Donate to Links


Click on Links masthead to clear previous query from search box

GLW Radio on 3CR



Recent comments



Syndicate

Syndicate content

Egypt's uprising and its implications for Palestine (and Jordan)

Egyptians call for Mubarak's ouster, Tahrir (Liberation) Square, Cairo, January 29, 2011. Photo by Matthew Cassel.

By Ali Abunimah

January 29, 2011 -- Electronic Intifada -- We are in the middle of a political earthquake in the Arab world and the ground has still not stopped shaking. To make predictions when events are so fluid is risky, but there is no doubt that the uprising in Egypt -- however it ends -- will have a dramatic impact across the region and within Palestine.

If the Mubarak regime falls, and is replaced by one less tied to Israel and the United States, Israel will be a big loser. As Aluf Benn commented in the Israeli daily Haaretz, "The fading power of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's government leaves Israel in a state of strategic distress. Without Mubarak, Israel is left with almost no friends in the Middle East; last year, Israel saw its alliance with Turkey collapse" ("Without Egypt, Israel will be left with no friends in Mideast", January 29, 2011).

Indeed, Benn observes, "Israel is left with two strategic allies in the region: Jordan and the Palestinian Authority." But what Benn does not say is that these two "allies" will not be immune either.

Over the past few weeks I was in Doha examining the Palestine Papers leaked to Al Jazeera. These documents underscore the extent to which the split between the US-backed Palestinian Authority (PA) in Ramallah headed by Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah faction, on the one hand, and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, on the other -- was a policy decision of regional powers: the United States, Egypt and Israel. This policy included Egypt's strict enforcement of the siege of Gaza.

If the Mubarak regime goes, the United States will lose enormous leverage over the situation in Palestine, and Abbas' PA will lose one of its main allies against Hamas.

Already discredited by the extent of its collaboration and capitulation exposed in the Palestine Papers, the PA will be weakened even further. With no credible "peace process" to justify its continued "security coordination" with Israel, or even its very existence, the countdown may well begin for the PA's implosion.

Even the US and EU support for the repressive PA police-state-in-the-making may no longer be politically tenable. Hamas may be the immediate beneficiary, but not necessarily in the long term. For the first time in years we are seeing broad mass movements that, while they include Islamists, are not necessarily dominated or controlled by them.

There is also a demonstration effect for Palestinians: the endurance of the Tunisian and Egyptian regimes has been based on the perception that they were strong, as well as their ability to terrorise parts of their populations and co-opt others. The relative ease with which Tunisians threw off their dictator, and the speed with which Egypt, and perhaps Yemen, seem to be going down the same road, may well send a message to Palestinians that neither Israel's nor the PA's security forces are as indomitable as they appear. Indeed, Israel's "deterrence" already took a huge blow from its failure to defeat Hizballah in Lebanon in 2006, and Hamas in Gaza during the winter 2008-09 attacks.

As for Abbas's PA, never has so much international donor money been spent on a security force with such poor results. The open secret is that without the Israeli military occupying the West Bank and besieging Gaza (with the Mubarak regime's help), Abbas and his praetorian guard would have fallen long ago. Built on the foundations of a fraudulent peace process, the US, EU and Israel with the support of the decrepit Arab regimes now under threat by their own people, have constructed a Palestinian house of cards that is unlikely to remain standing much longer.

This time the message may be that the answer is not more military resistance but rather more people power and a stronger emphasis on popular protests. Today, Palestinians form at least half the population in historic Palestine -- Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip combined. If they rose up collectively to demand equal rights, what could Israel do to stop them? Israel's brutal violence and lethal force has not stopped regular demonstrations in West Bank villages including Bilin and Beit Ommar.

Israel must fear that if it responds to any broad uprising with brutality, its already precarious international support could start to evaporate as quickly as Mubarak's. The Mubarak regime, it seems, is undergoing rapid "delegitimisation". Israeli leaders have made it clear that such an implosion of international support scares them more than any external military threat. With the power shifting to the Arab people and away from their regimes, Arab governments may not be able to remain as silent and complicit as they have for years as Israel oppresses Palestinians.

Jordan

As for Jordan, change is already underway. I witnessed a protest of thousands of people in downtown Amman [on January 28]. These well-organised and peaceful protests, called for by a coalition of Islamist and leftist opposition parties, have been held now for weeks in cities around the country. The protesters are demanding the resignation of the government of Prime Minister Samir al-Rifai, dissolution of the parliament elected in what were widely seen as fraudulent elections in November, new free elections based on democratic laws, economic justice, an end to corruption and cancelation of the peace treaty with Israel. There were strong demonstrations of solidarity for the people of Egypt.

[STOP PRESS: According to the New York Times: "King Abdullah II of Jordan fired his government on February 1 after weeks of demonstrations challenging his regime, part of a wave of demands of public accountability sweeping the Arab world that has brought throngs of demonstrators into the streets of Egypt. The royal palace announced that the king had dismissed Prime Minister Samir Rifai and replaced him with Marouf al-Bakhit, who has served before in the post and is a former general and a onetime ambassador to Israel and Turkey widely viewed as clean of corruption."]

None of the parties at the demonstration called for the kind of revolutions that happened in Tunisia and Egypt to occur in Jordan, and there is no reason to believe such developments are imminent. But the slogans heard at the protests are unprecedented in their boldness and their direct challenge to authority. Any government that is more responsive to the wishes of the people will have to review its relationship with Israel and the United States.

Only one thing is certain today: whatever happens in the region, the people's voices can no longer be ignored.

[Ali Abunimah is co-founder of the Electronic Intifada, author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse and is a contributor to The Goldstone Report: The Legacy of the Landmark Investigation of the Gaza Conflict (Nation Books). He also has a blog.]

Comments

Repression of Palestinian solidarity with Egypt and Tunisia

Lilith Morris | January 31, 2011 at 10:11 pm | Categories: Uncategorized | URL: http://wp.me/p1fTzV-76

As the revolutionary upsurge that started in Tunisia continues in Egypt, expressions of Palestinian solidarity are being suppressed by the PA.  The Angry Arab reports on the police (non)state in Ramallah.  He received this text message:  "Greetings, I would like to remain anonymous regarding my name. I am writing to you  to tell you that the Palestinian Authority has yet again obstructed and threatened anyone who will show up at the peaceful protest scheduled to happen today in front of the Egyptian embassy in Ramallah....    This is the second time that the PA refuses to let the Palestinians express solidarity with first our Tunisian brethren and sisters in their popular uprising and now in supporting the Egyptian people in their uprising against Mubarak's regime."

Max Blumenthal carries a similar report “We, a group of Independent, liberal leaning Palestinian youth, organized a demonstration near the Egyptian embassy using social media tools such as Facebook, to our surprise one of the organizers was upheld unlawfully and threatened by the Police, Intelligence service and Preventive force on separate basis that if the event takes place he will be tortured and made to pay a heavy price. According to their conversations, they claimed that the order came directly from President Abbas office. We are under constant surveillance and harassment since saturday.

After forcing one of the members to cancel an event on Facebook sending a message to thousands of ‘confirmed attendees’, we still went near the Egyptian embassy today at 4:00 pm. During the protest the police violently assaulted several peaceful protesters and threatened the use of brutal force if anyone raised any slogans.

These and other actions relating to the arrest of Journalists, activists and not as the PA claims only from the Islamist ranks, but also includes activists in Liberal and other leftist youth groups. Palestinians who used to express their opinions freely despite measures of occupation are now under the tutelage of two occupations suffocating our political, economic and social rights.”

This confirmed by Human Rights Watch

"Palestinian Authority security forces shut down a demonstration on [Sunday] in front of the Egyptian embassy in Ramallah, after calling in one of the organizers for questioning on [Saturday] and ordering him to cancel the event notice that he had created on Facebook. Human Rights Watch monitored the demonstration and spoke with participants.

At around 4 p.m., the first of roughly 40 to 50 Palestinian demonstrators began to gather in front of the embassy to show solidarity for ongoing protests in Egypt, but were met by 20 armed police who immediately tried to confiscate cameras and ordered a journalist to turn off her microphone and recorder. Security agents wearing masks drove up in a Palestinian Preventive Security service jeep – which was driving very fast, apparently to intimidate protesters – and were soon joined by officers in two other jeeps and three police cars, and a van of the kind the PA uses for arrests and prisoner transport.

Demonstrators said they had expected a higher turnout, but that Palestinian security agencies had called in one of the organizers of the protest for questioning three times in the last 24 hours and told him to cancel the event because, “there were orders that no event related to Tunisia or Egypt was allowed at this time.” Members of the Facebook page calling for the demonstration received Facebook messages late last night saying that it was canceled.

Security forces pushed the demonstrators around 300 meters away from the Egyptian embassy. At that point, a man who identified himself as a police commander said the demonstrators were in a “security area” and would have to disperse. Several women demonstrators told the police that Palestinian law required the demonstrators to notify the authorities 48 hours in advance and that they had done so. Women also convinced three policemen to release a demonstrator they had seized and dragged away when he shouted, “Long live Egypt!” The police dispersed the protest after one hour.

Human Rights Watch called on the Palestinian Authority to stop security forces’ arbitrary interference with peaceful demonstrations."

This follows earlier suppression of demonstrations in support of the Tunisian uprising.

Ma'an News also carries a report quoting Omar Barghouti that the PA forces' "heavy-handed suppression of the youth-initiated and -led peaceful celebration of the Tunisian uprising's overthrow of the dictator, Ben-Ali, indicates where the PA's loyalty lies.   Autocratic, unelected regimes tend to identify with one another, it seems. The glaring difference here, in the occupied Palestinian territory, is that the PA is trying to 'rule' by decree while we are still under foreign occupation...After Tunis, there is no telling when the next Arab dictator will fall. One, Ben-Ali, is gone; 21 remain."

building socialist consciousness

Striking is the absence of demands that go beyond bourgeois democracy. People power surges but socialist ideas seems totally peripheral. Even the statement by the Egyptian Communist Party does not have a word about a system beyond capitalism. Socialist ideas rare in any Palestinian discourse, including what Ali Abunimah writes and projects.

"If they rose up collectively to demand equal rights, what could Israel do to stop them?" Yes, mass massive Direct Action. What if actually demanding something beyond their fundamental civil rights? The global food crisis is a crisis of global capitalism. The high unemployment of youth is a crisis of global capitalism.

That consciousness of a LIFE AFTER CAPITALISM has to more central to the intifada fire now building in Egypt, Tunisia. That flame needs to be nurtured across Palestine, including the Palestinian diaspora. A vanguard is not needed.

Syndicalism and libertarian socialism have many relevant ideas for a way forward without controlling elites. http://www.solidarity-us.org/ But such nodes of resistance still virtually nil across the Arab world. Al-badil (البديل)is badly needed.

Powered by Drupal - Design by Artinet