Editorial: Palestine at heart of ‘Arab spring’

Proletarian writers

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Proletarian writers

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The upsurge of struggle by the Arab peoples, for their democratic and national rights, which began in Tunisia and spread like a prairie fire, toppling the pro-American dictators in Tunis and Cairo, and threatening the monarch of Bahrain and the dictator of Yemen, has sparked a renewed militancy and determination on the part of the Palestinian people.

This is scarcely surprising since the Palestinian cause has been at the heart of the Arab struggle for independence, self-determination, democracy and social progress ever since the zionist state of Israel was created by imperialism 63 years ago.

That fateful anniversary, known to the Palestinians, simply and poignantly as the nakba, or catastrophe, when upwards of 750,000 men, women and children were ethnically cleansed from their ancestral homeland, was this year marked by extraordinary events. For the first time in 63 years, thousands of Palestinian refugees, from Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank and Gaza, surged across heavily fortified borders, asserting their right to return. The Israeli forces reacted with typical and predictable brutality, opening fire on the unarmed protestors, killing at least 16 and wounding hundreds.

The Palestinian writer and political activist Karma Nabulsi described it thus:

It was the moment for which we had all been holding our breath for decades – for 63 years to be precise. Palestinians everywhere watched the unfolding scene transfixed and awed. The camera followed the movements of a small group of people advancing from the mass of protesters. They were carefully making their way down a hill towards the high fence that closed off the mined field separating Syria from its own occupied territory of the Golan that borders historic Palestine, now Israel … It was a profoundly revolutionary moment, for these hundreds of young people entering Majdal Shams last Sunday made public the private heart of every Palestinian citizen, who has lived each day since 1948 in the emergency crisis of a catastrophe. Waiting, and struggling, and organising for only two things: liberation and return.” (‘Nakba day: we waited 63 years for this’, Guardian, 19 May 2011)

In response to the extraordinary events sweeping the Middle East, US president Obama delivered what was billed as a major speech on the region on 18 May. Although hyped as promising justice for the Palestinians, it did nothing of the kind. Indeed, US spin-doctors freely admitted that its intent was to kick the Palestinian struggle into the long grass, with a view to derailing the planned Palestinian push for recognition as a sovereign state when the UN General Assembly meets in September.

Three days after this speech, Obama addressed the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the main organisation of the USA’s right-wing zionist lobby. Here he declared that the “commitment of the United States to the security of Israel is ironclad”, and admitted that there “was nothing particularly original” in his own proposals on proposed borders for a two-state solution.

Any settlement would have to take into account “the new demographic realities on the ground”, he said. These “demographic realities”, an apparently innocuous term that refers to the brazen theft of Palestinian land, have effectively devoured 40 percent of the West Bank. The remaining territory has been left divided by Israel’s apartheid wall, settlements and security roads, making a mockery of Obama’s talk of “mutually agreed swaps” producing a viable, sovereign Palestinian state.

There can indeed now be only one solution, namely that envisaged by the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) at the time of its foundation: a democratic, secular state, respecting the rights of people of all religious beliefs and of none.

> Palestine: unity is strength – June 2011

> Goldstone backs down under pressure – June 2011

> Editorial: The Palestine papers – February 2011

> Palestine Papers – A nail in the coffin of the two-state solution – Lalkar March 2011