Is Palestine next?

Adam Shatz writes:

No one in the Arab world was watching the news more closely than the Palestinians during the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt. The first emotion they experienced was disbelief; the second – particularly when they saw Palestinian flags being raised in Tahrir Square – was relief that they were no longer alone. Arab lethargy has been a virtual article of faith among Palestinians, who felt that their neighbours had betrayed them in 1948 and had done nothing to help them since. The Palestinian national movement, which rose to prominence under Yasir Arafat’s leadership in the late 1960s, was defined in large part by its belief that Palestinians had to rely on themselves. Mahmoud Darwish was not the only one to note that during the siege of Beirut in 1982, when Israel invaded Lebanon in an attempt to crush the PLO, tens of thousands of Israelis protested in Tel Aviv but the Arabs were too busy watching the World Cup Final to take to the streets.

The old Arab order was buried in Tahrir Square. Young revolutionaries rose up against a regime which for three decades had stood in the way of Palestinian aspirations. It seemed too good to be true and some pundits in Palestine wondered whether it wasn’t an American conspiracy. But it wasn’t, and Palestinians began to re-examine what had been one of their most disabling convictions: the belief that the US controls the Middle Eastern chessboard, and that the Arab world is powerless against America and Israel. ‘There has been a kind of epistemic break,’ a young Palestinian said to me. The excitement among Palestinians sometimes seems to be mixed with unease, even envy: the spotlight has been stolen from them. As a Hamas councilwoman in Nablus put it, ‘For 60 years they were watching us. Now we are watching them.’ But Palestinians have prided themselves on being the vanguard of protest in the Arab world and they will not be content to remain spectators for long.

In the absence of a state and an army, Darwish wrote in one of his best-known poems, Palestinians live in a ‘country of words’. The conversation that they are having is only beginning to translate into action. What was clear to me during the three weeks I spent recently in the West Bank is that the Arab revolutions have emboldened them to ask for more, both from Israel and from themselves, even if that means preparing for a much longer struggle.

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3 thoughts on “Is Palestine next?

  1. Norman

    What ever the choice they make, it’s surely to be difficult. How one people overcome another peoples self induced paranoid tendencies and hatred for the other, that have been bred into their younger generation, may just be too much to overcome itself.

  2. delia ruhe

    I hear you, Norman. The deep racist hatred that many — perhaps most — Israeli Jews have for Palestinians seems insurmountable. But as stated in the article, Palestinians seem to have reached the conclusion that time is on their side, and they can wait for a new generation of Israelis who are sick of being the planet’s pariah nation. They appear to have learnt something from Israeli Jews who operated (are still operating) on the idea that they have waited 2000 years for a state of their own that encompasses all of historic Palestine, what’s a couple more decades?

    What I found interesting about the article is the claim that Palestinians on the whole are not all that interested in the two-states solution — that they’re holding out for the right of return. I think this is quite intelligent, since the right of return is a right entrenched in international law. Some are even quite happy to see Israel grab more territory and develop more colonies because every new colony means one more remove from the 2-states possibility.

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