Now The Wave Is Coming

January 31, 2011 § 2 Comments

Two reflections on the revolution, via the Guardian, from Palestinian writers. Raja Shehadeh, author of Palestinian Walks, writes

Now we watch the people in Tunisia and Egypt demonstrate against their police states while, closer to home, we are witnessing the creation, slowly but surely, of a police state of our own. The irony is that while others may be dismantling theirs, ours is being created even before we have a fully fledged state.

In his excellent piece poet Tamim Barghouti puts today’s Arab revolts in their historical context, before noting the consequences for Israel:

Now the wave is coming. I will venture to say that the Egyptian regime has already fallen: it might take some time, but the fear, the perception that the regime is invincible has gone once and for all. All this is followed quite closely in Palestine; any future intifada will not be directed only against the occupation, but also against any Palestinian entity that co-operates with the occupation. Tunisia sent out the message that client regimes fall – that if we can drive the empires out, we will surely be able to drive out their vassals.

As I write, demonstrations rage in the streets of Cairo: everyone knows that if they stay at home, they will be compromising the safety of those in the streets, as well as their own freedom. Cairo knows and Cairo moves. Ramallah worries that an empowered Cairo means an empowered Gaza, and Tel Aviv and Washington know that instead of just Iran, they will now have to worry about Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt and Palestine all at once.

Both pieces in full after the break.

After Tunisia: Raja Shehadeh on Palestine

The demonstrations against oppression, injustice and violations of human rights that are taking place in Tunisia and Egypt bring back to me the heady days of the first Palestinian intifada. For me then it was my first experience of the power of non-violent demonstrations. I saw how an army as strong as Israel’s could be held at bay when confronted with the iron will of masses of human beings determined to win their freedom. We were then certain of victory. We were also willing to sacrifice everything for it. The years dragged and people endured a lot of hardship. But at the end victory eluded us. The occupation did not end – it was transformed to something even worse. The lesson I drew is that there is never any certainty of victory, whatever the scale of the human sacrifice.

Many of the regimes that have become entrenched in the Arab countries whose people are now rebelling justified the repression of their people on the grounds that they were engaged on behalf of the Palestinians in the war against Israel. Yet once the police state is entrenched it no longer needs to justify or explain anything. It criminalises opposition and uses brutal force to quell it. It speaks with the voice of the gun and controls through instilling a fear of arrest and torture.

Palestine aspired to be different. We wanted to create the first truly democratic Arab state. Our intifada, about which the youth across the Arab world heard, might have been an inspiration to many of those demonstrating in the streets of Tunisia and Egypt. We believed it would produce the new liberated Arab man and woman. It would create new forms of democratic government and relations based on the rule of law. But a free Palestine was deemed a threat to other repressive states and they all, along with Israel, conspired not to allow it to be born.

Now we watch the people in Tunisia and Egypt demonstrate against their police states while, closer to home, we are witnessing the creation, slowly but surely, of a police state of our own. The irony is that while others may be dismantling theirs, ours is being created even before we have a fully fledged state.

Raja Shehadeh is a Palestinian lawyer and writer who lives in Ramallah. He is the author of Palestinian Walks: Notes on a Vanishing Landscape (Profile).

After Tunisia: Tamim Al-Barghouti on Palestine

The tyrant exists only in the imagination of his subjects; the master resides only in the perception of the slave. Attempts at defiance have been abundant in the recent history of the Arabs, many of them in Palestine, but unlike those, the Tunisian example was successful: it widened people’s imagination, changed their perception, increased their self-confidence and showed them how fragile their tyrants are.

Revolutions travel, and in the Arab world they travel faster: after the first world war, a wave of revolutions swept through the region: Egypt in 1919, Iraq in 1920, Syria in 1925, a guerrilla war in Palestine from 1922-35 and a full-scale popular revolt from 1936-39. After the loss of Palestine to the Zionist movement in 1948, Arab leaders who were perceived to be incompetent and complicit were punished. This time there were political assassinations and military coups: 1949 Lebanon and Syria, 1951 Jordan, 1952 Egypt and 1958 Iraq. More recently, when the Lebanese resistance was able to defeat Israel and force it to withdraw under fire in May 2000, the second Palestinian intifada began a few months later. Despite the difference in performance, Gaza 2008 was a replay of Lebanon 2006. In both wars, Israel killed many civilians but was unable to achieve any of its political goals.

But Tunisia was a first in the Arab world, in that it was a non-violent, persistent and eventually successful people’s revolution against a native tyrant allied with the west. The other events were either directed against a colonial power or were military coups, leaving the Arab rulers and their colonial allies with the impression that occupation was immune to popular anger. It also was a first in that it showed how ordinary people can be quite good in the art of government. Street committees were formed to prevent looting, some cities formed their own governing bodies to fill the vacuum after the fall of the regime – such bodies were democratic in the rawest sense of the word, legitimate and efficient.

Now the wave is coming. I will venture to say that the Egyptian regime has already fallen: it might take some time, but the fear, the perception that the regime is invincible has gone once and for all. All this is followed quite closely in Palestine; any future intifada will not be directed only against the occupation, but also against any Palestinian entity that co-operates with the occupation. Tunisia sent out the message that client regimes fall – that if we can drive the empires out, we will surely be able to drive out their vassals.

As I write, demonstrations rage in the streets of Cairo: everyone knows that if they stay at home, they will be compromising the safety of those in the streets, as well as their own freedom. Cairo knows and Cairo moves. Ramallah worries that an empowered Cairo means an empowered Gaza, and Tel Aviv and Washington know that instead of just Iran, they will now have to worry about Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt and Palestine all at once.

Tamim Al-Barghouti is a Palestinian poet. He is currently a visiting assistant professor at Georgetown University’s Center for Contemporary Arab Studies.

About these ads

Tagged: ,

§ 2 Responses to Now The Wave Is Coming

  • Zafar Khan says:

    Israeli and American leaders squandered away a ‘relatively’ peaceful, cooperative and supportive Egypt and Jordan for the last several decades. It was during this time Israel should have worked to show sense and reason in letting Palestinians obtain statehood. Unfortunately the time of tranquility is now gone forever. Israel’s chances for a peaceful existence are now remote. We are heading into some very troubled times.
    Zafar Khan

    http://silentconscience.org

  • @Zafar Khan No matter how cooperative and pro-Zionist President Moubarak was in Egypt and Kings Hussein and Abdulla were in Jordan, making peace with the Palestinians has never been any Israel agenda. What interests Israel is territory and water resources. History in both Sinai and South Lebanon has shown that Israel’s leaders only understand force. Egypt’s 1973 crossing of the Suez Canal and Hisballah’s guerilla war against the IDF have been the only events that impacted against Israels expansionist strategy.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

What’s this?

You are currently reading Now The Wave Is Coming at P U L S E.

meta

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 7,765 other followers

%d bloggers like this: