Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A Major Factor For Governments

By Michael Jansen
This commentary was published in The Jordan Times on 24/02/2011
Palestinians’ and Israelis’ response to the uprisings across the Arab world has been deafening silence at the people’s power level.

When I asked Palestinian friends celebrating the dozen or so “revolutions” boiling in this region why Palestinians living under the repressive Israeli occupation are not out in the streets, they shrugged, saying they are “tired”.

This is not an excuse. This is not the moment to be “tired”. The region has arrived at a pivotal moment in its history. Unless Palestinians mount protests against Israeli occupation, Western collusion, division of the Palestinian national front, and poor governance, they will be left behind. If their great cause is taken up by other Arabs, rejuvenated by revolt and regime change, Palestinians could, once again, lose control of how the cause is handled and, ultimately, of their destiny.

Palestinians took control during the first Intifada and lost control during the second.It is time for a third Intifada. Not an intifada of stones or of guns, but an intifada of action: mass protest and civil disobedience.

Israelis genuinely committed to a just peace deal with the Palestinians have also been silent. They also claim they are “tired” after campaigning for years without result. This camp includes leftists and genuine centrists but not Likudniks who deserted the Likud to form Kadima. Kadima members are just Likudniks by another name.

Leftists and centrists have been complaining for years that they have been sidelined and ignored.Now is the time to stage popular actions with the aim of reviving the so-called Israeli “peace movement” and retaking the initiative from the settler/colonialists and the right.

The moment is auspicious. The Netanyahu government is paralysed. Writing in the Israeli daily Haaretz, Niva Lanir complained: “Two years after the government’s formation, there is no peace initiative, no negotiations and nobody is even talking about it.”

The writer warned that Avigdor Lieberman is preparing to take over. Even this does not seem to move the Israeli centre and left.

The eruption of people’s power in this region has created a new dynamic on the Arab-Israeli front. Cairo had been a reliable ally for the US and Israel since Egypt’s president Anwar Sadat concluded his 1979 separate peace deal with Israel. As a reward, Egypt received billions of dollars in US aid, benefiting the military in particular.

The Arab people demanded - and still demands - an end to the Israeli occupation and colonisation of Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem, Israeli withdrawal from the Syrian Golan Heights, and a halt to Israeli attacks on Arabs.

The Egypt-Israel treaty created an atmosphere of compliance with US and Israel wishes, which citizens of Arab states rejected because they saw that Israel had no intention of meeting the above demands, particularly the last one.Following the peace deal with Egypt, Israel bombed Iraq’s Osirak nuclear research reactor (1981), invaded and occupied the southern half of Lebanon (1982), attacked Lebanon in operation “Grapes of Wrath” (1996), mounted major military campaigns in the West Bank and Gaza (2002-2003), waged all-out war on Lebanon (2006) and Gaza (2008-2009), and struck an alleged nuclear facility in Syria (2007). This list, which does not include hundreds of lesser Israeli military assaults, shows clearly that the Egypt-Israel treaty, which removed Egypt from the Arab military front, became a licence for war rather than for making peace.

Arabs are not fools: they have long understood what has been taking place and now that they are fighting for freedom to express their views and secure their demands, they are likely to bring an end to the era of tolerance of constant Israeli aggression, including colony construction - which is a form of aggression on both the people and the land of Palestine.

The Obama administration put US interests in this region at peril when the president decided to veto the UN Security Council resolution condemning Israeli colonisation activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. His decision shows that Washington has not yet unscrambled the message that Egypt, the region and the world have changed.

The resolution, drafted by the Palestinian Authority and proposed by 130 countries, two-thirds of UN members, was a test for President Barack Obama who cast the sole veto - and the first veto of his administration - to torpedo the measure. The other four permanent members of the UN Security Council, including US allies France and Britain, joined the 10 rotating members to vote in favour of the resolution.

Even Israeli commentators accused Obama of joining the Likud when he capitulated to the Likud-line imposed on him by the automatic majority the pro-Israel lobby commands in Congress. By doing so, he declared himself an enemy of the region’s citizens who have always supported the Palestinian people in their 130-year struggle against the Zionist/Israeli colonial enterprise. The citizens of the Arab world are no longer prepared to stand silent and allow Israel and the US to determine how they think and how their governments act.

Predictably, the Palestinian Authority, which had been asked by Obama personally to postpone the vote in the council, condemned the veto. But no one thought of suspending relations with Washington or resigning from the government. Fateh, which administers Palestinian enclaves in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, gathered 3,000 supporters in a feeble rally in Manara Square in Ramallah.

Also, predictably, Hamas, which rules Gaza, rejected an appeal by Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad to form a government of national unity while maintaining control of the coastal strip until elections are held at local and national level.It is not the moment for Hamas to stand pat although the revolutionary tide sweeping the region could very well sink the US-allied and dependent Palestinian Authority. Hamas should not choose this moment to remain aloof or dictate tough reconciliation terms to Fateh.

Reunification would not only bolster the Palestinian front, it would make it all the more difficult for President Mahmoud Abbas to make concessions to Israel or to follow the despised US line.

While the Israeli opposition to Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing government policies maintains silence on the sidelines, he istotally unable to comprehend the revolutionary situation that is certain to energise Arab opponents of Israel and the US. In defiance of the revolutionary reality, his administration continues to construct illegal colonies, bulldoze Palestinian houses, and snatch Palestinians from their beds at night.

Popular protests in the streets of Tunis, Cairo, Algiers, Sanaa, Manama and Benghazi have suddenly projected people’s power onto the world stage and made the people’s will a major factor in the calculations of Arab and Western governments that have for decades ignored what the people of this region want and demand, including a free and independent Palestine.

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