Now the PA faces a growing crisis as it has failed to contain recent resistance. Teachers suspended their strike after PA president Mahmoud Abbas agreed to some of their demands.
But the strike could resume if teachers are not given their full pay increase—deepening the PA’s crisis.