WRITE for ATol ADVERTISE MEDIA KIT GET ATol BY EMAIL ABOUT ATol CONTACT US
Asia Time Online - Daily News
             
Asia Times Chinese
AT Chinese



    Middle East
     May 18, 2011


Persistence will pay off for Palestinians
By Sami Moubayed

DAMASCUS - There are several remarkable layers to what has been called the beginning of a "Third Palestinian Intifada" (uprising) that broke out on May 15, marking the 63rd anniversary of the creation of the state of Israel.

That day was famously coined Nakba, which means "disaster" in Arabic, by prominent Syrian historian Constantine Zureik, and continues to carry that name.

On this day in 1948, the armies of Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Egypt (25,000 soldiers in total) went to war against Israel - resulting in a humiliating and painful collective defeat for the

 
Arabs. In 2011, it was a human mass that marched onto Israel, rather than official bulky armies.

They came carrying Palestinian flags and keys to the homes of their fathers and grandfathers - a sacred symbol of Palestinian identity, bequeathed from one generation to the next since 1948.

On the Syrian front, hundreds of Syrians and Palestinians broke through the border fence and pelted soldiers with stones, heading into the Syrian Golan, which has been occupied by Israel since 1967. They reached the occupied town of Majdal Shams, at which the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) opened fire, killing four civilians. A total of 170 were wounded on the Syrian border.

In Lebanon, the same scene was repeated when angry Lebanese and Palestinians reached the border town of Maroun al-Ras, where the IDF shot and killed 10 people, wounding over 110. In the West Bank, young Palestinians attempted to wrestle control of the Qalandiya checkpoint between Ramallah and Jerusalem. Once again the IDF opened fire, wounding 40 in the clashes, which spread into Jerusalem. In Egypt, authorities prevented angry demonstrators from breaking through the border with Gaza, resulting in large riots and 120 people injured.

Is it war? Not yet - but as Eran Makov, an official from the Israeli Defense Ministry put it, May 15 was "a dress rehearsal for September". Then, the Palestinians plan to ask for United Nations General Assembly recognition of a Palestinian state. That is when Israel will certainly say no and that is where the real violence - the real Third Intifada - will break out.

The outgoing head of Israel's Shin Bet, Yuval Diskin, recently said that he was "very worried" about Palestinian statehood in September. The Palestinians are expected, by some rough estimates, to win 140 votes, whereas all they will need at the UN is 128.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak held a similar line, warning that his country would face a "political tsunami" if it did not devise a peace plan ahead of September. "We have been ruling over another people for 43 years. This is unprecedented. There is no way the world is going to accept this."

Israel has failed to jumpstart peace talks since they collapsed last October 2010. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who sealed a deal with Hamas this month, has said that he would resume talks immediately if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu froze all settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The premier, who is due in the US on May 20, has so far refused to budge on settlements and so has his Foreign Minister Avigdor Liebermann who replied, "We are ready for immediate talks without preconditions," adding that he will not freeze settlements neither for three months "nor for three days and not even for three hours".

The popular uprising, it must be noted, should have been no surprise for Israel - a Facebook page for the Intifada has been up and running for weeks, calling on the Palestinians to revolt on May 15. Strangely enough, the Israelis expected an in-born uprising, similar to the one of 1987 and 2000, but nothing on their borders with the Arabs.

And even those who might have expected hostilities, they certainly imagined that it wouldn't be on the Syrian-Israeli front, which has been quiet since 1973. According to organizers of the new Intifada, Stage I was to include a "sit-down strike" on Sunday, with refugees from Syria, Jordan, Egypt and the Palestinian Territories gathering at different locations close to their borders with Israel. Stage II was to be the "The Advance" where refugees would march peacefully towards the border, penetrating as deep as geography allows them. Stage III will be the "Crossing" where refugees would march into Palestine, with one objective in mind: liberation. The last phase, Stage IV, would be when each refugee reached his/her native town or village, or the nearest location to it, where a second sit-in would take place until they were allowed to "return".

On Sunday, Stage I started and immediately distracted the entire Arab world, and its media, from all that was taking place in Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, Egypt and Syria. In as much as Arabs seem to be furious with their respective governments, they would certainly be willing to set aside their differences when it comes to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

It goes without saying that Arab governments are pleased by the prospect of a Third Intifada. Throughout history, whenever the popularity of any Arab regime is in doubt, monarchs and president immediately take out the "Palestinian Card".

Palestinian Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat famously did it in 2000 when he used Nakba day to drum up support for his diminishing popularity in the Occupied Territories. Hasan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah in Lebanon, came out with a statement on Sunday night: "You the honorable have given the Nakba a new meaning!"

Even caretaker prime minister Saad al-Hariri, an ally of the West, could not but describe the killing as "blatant, intolerable aggression".

Even better were the voices of condemnation heard from within Israel. Daphne Richmond-Barak of the Herzilya Interdisciplinary Center, acknowledged that shooting the demonstrators was a violation of international law. One of the authors of Israel's military code of ethics, Asa Kasher, added, "It would be more appropriate to look to the US's actions against Mexican infiltrators on its southern border to learn about legitimate use of force."

If the May 15 episode is repeated, snowballing into a regular habit for the next four months, Israel will find itself isolated within the international community, whereas the Palestinians would have captured the world's hearts, minds and television screens.

Having just killed Osama bin Laden and declared that the US is not at war with the Muslim world, US President Barack Obama needs to deliver on the issue most sacred to the Arabs: Land and justice for the Palestinians. For more than two years, the Israelis have been giving him a very difficult time, refusing to dismantle settlements, refusing to enter into peace talks, shooting at the Turkish freedom flotilla last June, and more recently, even refusing to recognize Mahmud Abbas' historic breakthrough with Hamas.

The last thing Obama wanted was trouble on Israel's borders - knowing perfectly well that Israel would swallow the bait, shoot the demonstrators and get the US into an international mess - yet again. On Sunday, the Palestinians actually gave Netanyahu enough rope to hang himself, ahead of September.

Sami Moubayed is a university professor, historian, and Editor-in-Chief of Forward Magazine in Syria.

(Copyright 2011 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)


Prelude to an Intifada (May 16, '11)

Sunday, bloody Sunday (May 16, '11)


1.
  An SCO canopy for South Asia

2. Sunday, bloody Sunday

3. Strauss-Kahn, IMF and Europe's decline

4. Talking without the elephant

5. Prelude to an Intifada

6. US broke deal with Osama hit

7. Flawed math behind Myanmar 'democracy'

8. The ghosts of Wenchuan

9. Is the world too big to fail?

10.The hunger to come in Egypt

(24 hours to 11:59pm ET, May 16, 2011)

 
 



All material on this website is copyright and may not be republished in any form without written permission.
© Copyright 1999 - 2011 Asia Times Online (Holdings), Ltd.
Head Office: Unit B, 16/F, Li Dong Building, No. 9 Li Yuen Street East, Central, Hong Kong
Thailand Bureau: 11/13 Petchkasem Road, Hua Hin, Prachuab Kirikhan, Thailand 77110