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

    Taj Mahal Battles New Threat from Insects

    Swarms of insects are proliferating in the heavily contaminated waters of the Yamuna River, which flows behind the 17th century monument

    Self-doubt, Cultural Barriers Hinder Cambodian Women in Tech

    Longtime Cambodian tech observer Sok Sikieng says that although more women have joined profession in recent years, there remain significant factors hindering women from reaching tech potential

    Trans-Adriatic Pipeline to Boost European Energy Security

    $4.5 billion-pipeline will become operational in 2020 and will deliver gas from Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz II field to southern Italy

    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.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora