Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
Prospects for a Palestinian Spring, Resulting
from Arab Revolutions
By Stephen Lendman
Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, April 18, 2011
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:
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.
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
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
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
(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
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.
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
(2) Using powerful and influential
political, economic, military, and communication resources to further their
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.
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
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
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.
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,
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
Challenging them successfully requires heroic long-term
disruptive commitment, what rarely emerges anywhere, notably throughout the
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