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

Turkey's Erdogan: Women Not Equal to Men

Speaking at conference in Istanbul, President Erdogan says Islam has defined a position for women: motherhood More

Ahead of SAARC Summit, Subdued Expectations

Some regional analysts say distrust between Pakistani, Indian officials has slowed SAARC's progress over the year More

Philippines Leery of Development on Reef Reclamation in S. China Sea

Chinese land reclamation projects in area have been ongoing for years, but new satellite imagery reportedly shows China’s massive construction project 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.
Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Changei
X
November 24, 2014 10:09 PM
Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid