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

Australia-Cambodia Resettlement Agreement Raises Concerns

Agreement calls for Cambodia to accept refugees in return for $35 million in aid and reflects Australia’s harder line approach towards asylum seekers and refugees More

India Looks to Become Arms Supplier Instead of Buyer

US hopes India can become alternative to China for countries looking to buy weapons, but experts question growth potential of Indian arms industry More

Earth Day Concert, Rally Draws Thousands in Washington

President Obama also took up the issue Saturday in his weekly address, saying there 'no greater threat to our planet than climate change' 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.
Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?i
X
Steve Sandford
April 17, 2015 12:50 AM
Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Sierra Leone President Koroma Bemoans Ebola Impact on Economy

In an interview with VOA's Shaka Ssali on Wednesday, President Ernest Koroma said the outbreak undermined his government’s efforts to boost and restructure the economy after years of civil war.
Video

Video Protester Lands Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn

A 61-year-old mailman from Florida landed a small aircraft on the Capitol lawn in Washington to bring attention to campaign finance reform and what he says is government corruption. Wednesday's incident was one in a string of security breaches on U.S. government property. Zlatica Hoke reports the gyrocopter landing violated a no-fly zone.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.
Video

Video Sidemen to Famous Blues Artists Record Their Own CD

Legendary blues singer BB King was briefly hospitalized last week and the 87-year-old “King of the Blues” may not be touring much anymore. But some of the musicians who have played with him and other blues legends have now released their own CD in an attempt to pass the torch to younger fans... and put their own talents out front as well. VOA’s Greg Flakus has followed this project over the past year and filed this report from Houston.
Video

Video Iran-Saudi Rivalry Is Stoking Conflict in Yemen

Iran has proposed a peace plan to end the conflict in Yemen, but the idea has received little support from regional rivals like Saudi Arabia. They accuse Tehran of backing the Houthi rebels, who have forced Yemen’s president to flee to Riyadh, and have taken over swaths of Yemen. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA, analysts say the conflict is being fueled by the Sunni-Shia rivalry between the two regional powers.

VOA Blogs