President Abbas makes rare visit to Jenin but residents say he 'wasn't there' when needed

Most of those surrounding Mr Abbas during his speech were in military uniform or members of the Palestinian Authority

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas visits Jenin camp

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas visits Jenin camp
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Palestinian residents of Jenin city and its adjacent refugee camp have expressed apathy and feelings of hopelessness towards the government as President Mahmoud Abbas visited the area for the first time in more than a decade.

Jenin has been subjected to deadly Israeli raids in recent weeks that left at least 17 people dead and more than 100 people injured. The incursion also destroyed homes and 80 per cent of the camp, the Palestinian representative to the UN said.

The Palestinian Authority has become increasingly unpopular in recent years amid allegations of corruption, negligence and co-operation with Israel, with a poll conducted last year showing that only 27 per cent of people were satisfied with their performance.

Those who spoke to The National before Mr Abbas's visit agreed to do so anonymously for fear of reprisals from their employers and the government.

“I was one of the people who helped in evacuating some of the women and children from their homes in Jenin camp during the Israeli raid. People from the Palestinian Authority were nowhere to be found,” said Rabea, 29.

“They were following the news like ordinary civilians. For them to come now to Jenin to see the damage and say a few words is meaningless. The whole visit is meaningless. Abbas wasn't there when we needed him,” the father of two told The National.

Anti-corruption group Transparency International found that “favouritism (wasta) and nepotism constitute the most common manifestations of corruption” in the Palestinian government.

“We have many demands but nobody listens. We need an anti-corruption mechanism in place,” said a 27-year-old married man from Jenin, who travels to Israel every day for work.

He gave an example of a roundabout in Jenin, which he claimed hinders traffic flow instead of helping it. He alleged that the owner of the petrol station “had paid the authorities to build it in order to help divert traffic” to his petrol station, adding that it was just one example of corruption in the city.

Others expressed a general sense of dismay towards Mr Abbas.

Khalid, a delivery man in his 20s from Jenin camp, said: “Nobody wants to see him. We don't care about him. His people from Ramallah will come and cheer him on but the people in Jenin, including myself, we don't think he's worth our concern.”

Most of those surrounding Mr Abbas during his speech from the Jenin camp were people in military uniform or members of the Palestinian Authority.

#صور من الاستقبال الجماهيري العارم للرئيس محمود عباس في مخيم جنين تصوير: عدي الشوبكي

Posted by ‎تلفزيون فلسطين Palestine TV‎ on Wednesday, July 12, 2023

Jenin has been a flashpoint for armed groups that pride themselves in “fending off” attacks by Israeli forces, including one this month which lasted for 48 hours, killed at least 12 people and wounded more than 100.

People in Jenin camp in particular are living among members of “resistance groups” like the Palestinian Islamic Jihad or the Jenin Al Qassam brigades.

“We just want the Palestinian Authority to stop hunting down members of our brigades,” a citizen journalist from a Telegram group that publishes news from Jenin told The National.

Before the visit, a video emerged showing Palestinian Authority forces seemingly stopping Israeli armoured vehicles from heading into Jenin.

“Abbas's visit to Jenin is a desperate attempt at proving to the people that he feels them and cares for them. The evidence of that is the army's stopping of Israeli forces, which certainly took place in agreement with the other side,” one resident said.

“But the real question is: Where was the president when the number of martyrs was escalating and the screams of children and mothers were reaching to the skies? And why didn't the Palestinian Authority stop the Israeli army in the last operation in Jenin?”

A poll of 1,200, conducted by the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in March 2022, showed that 27 per cent of people were satisfied with the performance of Mr Abbas, while “dissatisfaction” was at 70 per cent.

“Moreover, 73 per cent of the public want President Abbas to resign while only 23 per cent want him to remain in office,” the findings showed.

On Sunday, US President Joe Biden said the Palestinian Authority “has lost its credibility, not necessarily because of what Israel's done, just because it's just lost its credibility, number one, and, number two, created a vacuum for extremism”.

Updated: July 13, 2023, 4:15 AM