Arab Spring Turns Blind Eye on Palestine

Article Summary
The Palestinian cause has been conspicuously absent from the rhetoric of the Arab Spring revolutionaries. Secular youth movements have taken a national approach to social and political freedoms, while the Islamists only refer to Palestine for its religious and cultural conflict with Israel, writes Suleiman Taqi al-Din.

It is not surprising that the Palestinian cause has not found its way into the rhetoric of the Arab revolutionaries. Palestine has long ceased to be at the heart of the Arab cause and the Arab-Israeli conflict has become a question of regional disputes governed by conflicting interests within the official Arab system.

[The signing of] the Camp David Accords represented a shift whereby the Arabs agreed to categorical base their individual policies on their own national interests. They have been divided over different perceptions on Arab national security, and over the dangers and threats posed by Israel in the region.

Syria adopted policies that served its own security interests as opposed to an [all inclusive Arab] strategic perspective. Although it maintained its support for the Palestinian people and their cause, Syria forged alliances with regional forces out of its primary interests for its own security. Damascus tried to create a regional pact with Iran and Turkey, which was intended to extend to the center of Asia as part of the "Five Seas Vision."

Since the Oslo Accords [in 1993], the Palestinian Leadership embarked on a far off course, away from the Palestinian national project and the national struggle. Gaza and the West Bank have become two independent political identities.

The spark of the Arab revolutions' was set off by protests to internal problems related to freedoms, human dignity, dire social conditions and political corruption. Democracy was at the heart of these revolutions, and tyranny and corruption were their main challenge.

The contemporary Arab awareness brought on by the Arab revolutions cannot be separated from national crises and disgraces, and the failure to resolve national issues. Toppling the systems that failed to achieve national dignity was a central goal of the revolutions. However, the masses involved in these revolutions also demanded greater freedoms and the right to participate in political life, unaware that they lacked adequate political experience to meet the future challenges all at once.

At a certain stage of the revolutions, the youth became aware that they were the sons of modern globalization, and the advocates of citizenship rights. [These youths] meanwhile dealt with the Palestinian case as a estranged cause. The political Islamic movements, on the other hand, were more disciplined and effective, having previous political experience not based on national perspectives. These movements emerged in the context of a political and cultural conflict with the [nation based] Arab ideology [championed by previous rulers]. The old regimes had consistently been at loggerheads with Islamists.

Today, however, Islamists are at the forefront of the political scene, while nationalists, leftists and liberals have lost ground. Given their [tendency to espouse strict] religious dogmas, Islamists have tended to call for the establishment of Islamic nations and prefer dealing [only] with Muslim groups. They lack a sense of nationalism, and deal with others on the basis of their religious perspective and identity. In their eyes, the world should be divide based on identities rather than social classes or national constructs. Thus, Islamists relate to Palestine based on its Islamic identity, and on their scared heritage and rights in this land. Similarly, their conflict with the Jews on the basis of religion and culture.

Their visions, rhetoric and knowledge are  a far cry from those of any secular or civil ideology. Nevertheless, Islamists have recently been changing and developing their political methodology to deal with contemporary issues and problems. One cannot make generalizations about Islamists, at least regarding matters of political sociology.

So, today when we raise the question about the role of Palestine in the Arab revolutions' rhetoric, we are mostly addressing Islamists, though we are certainly not shunning the other forces and movements that played a major role in the Arab upheavals.

First, one must emphasize that neither nationalists, leftists nor Islamists have put forth viable solutions to the Palestinian cause.

Political Islam, on the other hand, will not be able to answer to the following dilemmas:

Israel is a powerful state that has abolished the rights of the Palestinians on their own land, and robbed them of their possessions - mentally and morally speaking. Israel refuses to cede its gains; it has the upper hand in the region and it considers its presence in Palestine a historical right.

Israel is part of global system, which functions in favor of the colonial, imperialist West, voracious for control and power.

There is no political answer for the relations between Arabs, Islamists and the Jewish State. Does this mean that we then on the brink of witnessing an existential struggle and a zero-sum war between Islamists and Israelis?

Israel’s relations with the West offer no solutions. The Arab conflict with Israel cannot be solved in isolation from the West given its weight in political, cultural, economic and military factors.

The Islamists do not have an answer as to how they can shift the balance of power in the region. They also lack understanding of the importance of Arab unity first, and Islamic unity second. Moreover, they they have no solutions or ideas regarding economic development and democracy in Palestine.

What sort of socio-economic model will the Islamists establish? How will they define their relations with others - within their own communities and on the regional and global fronts? These questions remain unanswered.

Found in: palestinian cause, palestinian, national rhetoric, israel, islamists, cultural conflict, arab spring, arab revolutions, arab-israeli conflict, arab

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