News / Middle East

Palestinians Disagree On What ‘Palestinian Spring’ Could Be

Palestinians, gathered in central Ramallah September 23, 2011, watching a broadcast of President Mahmoud Abbas' speech at the United Nations in New York.
Palestinians, gathered in central Ramallah September 23, 2011, watching a broadcast of President Mahmoud Abbas' speech at the United Nations in New York.
Rebecca Collard

Standing boldly in front of the world’s powerful governance body late last month, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said the time has come for a “Palestinian Spring.”

But what exactly that would mean is debated here in the Palestinian territories. As the Arab world erupted this year with uprising and revolutions, Palestinians - who popularized the Arabic word for “uprising” -  intifada - have remained relatively quiet.

“The difference is the Palestinian Spring is the leadership and people asking together to end the occupation in a non-violent way,” says Kifah Radaidah, an activist and supporter Abbas’ ruling Fatah movement. “We are telling the world we want a two-state solution. Don’t let us lose this hope.”

While there was some anticipation here that regional changes would improve their position, the situation for Palestinians is different from that of revolting Arab states. For one, they do not have a dictatorial oppressor. Instead, occupation and statelessness have affected their daily life for decades.

For Radaidah, Abbas’ U.N. bid is pollination for this spring. “The Palestinians have been losing hope of years,” says Radaidah. “They don’t see any solution for the problem. But with the bid everyone came together to support Abbas. It has begun for the Palestinians.”

Palestinian-American Hanna Kassis. Kassis is skeptical about the U.N. bid for statehood.
Palestinian-American Hanna Kassis. Kassis is skeptical about the U.N. bid for statehood.

Twenty-five-year-old Palestinian-American Hanna Kassis agrees the move has been good for Palestinian morale and solidarity, but says it not the sort of uprising seen across the Arab world this year.

“There is no spring. That’s a tag line,” says Kassis. “I can’t imagine what a Palestinian spring would look like.”

In recent years Palestinians have practiced non-violent protest, says Kassis. Every Friday, hundreds of Palestinian and foreign activists gather in West Bank villages - “but nobody knows about it,” says he. “We’ve being doing peaceful protests and we just sniff tear gas. The media doesn’t cover that.”

Because of this, Kassis says, a Palestinian Spring would be another intifada.

Negotiation fatigue

Though Abbas said he was ready to return to the table if Israel halted all settlement construction, most Palestinians are quick to dismiss negotiations as a way forward. Talks stalled last year and just last week Israel announced plans to build over 1,000 new homes in the settlement of Gilo.

It is this disappointment with two decades of near-fruitless peace talks and false promises that have compelled many to quickly jump on the U.N.-bid bandwagon. Thousands gathered in central Ramallah to watch Abbas speak at the U.N. and thousand more welcomed him home with flags and cheers.

But it has also elicited frustration among Palestinian youth, particular those belonging to what been coined the “Oslo Generation” - 20-somethings raised with the promise of soon-to-come freedom to be negotiated under the 1993 accords.

More at stake

“[A spring for Palestinians] will mean more than it means to Egyptians and Tunisians or any other nationality in the world,” says 20-year-old Ebaa Rezek. Rezek, took to the streets of Gaza City earlier this year with the March 15 Movement - a collective of youth demanding political unity for their divided Palestinian leadership. Gaza has suffered the brunt of the fallout generated by the Fatah-Hamas rift.

Activist Ebaa Rezek works on a computer in a Gaza City restaurant.
Activist Ebaa Rezek works on a computer in a Gaza City restaurant.

“What deserves the name ‘Palestinian Spring’ is not just some fake statehood, or some meaningless, imposed peace agreements,” says Rezek, sceptical about the benefits of the Abbas’ bid.

Few believe a U.N. recognition would change the situation on the ground for Palestinians. Symbolic statehood will not mean the quick withdrawal of Israeli troops from the West Bank, the dismantling of settlements or a lifting of the Gaza blockade. However, many have argued it would allow Palestinians to better challenge Israel in the international arena. But Rezek cautions: “Talking about holding Israel accountable for crimes in international courts is like a joke to us. Did Lebanon or Syria manage to do that?”

Human rights activist Omar Barghouti agrees, adding that the bid is actually a step backward.

“Palestinian officials are potentially sacrificing most of our people’s claim to basic rights in order to secure some illusory advantages at the negotiations table,” says Barghouti. “It would in effect reduce the Arab Spring to a Palestinian Autumn.”

Barghouti points to the lack of a legitimate mandate for Abbas and the current Palestinian Authority leadership. While Abbas was elected in 2005, new elections should have been held in 2009, but have been postponed for over two years.

“Such an initiative would be strongly supported by all Palestinians - and, consequently, by solidarity groups worldwide - if done by a trusted, democratically elected, accountable leadership,” says Barghouti. “The current leadership is divorced from the will of the Palestinian people and lacks any democratic mandate.”

But Kassis points out that Abbas’ move in New York has been a publicity victory for Palestinians. “What it really did,” says Kassis, “[it] brought Palestinians back to center stage in the world.”

Radaidah adds that the issue now being in the hands of the U.N. will take the battle out of the U.S.-Israel-Palestinian triangle and put it in an international amphitheater. “In the worst case scenario, we will [face a] veto the first time,” says Radaidah, “but we will continue.”

الفلسطينيون لا أوافق على معنى "ربيع فلسطين" استخدام الرئيس الفلسطيني محمود عباس ان مصطلح "ربيع فلسطين" في خطابه امام الجمعية العامة للأمم المتحدة. ولكنهم منقسمون الناشطين الفلسطينيين والمواطنين على ما تعني عبارة.
Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

There is growing uncertainty over whether West’s response to ISIS is adequate More

China Crackdown on Dual Citizens Causes Concern

New policy encourages reporting people who obtain citizenship in another country, but retain Chinese citizenship; move spurs sharp debate More

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

Losing ground to Islamic State fighters, Syria's government says it is ready to cooperate with international community More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?i
X
Henry Ridgwell
August 29, 2014 12:26 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Pachyderms Play Polo to Raise Money for Elephants

Polo, the ancient team competition typically played on horseback, is known as the “sport of kings.” However, the royal version for one annual event in Thailand swaps the horse for the kingdom’s national symbol - the elephant. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Samut Prakan reports that the King’s Cup Elephant Polo tournament is all for a good cause.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video America's Most Popular Artworks Displayed in Public Places

Public places in cities across America were turned into open-air art galleries in August. Pictures of the nation’s most popular artworks were displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms and more. The idea behind “Art Everywhere,” a collaborative campaign by five major museums is to allow more people to enjoy art and learn about the country’s culture and history. Faiza Elmasry has more.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid