الرئيسية » هاني المصري »   24 تشرين الأول 2019

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هاني المصري

 "We have recently begun to witness a second wave of the Arab Spring, after the first that originated in Tunisia [in 2011] and swept through several countries," maintains leading Palestinian commentator Hani al-Masri on the independent Palestinian news-portal www.masarat.ps.

The first wave failed to achieve its objectives because it blazed through the necessary stages. It also suffered from a disconnect from reality and from conflicts between its various civil, religious, and military structures in the absence of a vision, program, leadership, and instruments of change, or else it fell prey to wagers on foreigners and sought help from the devil, unaware that those who appeal to demons will become slaves to them. And so the revolution was coopted and overcome by conspiracy.

We have now begun to see a second wave sweeping through Algeria, Sudan, Jordan, and Iraq, touching on Egypt and then landing in Lebanon. In Tunisia, it took an entirely different course, as clearly reflected in the recent election results, the third since the [2011] Jasmine Revolution. 

Now the wave has hit Lebanon, but will it extend to Palestine this time?

Before answering this question, we must first establish that the Arab countries are in need of a true Spring to get rid of corruption, tyranny, backwardness, subordination, and sectarian and ethnic divisions. Arab citizens have suffered more than enough from repression, marginalization, poverty, unemployment, ignorance, and fragmentation, as have women from exploitation, inequality, and twofold repression, both inside and outside the home.

Moreover, the youth's exclusion from political participation in favor of decrepit leaders hinders renewal and change. They even reject reform for fear that it will generate revolution and change, as the ruling authorities recognize the extent of the damage they have caused at every level. Governance is inherited in the case of both [Arab] monarchies and republics alike. Democracy is a song they sing to avoid enacting it in their own countries, while development plans are mere slogans for consumption and bragging rather than implementation. 

There is no semblance of a true establishment; the executive authority, whether king, president, or emir, surrounds itself with those who gather all powers in their hands and dole out positions, gains, and tenders to their relatives or loyal trusted friends. There is no move towards the ballot box, and if elections are held, their results must be known in advance in the interest of keeping the old guard in power. And should anything new arise from them, an outcry can be heard from the people lamenting bygone days.

The ruling Arab political elites may be corrupt and tyrannical, but the other elites are either corrupt or incompetent or both, except by the grace of God.

To make matters worse, the Arab countries have become as desiccated as a man suffering from a disease who must fight all and sundry over his inheritance before his death, much resembling the late Ottoman Empire after the allies defeated it in World War I, and Britain, France, and other allied forces divided up its areas of influence. Today, there is an ongoing international and regional struggle to take control of Arab countries or parts of them. Meanwhile, the greatest vacuum stems from the lack of a leadership project capable of uniting the Arabs, or a leading state capable of mobilizing the Arabs as a whole. The Arab people are an Arabic-speaking nation that is not confined by a single religion, people, or country, and the Arab world stretches across all the areas where Arabic is a native language. Attempts to reduce them to a single religion or country, or even several countries, will only prolong their slumber.

After this relatively long introduction, I will address the question at hand, i.e. whether this or an upcoming wave of the Arab spring will arrive in Palestine sooner or later, as its 'ruling' political elite are mostly corrupt and tyrannical. Apologies for the reckless use of the term, as Palestine's actual ruler is the occupying state, which attacks Palestine in its history, present, and future, and does not differentiate between one Palestinian and another. This applies to the Gaza Strip as well, which has not been liberated despite its crucial steadfastness and resistance. There the occupation manifests itself as blockade, aggression, control over what happens inside, and the attempt to keep the Strip in suspended animation between life and death.

With rare exceptions, the rest of the Palestinian elite is corrupt, incompetent, or both. They are only interested in securing their share of power, the private sector, and civil society organizations, or else do no more than express their position for the record, blame others, and lament the loss of aid and supplies coming from across the border. All this indicates a need for change before it is too late.

Finally, it may be useful to recall that within a few months, the first Arab Spring wave of 2011 brought promising harbingers of change to the Palestinian people in the homeland and the diaspora. It manifested in protests and encampments in city squares such as [Cairo's] Tahrir Square, and the formation of dozens of youth groups, which later faded away or reduced their role and activities – not because there was no need for change, but due to the absence of a unified concept, goal, leadership, and model.

It is not sufficient to raise slogans calling for an end to the [Fatah/Hamas] split or to topple the [1993] Oslo Accords, or to advocate resistance, or even uphold the goal of liberation in a single-state and restructuring the PLO. There is an urgent need for a program that can meet the people's immediate and long-term needs in terms of livelihood, human rights, national unity, and democracy and that learns from past experiences within a comprehensive vision that produces phase-appropriate strategies, without neglecting any of the key issues on the pretext of prioritizing another.

The Palestinian peoples' struggles demonstrate a growing need to connect national, democratic, and livelihood issues, as occurred during the successive uprising waves: The [2017] battle at al-Aqsa's gates in Jerusalem and various other cities, stances in support of prisoners [in Israeli jails] and the popular resistance against colonial settlement, various forms of steadfastness and resistance, the Gaza strip's marches of victory against Israeli aggression and the PA enacting sanctions against it, the teacher's protest movements, the protests against the [PA's] social security law, the great [Gaza] marches of return, and major conferences abroad about the right of return, demand movements in the Gaza Strip such as the 'we want to live' protests, the Palestinian refugees' movement in Lebanon to fight the unjust labor law, the popular movement against crime, violence, and racial discrimination in the Palestinian territories, and BDS activities.

These harbingers demonstrate that it would be a mistake to believe that Palestine and its leadership and president are immune from the Arab Spring's reach due to the occupation. The Palestinian territories are not guaranteed immunity from popular uprisings or movements simply by virtue of having a common enemy. The occupation could speed things up or slow down them, but the point is that the impasse in the Palestinian cause and our disastrous situation as the split continues and deepens justify rebellion against the ruling elites. 

All of their strategies have failed, not to mention the inconsistency in fulfilling their responsibilities that have led to a struggle over power, despite being under occupation. Change must come, either through reforms and involving the people in the decision-making process, or through the revolution and waves of public outrage. 

Although it can be highly effective, invoking the bugaboo of chaos and foreign agendas will not work forever.

Current developments in the Arab world and in the near and distant past represent a warning bell that will keep ringing until change comes.

"Those who do not heed it have nobody to blame but themselves and will live to rue it only when it is too late," concludes Masri.