The Palestinian coat of arms, the Eagle of Saladin, before (right) and after (left) the Palestinian Authority, turned into a scrawny bird.
PLO official, Jamal Nazal, post contrasts Palestinian streets before (1989) and after the inception of the Palestinian Authority.
A post by Jamal Nazzal, PLO official, contrasts Palestinian streets before (1989) and after the inception of the Palestinian Authority.

On 4 January, Palestinian Facebook users fired a storm of satirical Arabic posts at the Palestinian Authority (PA) in response to a post by PLO Revolutionary Council member and spokesman Jamal Nazzal. The official had shared a photo contrasting local streets before and after the inception of the PA. The top half of the photo, dated 1989, shows masked resistance fighters marching along an undeveloped street as the public applauds them. The bottom half of the photo showcases a well-developed street, likely in an upscale neighborhood in Ramallah.

Nazzal’s juxtaposition of the two images was meant to praise the PA. The caption of the photo read “the sacrifice of those heroes [1989] opened the road for the Palestinian Authority, whose leadership ensured our accomplishments.” Many Palestinians took issue with his claim, because juxtaposing these two images suggests a dubious trade-off: Palestinian human rights in exchange for economic development.

The Palestinian Authority has long been viewed as a body that subverted Palestinian resistance through “security coordination” with the Israeli occupation forces, the linchpin of the Oslo Accords. Two practices that are emblematic of this relationship are the Palestinian Authority’s detention of prisoners released from their Israeli captors, and the monitoring and suppression of critical voices.

Similarly, the promised economic gains of the Palestinian Authority have proven elusive. The truth is that the Oslo Accords’ economic stipulations, as enshrined in the Paris Protocol and the Cairo Agreement, have crippled Palestinian innovation by building a framework favorable to Israeli security while blatantly disregarding Palestinian basic needs such as free movement and access to natural resources. The result has been disastrous. The Palestinian economy is largely dependent on foreign aid, with unemployment hovering at 30%. Outside of enclaves such as Ramallah, poverty is prevalent. Under these circumstances, corruption runs rampant in both the private and public sectors. It is no surprise that 79% of Palestinians believe Palestinian Authority institutions are corrupt, according to the most recent poll of public opinion by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Research. This perception is reinforced by a slight majority that, contrary to Nazzal’s post, believes the PA is a burden rather than an accomplishment for Palestinians.

These facts were not lost on the many Palestinians who took to social media to challenge Nazzal’s brazen assessment of the Palestinian Authority using the hashtag قبل_وبعد_السلطة# (#pre_post_PA). Popular satirist Ali Qaraqe, who fled to Turkey because of the PA crackdown on his scathing satire of Palestinian leadership, called on nearly 170K fans on social media to jeer at Nazzal’s photo. Users depicted the devolution of the Palestinian Authority as rotting bananas and an eagle turned chicken. Others took aim at Hamas officials and Palestinian celebrities.

As the hashtag went viral, Nazzal removed the post and later reposted an edited version. In an attempt to stave off criticism, Nazzal edited the caption four times, according to the post history. It is unclear whether the Palestinian Authority had reacted to the online activity, though it isn’t far fetched it would exact retribution on some of the users by blocking their accounts or detaining them.

The Palestinian coat of arms, the Eagle of Saladin, before (right) and after (left) the PA, turned into a scrawny bird.

Senior Hamas political leader, Ismail Haniyeh, before (right) and after (left) the PA.

“Before the PA it was the PLO, after the PA it became CO. LTD.”

“Before the PA there was chaos and corruption, after the PA corruption became organized, thank God.”

Bananas before and after the PA.

“Before the PA Nael Barghouti was a prisoner, after the PA he is still a prisoner.”

“Before the PA I was called Palestinian, but after the PA I’m called a ‘returnee.'”

“Before the PA resistance fighters would be held in one prison, after the PA they’d be held in two prisons.”

“Before the PA a kilogram of Falafel cost 1 NIS, after the PA a sandwich costs 5 NIS.”

“Before the PA it was the PLO, after the PA it became an NGO.”

Mohammed Assaf, famed Arab Idol, before (top) and after (bottom) the PA.

Mahmoud Habbash, Minister of Religious of Affairs, before (top) and after (bottom) the PA.

“Before the PA there were 120 thousand settlers, after the PA their number increased to 750 thousand.”

“Before the PA Palestinians were equals under occupation, after the PA we have Palestinians under occupation and VIPs.”

“The Palestinian citizen” before (left) and after (right) the PA.