Demonstrations were organized in dozens of countries, but especially in the occupied territories and Arab frontline states in which 80 countries were represented. The demonstrators, of whom one was killed and over 300 wounded, all marched under a single banner: ‘Jerusalem’.
The demonstrations proved that the Palestinian cause is still very much alive, despite Arab, regional, and international preoccupation with other events – especially, as far as the Israelis are concerned, Iran. The Israelis are deliberately promoting the Iranian nuclear program as a regional threat in order to minimize the importance of the Arab-Israeli conflict .
It is premature to say that this year's commemoration of Land Day was a turning point or the beginning of a new phase in the struggle. It could be that expressions of solidarity with the Palestinian people were stronger because of the Arab Spring, which replaced several regimes with weaker governments that simply did not have the strength to control their peoples.
It could have been that the demonstrations were a natural reaction to the upsurge in racist Israeli settlement activities that, while involving almost all areas in Palestine, were focused on Jerusalem in order to complete its Judaization and turn it into Israel's 'eternal undivided capital.'
Yet despite the fact that this year’s demonstrations were different from those of previous years, they failed to live up to expectations especially since it was planned that millions would take part both inside Palestine and abroad.
The total number of participants in all the demonstrations did not approach one million; in fact, the number was much smaller, which means that the parties and movements that organized them did not cast their full weight behind the demos. Had several millions participated, the impact would have been much greater, and we would have been able to say that Land Day 2012 marked a turning point and the beginning of a new phase of the Palestinian struggle with Arab and international support.
Nevertheless, minimal participation should not lead us to despair of our supporters in the Arab world and the international solidarity movement.
One of the main reasons participation was so disappointing this year was the fact that many Arab countries are preoccupied with the revolts of the Arab Spring, which have not yet been settled one way or another.
In addition, the ascendant forces of political Islam did not wish to broadcast their support for the Palestinian cause for fear of repelling local, regional, and global forces – so much so that they sent messages of reassurance stressing their determination to preserve regional stability and the peace agreements their predecessors signed with Israel. Some even expressed readiness to enter a dialogue with the Jewish state.
The apparent eagerness of the new Islamist regimes in several Arab countries to nurture strong ties with the United States and Europe could well have concealed a conviction that the Palestinian struggle, which has been continuing for many decades, could wait for them to gain strength before they could rejoin the conflict against Israel.
This is a grave point of view, which could result in the loss of the entire Palestinian cause if it prevails. The Palestinian cause cannot afford to be ignored much longer, especially with the transitional period in the Arab world set to continue for many years to come.
This does not mean that Arab countries should put the Palestinian cause at the top of their list of priorities at the expense of their own revolts. But they should at least keep it alive, if only for the maintenance of the organic link between national liberation and independence on the one hand, and democracy and socioeconomic advancement on the other. The worst that could happen is for national liberation to be decoupled from democracy.
Without a doubt, the Palestinian split had a deeply negative impact on the size of participation in Land Day activities this year. Although the Arab Spring helped the two Palestinian factions [Fateh and Hamas] reach agreement in Cairo [in April 2011], there has been a marked deterioration in reconciliation efforts since – as was witnessed by the suspension of the [February 2012] Doha agreement, the resumption of verbal sniping between the two factions, and the escalation of detentions, all of which could lead – unless energetically contained – to a situation far worse than that which prevailed before the signing of the Cairo agreement.
And although the Palestinian cause is undoubtedly a unifying factor, and the struggle for it a common denominator for almost all Palestinian, Arab and global freedom movements, the inter-Palestinian split was undoubtedly one of the strongest reasons why millions stayed at home on Land Day. It was deeply discouraging for those millions to see the major Palestinian factions preoccupied with their own squabbles at the expense of the Palestinian cause.
National unity is a basic and indispensable condition for the Palestinian cause. Without it, the Palestinians can neither pursue the (increasingly elusive) path of peace talks, nor engage in effective resistance that could shift the balance of power.
Despite growing global support for the Palestinian cause, and despite Palestinian membership in UNESCO, Israel is still in a commanding economic and security position – and is proceeding towards its goal of making its own vision of a settlement the only one available.
This being the case, and in order for there to be a new Palestinian revolution, and in order to explain why this revolution has not taken place until now, we have to note that the split – and what went on before and after it happened – was a result of the regression or absence of an all-encompassing Palestinian national project that embraces all Palestinians. It is difficult to envisage a Palestinian renaissance taking place without the existence of such a project that is capable of bringing together all Palestinian forces, not only Fateh and Hamas.
Reviving the national project – one of the routes to which could be through continuing resistance to occupation and settlements – is the way to rebuild the Palestinian national movement on new foundations that take past experience and new developments into consideration; foundations that could help rebuild the PLO and restore it to its original position as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.
In order to enable the Arabs to champion the Palestinian cause, and in order to ensure that the entire world expresses solidarity with the Palestinians, the Palestinians must return the struggle to its original and pure form as a struggle for national liberation; a struggle between occupier and occupied.
The so-called 'peace process' is dead. It is useless to wait for it to be revived, because its resumption under the same conditions and balance of power could never result in a just settlement.
What is decisive at this point is not whether we negotiate or not, whether we engage in resistance or not, or whether we build institutions or not.
What is decisive is the existence of a deeply held conviction that an alternative is available to the options exercised in the past; an alternative that is capable of aborting Israel's alternatives and upholding those of the Palestinians.