Prospects for a Palestinian Spring – by Stephen Lendman
A previous article headlined, “Arab Spring Yet to Bloom,” explaining that despite months of heroic Middle East/North African uprisings in over a dozen countries from Morocco to Syria to Oman, none so far achieved change. It suggested that months, perhaps years, of sustained struggles lie ahead.
Access it in full through the following link:
Liberating struggles, in fact, never come easily, quickly, or without pain against entrenched power determined to keep it. However, social movements at times succeed when ordinary people sustain heroic determined efforts. In America, abolitionists, suffragettes, unionists, and civil rights champions proved it against imposing power forced to yield.
In her book, “Challenging Authority,” Professor Frances Fox Piven said:
“(O)rdinary people (have) power….when they rise up in anger and hope, defy the rules….disrupt (state) institutions….propel new issues to the center of political debate (and force) political leaders (to) stem voter defections by proferring reforms. These are the conditions that produce democratic moments,” but never easily, quickly, nor, in reality, long-term.
Electoral participation rarely does it faced with structural, legal and practical challenges, including the corrupting power of money, misinformation, intimidation, and voter fraud. Yet history is dotted with examples of mobilized disruptive power, achieving leverage by breaking down institutionalized cooperation through strikes, boycotts, riots, and other forms of civil disobedience.
In other words, ordinary people have enormous power when used disruptively against systemic structures, dependent on their cooperation. However, it takes much more than protests, marches, slogans, or even violence. In fact, actualizing power depends on effective disobedience, breaking the rules, coordinating efforts for strategic advantage, and staying the course long-term that often means passing the baton to others.
Journalist IF Stone once put it this way, saying:
“The only kinds of fights worth fighting are those you are going to lose, because somebody has to fight them and lose and lose and lose until someday, somebody who believes as you do wins.”
In America, ending slavery was Exhibit A under a Constitution commodifying Blacks, calling them three-fifths of a person solely for allocating congressional representation. In fact, for southern states, it was a non-negotiatiable condition for joining the Union.
With it they got dominant congressional power at the time. Large slave owners had disproportionate leverage. Moreover, pre-Civil War, most US presidents were slave owners, including Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe and Jackson.
Constitutional provisions protected them. Yet abolitionist disruption fractured the existing order by sustained resistance against an unprincipled system they were determined to end, culminating in 1865 when Congress passed the 13th Amendment banning slavery. Then in 1868, the 14th Amendment rhetorically granted them due process and equal protection, and in 1870 the 15th Amendment banned racial discrimination in voting.
Jim Crow laws and lack of enforcement, however, continued both practices until the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act banned racial and gender discrimination, and enacted equal voting rights. Decades later, however, hard-won civil rights and other gains are largely lost because public apathy let elected officials institutionalize inequalities, heading America toward a ruler – serf society without reinvigorated opposition to stop them, so far nowhere in sight.
Given the daunting challenges in America, what chance have Arabs against entrenched despotic regimes backed by supportive Western and Israeli military might.
An Al-Zaytouna Assessment
On April 16, the Al-Zaytouna Centre for Studies and Consultations published a strategic assessment headlined, “The Implications of the Changes in the Arab Region on the Palestinian Issue,” discussing the following:
The General Scene
MENA Region uprisings (Middle East/North Africa) “represent one of the major historic events in modern and contemporary history.” Expressing optimism, Al-Zaytouna believes they’ve “achieved impressive results” and will persist, though others disagree because new faces in Egypt and Tunisia so far represent institutionalized power no different from what they replaced.
Nonetheless, Arabs broke through “barriers of fear and express(ed) (their) demands” nonviolently. In contrast, entrenched regimes used force to suppress them, so far holding the upper hand brutally with no resolution anywhere in the region. Nonetheless, “major repercussions affecting the Palestinian issue are likely to take place,” a concern Israelis are preparing to confront.
The Arab Approach
Disempowerment, weakness, and divisions let Israel and other regional repressive regimes remain dominant. However, if popular uprisings gain traction, especially in Egypt, Palestinians may benefit.
(1) Gaza’s siege may ease or end by normalizing border crossings with Egypt.
(2) The Camp David Accords and Israel – Jordan Peace Treaty may be reevaluated, frozen or altered.
(3) A new approach for Palestinian reconciliation may be considered, especially toward Hamas and other resistance groups.
(4) Arabs, including Palestinians, may consider new approaches, including dissolving the PA and initiating a third Intifada for change.
(5) National and Islamic interests may be prioritized over dominant Western and Israeli ones.
(1) A possible Arab/Islamic “revival” may achieve “major political, social, economic, and even military changes,” altering the regional balance of power dramatically.
(2) Formation of a strategic, popular alternative may emerge, supporting Palestinian liberating resistance.
(3) “Arab and Islamic dimensions of the Palestinian issue” may be activated beyond restricting them to “the Palestinian circle.”
The Palestinian Approach
If Gaza’s siege is eased or ended, Hamas may gain “Arab legitimacy” at the expense of the Ramallah-based PLO and PA leadership. In addition, Western and Israeli pressures may be less effective against “the Palestinian national project,” prioritizing their own interests. Moreover, a more supportive Arab environment may influence Oslo reconsideration or termination.
“The positive impact of (regional) change is most likely to appear in the Palestinian arena, especially if a young generation participates in decision making and succeeds in ending divisions.”
The Islamic Approach
In recent decades, three Islamic countries, Iran, Turkey and Egypt, have “undergone profound transformation.” In 1979, after Mohammad Reza Pahlavi’s ouster, Iranian – Israeli ties were severed. More recently, Turkish – Israeli ones soured over Cast Lead, the May 2010 flotilla massacre, and other issues. In addition, Egyptian – Israeli relations face possible challenges after Mubarak’s removal and uncertainty over new leadership later this year.
As a result, Palestinian issues may be strengthened, especially if the UN General Assembly supports independence within 1967 borders, making Palestine a permanent sovereign member this September. If achieved, dramatic new diplomatic and political dynamics will be established, creating stunning possibilities for change.
A previous article discussed them, accessed through the following link:
The International Approach
Arab uprisings represent populist determination across the region for liberation, dignity, and democratic end to injustice, tyranny and corruption. In response, America and Western powers support despotic regimes for their own regional interests, hostile to popular change. As a result, their tactics to suppress it include:
(1) Reactionary think tanks and other decision-making institutions, plotting interventionist strategies.
(2) Using powerful and influential political, economic, military, and communication resources to further their aims.
However, establishing genuine change might counter perverse Western tactics. In addition, with Washington bogged down in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and now Libya, it’s ability to militarily intervene elsewhere is limited. Moreover, given America’s eroding regional influence, US leaders might yield somewhat to preserve as much of it as possible, including pressuring Israel to make similar concessions.
The Israeli Approach
Like America and other Western powers, Israeli leaders face increasing challenges to their dominance, including possible regional support for Palestinian resistance and independence. Moreover, Israel “is plagued with arrogance over military power which might result in misleading outcomes.”
In addition, its ability to impose “rules of the game” peace and other terms eroded, given potential “increased support for (Palestinian) resistance in the region.”
As a result, Israel might choose one of two alternatives:
(1) Greater militarization to preserve and enhance its regional power, including preemptive attacks against Palestine and perceived regional threats, as well as increased settlement expansions to colonize all valued land, including East Jerusalem.
(2) More pragmatically making concessions to hold onto present gains. In other words, giving a little to preserve lots more, keeping it from further eroding.
However, Israel and Western powers might employ harsh measures to diffuse, co-opt, or suppress popular uprisings for their own self-interest. For decades, it’s been Washington’s unsuccessful strategy throughout Eurasia, bogging it down in unwinnable wars it wages anyway.
Possible Regional Scenarios
One of four directions include:
(1) Eventual successful popular uprisings “paving the way for Islamic and national forces to assume political leadership” and establish an “Arab-Islamic awakening” chance for changing the regional balance of power.
(2) Partial successes, improving regional political and economic conditions without changing balance of power influences.
(3) Failure to unseat despotic, corrupt regimes or diminish Western influence.
(4) Adverse effects, fueling sectarian and ethnic conflicts, creating greater chaos, divisions, and new entities subservient to America, the West, and Israel.
Al-Zaytouna believes the first two possibilities are most likely, saying, however, the others can’t be ruled out “since Israel and (Western powers won’t) allow a smooth and calm transformation,” creating entities hostile to their interests. As a result, they’ll use any means against them, including coups, destabilization or wars.
Given US and Israeli intransigence, expect continued belligerence to assure Arab Spring efforts (including for Palestinians) are stillborn or snuffed in their infancy.
Challenging them successfully requires heroic long-term disruptive commitment, what rarely emerges anywhere, notably throughout the Arab world.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.