Many Palestinians are alienated by the Arab Spring. After so many years that Palestine was in the heart of the struggle between the Arab Nation and Imperialism, now the plight of the Palestinians seems dangerously out of the Arab and World focus. So, maybe, a new revelation may help to overcome, or at least ease, this alienation: The Arab Spring, like Jesus, Mother Mary, Ghassan Kanafani and Leila Khaled, was born in Palestine.
This is not common knowledge: Everybody will tell you that the Arab Spring started with the Tunisian Revolution, when Muhammad Bouazizi burned himself in Sidi Bouzid on December 17, 2010. But this is a narrow view of things. It is true that the first Arab dictator to fall was Tunisia’s Ben Ali, which fled the country by January 14, 2011. But the revolution is not only victories. If the revolution starts with the breaking of the fear barrier and the emergence of persistent mass demonstrations, undeterred by murderous oppression, then the Arab Spring actually started with the first Palestinian Intifada back in December 9, 1987.
The Palestinians never lacked the courage and the initiative to fight for their freedom. They are unfortunate to encounter a superior enemy: The colonialist fortress state of Israel, which is armed by the newest of imperialist armory to be foremost guarding post against Arab independence. But the hardship of victory doesn’t reduce the importance of the Palestinian revolution as the Vanguard of the Arab Revolution. On the contrary, the prolonged experience of the Palestinian chapter bears many lessons to learn from. This is another reason why it is important to see it in the true perspective – as part of the Arab Spring.
The first stage of the mass struggle, as in the case of the first Palestinian Intifada, is instigated by the unbearable oppression. But, not less important, is the perception that continuing struggle and sacrifices will lead to real achievements. The first intifada was based on the illusion that the independent Palestinian state (at least in the West Bank and Gaza) was “at the distance of a stone’s throw”.
The first stage of the Intifada was mostly peaceful, with mass demonstrations confronting army fortified posts. The logic of peaceful mass confrontation with an occupation army is to put political and moral pressure on the occupiers. After years in which the soldiers replied with live bullets to peaceful demonstrations, the price became unbearable. The Oslo agreement aborted any political pressure that was mounting on the occupiers and gave a breathing space to Israel to avoid even the limited Palestinian goal of an independent state in a small part of Palestine.
So, in another pattern that will be repeated in other scenes of the Arab Spring, the futility of a peaceful mass movement and consecutive massacres led to the Armed Intifada, the second intifada that erupted on September 2000.
This second intifada brought the first victory of the Arab Spring: The unconditional withdrawal of the Israeli occupying army from the Gaza strip in 2005. The Israeli army even took care to destroy all the illegal Zionist settlements in Gaza before its withdrawal. For the first time since the 1948 Nakba, part of Palestine was liberated from Zionism and placed under Palestinian rule.
In a pattern that was repeated later in other countries, this historic, though partial, victory was followed by more-or-less democratic elections. The elections, on January 25, 2006, were won by Hamas, the local branch of the Moslem Brotherhood. For the masses this choice was conceived as a rejection of the Oslo fraud, a vote for resistance to the occupation and for clean government as against the corruption of the Fatah’s previous Palestinian Authority government.
The experience of the last six years since the election of the Hamas government is full of confrontations, both with Israel and between the Palestinian factions, as well as political maneuvering, truces and unity agreements. Whoever thinks that the revolution is like a cheap novel, where everything ended with the elections and they lived happily (or frustrated) ever after, can learn a lot from the Palestinian experience. Any victory of the revolution only sets the stage and the conditions to the next scenes in the struggle.
Now that we know that the revolution in all the other countries is not easy to win, and not easy to carry on after the first victories, it becomes obvious that there are deep similarities between the trajectories of development of the Arab Revolution in all different countries.
The Palestinians were the first to start the Arab Spring, but they were (and are) unable to win by themselves. The Israeli army is built not only (or mainly) to oppress the Palestinians but to keep superiority over any possible challenge to Imperialist Hegemony in the region. The Israeli state strives by providing services to imperialism, for which it expropriates the Palestinian land, and not mainly by exploitation of the Palestinians. Actually, Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians is worse that Apartheid South Africa as its ultimate aim is to uproot and expel them and not merely to exploit them. If all the Palestinians stage a strike it is not much damage to the Israeli economy and may serve its purpose to marginalize them even farther.
The massive support that Israel receives from imperialism, militarily, economically and politically, is serving its patrons well by the huge profits that they (the imperialist states and companies) are gaining from their control of the Arab world. In short, the US pays Israel to beat the Arabs, which on their part pays the US to hold it back. This sort of “protection money” can be collected only so long as the Arabs are ready to pay for it. Breaking this evil chain is one of the main aims of the Arab Spring. The new independence of the Arab political decision, the new voice of the Arab people, will relieve the Palestinians from their hilarious isolation as the forgotten Vanguard of Arab Liberation. It will bring them back to where they wanted to be – as participants in the building of a free, democratic and prosperous Arab future.