It has been a week of protest across the Middle East. Beginning in Egypt and Libya, then spreading to Yemen, Tunisia, Lebanon, and Sudan, angry crowds took to the streets to protest an anti-Islam film that few had likely ever seen. The protesters weren't too fickle about their targets: They not only attacked U.S. missions in Cairo and Benghazi, but also set the German embassy in Sudan aflame and burned down a Kentucky Fried Chicken in Lebanon.
Amidst this furor, you might have missed a slew of protests that occurred for a more tangible reason. Protesters demonstrated across the West Bank earlier this week, prompting speculation that the Arab Spring has finally arrived in Palestine. In recent days, from Bethlehem to Hebron to Ramallah, the Palestinians have taken to the streets. Only this time, they're not protesting against the Israeli occupation -- they're denouncing their own leaders.
As the Palestinian protests rage, here are eight things you need to know:
1. It's a rough economy. The protests first began as an angry response to a regional hike in fuel prices. But as the Washington Post notes, "the demonstrators are also upset about the costs of basic goods, including dairy products and cooking gas, which are also imported from Israel and sold at prices similar to those charged there, although the average income in the West Bank is far lower."
Palestinians feel squeezed economically. As one protest sign -- creatively hung on a donkey -- read: "Only in Palestine: The Gulf weather, Parisian prices, and Somali wages." Meanwhile, foreign aid has fallen significantly. As punishment for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's unilateral statehood bid at the United Nations, the United States has withheld $200 million in assistance. Arab states, meanwhile, have consistently failed to fulfill their pledges. As a result, the Palestinian Authority faces a financial crisis, with debts of $1.5 billion and a cash shortfall of $500 million.
These financial woes have forced the government to delay paying the salaries of some 153,000 civil servants on several occasions over the past few months. Add to this widespread charges of corruption and nepotism among the ruling elite, and you've got an unsustainable economic situation.
2. It's political. Economic issues notwithstanding, these protests are the product of political frustration. This has become abundantly apparent by recent protests against the Paris Protocol, an economic agreement signed as an annex to the Oslo Accords that tethers the Palestinian economy to Israel's. In rejecting the agreement, despite very tangible benefits from economic cooperation with Israel, the Palestinians show how little hope they have in the Oslo framework.