Amjad Atallah writes:
If you live in Washington, DC, the question of what does the Egyptian Revolution mean for Palestine might seem like a strange question. The question du jour here is what does the Egyptian Revolution mean for Israel? The subtext to that second question is what does the Egyptian Revolution mean for Israel’s continued occupation and its denial of equality to non-Jewish citizens and residents. Of course, both questions show an Israel/Palestine-centric view of the world.
Yes, the denial of Palestinian freedom has been an iconic issue of concern not only for Arabs and the larger Muslim world, but also for the Global South and persons of conscience around the world. And once upon a time, the Palestinian struggle for their rights did symbolise the heroism of a people demanding justice for themselves.
But today that mantle lies with the Egyptian and Tunisian peoples. Today, they are the teachers and the rest of us are the pupils. Today, the Arab people of Egypt and Tunisia, and those demonstrating for the same goals throughout the Arab world are providing all of us, including Americans, with hard fought lessons that decades of useless peace-processing and support for authoritarian leaders have let us forget. Here are at least four lessons that have been thrown in our face:
First, the state and the government exist as a consequence of the will of the people, and not vice-versa. It was clear in Hosni Mubarak’s speech yesterday that he has conflated the state of Egypt with himself. His well being is that of Egypt. Attacks on his rule, in his mind, are attacks on Egypt. But Mubarak is not alone in this delusion.
Saddam Hussein saw Iraq in the same way. Listening to the Palestinian rulers in Gaza and Ramallah who administer some of the Palestinian cities under Israeli occupation, you would think that Palestine has become those administrations.
Millions of people marching throughout Egypt today and for the last two weeks have shown us what Egypt actually is – it is the self-determination exercised and demanded by those millions of individuals. Egypt is not an abstract concept tied in to a corrupt rule, it exists because the people today have resurrected themselves and in so doing have resurrected their state.
Palestinians in the first Intifada had tried something very similar but the exercise was ultimately hijacked and ended up in an agreement that actually restricted even further Palestinian space (anyone who lived in the West Bank or Gaza before the Oslo Agreement can tell you it was easier to travel throughout all of historic Palestine before “peace” than after).