Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Arrival of the Palestinian-Arab Spring

The remarkable footage of Syrians and Palestinians pouring across the Golan's wired fences last weekend shows that the Arab Spring has now decisively reached Palestine-Israel.

As Real News also reports (if only the BBC could offer such honest and qualitative output) it formed part of a coordinated set of Nakba protests, all met with brutal responses, across the West Bank - notably Qalandiya - Gaza, East Jerusalem and on the Lebanon-Israel border.  Pro-Palestine protesters even gathered in Tel Aviv.

Jonathan Cook's fine analysis of the Nakba anniversary protests suggests a growing mood of optimism as the September date for a declaration of Palestinian statehood approaches.  

It also offers some sombre reading for Israel's political and military advisers who see with increasing clarity that brute force will not be enough to stem the gathering, unified demand for Palestinian liberation.

As Cook notes:
"Although the protests are not yet a third intifada, they hint at what may be coming. Or, as one senior Israeli commander warned, they looked ominously like a "warm-up" for September, when the newly unified Palestinian leadership is threatening to defy Israel and the United States and seek recognition at the United Nations of Palestinian statehood inside the 1967 borders." "There are several lessons, none of them comfortable, for Israel to draw from the weekend's clashes. The first is that the Arab Spring cannot be dealt with simply by battening down the hatches. The upheavals facing Israel's Arab neighbours mean these regimes no longer have the legitimacy to decide their own Palestinian populations' fates according to narrow self-interest."
It's an ominous set of developments for Netanyahu who must now consider the combined threat of a new Palestinian political accord - the Hamas-Fatah rapprochement - and the spectacle of a newly-released Arab street determined to exercise not only its domestic grievances but also its solidarity with the Palestinians.

The spectacle of so many Palestinians and fellow Arabs marching in peaceful protest is yet another crucial rebuke to Israeli fearmongering and claims of a new 'terrorist' insurgency, further raising the Palestinians' moral case around the world.

Netanyahu has responded with the same standard combinations of defiance and an 'acceptance' that Israel may have to "cede parts of our homeland" for peace.  

Yet, alongside the exit of Obama's envoy George Mitchell, Netanyahu's rhetoric and empty 'concessions' only confirms the vacuousness of any 'peace process' and, without that reliant prop, the increasingly worried assessments that must be taking place inside the Israeli power circle.

As September at the UN draws nearer, Israel will, inevitably, turn to America for political cover.  But with Washington under increasing pressure to declare its support for all democratic claims in the region, it will be more difficult than ever to exclude equal Palestinian demands for statehood and democratic participation.

The decisive dynamics of the Arab uprisings, all driven by populist internet campaigns, has created not only the crucial Fatah-Hamas realignment but also a crisis of hegemony for Israel and the US power bloc that keeps it protected.
Already, much of Europe has signalled its support for a 'pre-1967' Palestinian state, giving advance notice that any further US veto at the UN - following Washington's rejection of the Security Council vote on Israeli settlements - will leave Obama even further exposed.

As ever, Netanyahu's upcoming visit to Washington is being scrutinised for its possible manoeuvrings and signals on Israel's difficult relations with Obama.  It's a media gaze with diminishing relevance.  

Rather, it's what's happening on-the-ground in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem, across the region, along Israel's borders, in the streets of Cairo and Damascus, that really matters.

Inspired by their mutual aims and achievents, Palestinians and their Arab supporters are no longer waiting around for America's 'benign' interventions or insistence on a 'negotiated settlement'.  The Arab Spring itself appears to be the determining factor in how that process will evolve.

Much of that has some way to go - as the Egyptian navy's collaboration with Israel in attacking and preventing passage of the latest Gaza aid ship suggests.

Yet, for all the regime-transformation still to take place in the region, Israel realises that it is now confronting a newly-invigorated Arab movement, a set of popular forces able to enliven the Palestinian cause and multiply the political pressures for change.       


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