The Spring has not yet sprung in Palestine
Skirmishes between Palestinian refugees from Syria and Lebanon and Israeli security forces ended with at least a dozen deaths and scores more injured on Sunday. Thousands of protesters boarded buses and descended on borders at the Golan Heights, Gaza strip and West Bank to reject Israel’s ongoing incursion on the anniversary of the Nakba. They were systematically shot as they attempted to cross the border to their home.
The Times described it as another example of current ‘regional volatility’. The Daily Telegraph explained how it ‘catapulted the Jewish state into the maelstrom of the Arab uprisings for the first time’. The Financial Times, forever cautious, offered ‘recent political unrest in neighbouring countries’ as a motivation. The i proudly proclaimed that ‘the Arab spring finally found its way to Israel’s borders’. And The Guardian concluded it a ‘new flashpoint in the change sweeping the Middle East’.
They were wrong. Every broadsheet newspaper in the country dangerously, if not deliberately, mischaracterised the event. Rather than be presented with the utter complexity of Israeli statehood, we are having the wool pulled over our eyes (again). Instead of facing daunting facts, we are to believe that the ‘Arab spring’, after rushing down the mountain tops and Egypt and Tunisia, has gathered enough momentum to crash through Israel’s well-militarised borders – that this was a spontaneous eruption of democratic rebellion from an oppressed people pushed to the precipice.
It wasn’t, far from it. It was a protest organised by those least likely to support democratic revolution in the Middle East. It was a calculated abuse of unprecedented world media attention on the region. And it was likely designed to provoke an Israeli response that could mirror the harsh crack-down on revolts by other tyrannical regimes.
Those who went to the event, who were brave or naive enough to travel to the Heights, explained how the day was organised, controlled and policed by the authoritarian mafias Hezbollah and Hamas:
“The protest at the Lebanese-Israeli border was organised by Hezbollah. The organization, via proxies, negotiated the land-use, and, not via proxies, patrolled the event. The busses were directed to the festival grounds by men wearing Hezbollah hats. Hezbollah was giving out caps and flags and our bags were searched by Hezbollah personnel,” said one who attended.
This is hardly surprising. For Palestinian refugees in Lebanon there are few options available for orchestrating mass protests. They have to cling to whatever organised opposition force they can. And for all their faults, religious fundamentalist can sure organise a march. But a march that can be included in a chronology of the ascension of Arab democracy? Surely not.
For us to believe that, and to subsequently believe this mornings headlines, we must first believe Hezbollah is now a democratic force. We must believe the so-called Party of God have relinquished their effective veto over Lebanese election results. We must be sure they have denounced the brutal kidnap and murder tactic that has characterised every previous conflict with Israel. We must doubt the sincerity of the Ayatollah Khomeini, the organisations spiritual leader, in issuing an internationally illegal Fatwa against Salman Rushdie for the crime of writing a novel, and claiming his murder ‘will be a blessing to him.’ We must be sure that this Baathist proxy will never again wield dogmatic control over the possibility of peace between Israel and her neighbours. And we must ignore every dogmatic order they have ever given to their religous subjects, to be completed on pain of death or eternal damnation.
Can you really take all that, and the countless more denials of precedent required, as read? It surely takes a special kind of naivety, apparently rife in our press, to make such an obviously huge leap of faith. Of course they haven’t changed; if only because there is absolutely no reason for them to. But then no one actually thinks they have. ‘Hezbollah protests’ are actually only being portrayed as ‘Arab srping protests’ because it fits the current zeitgeist better than, well, ‘Hezbollah protests’.
It may not be the most horrific mistake to make, after all an indictment of Hezbollah needn’t lead to a total condemnation of Sunday’s protests. Despite the hand controlling the puppet, like all protests against illegal invasion and land occupation it was necessary and justified. It may have been conducted by groups who have flags donning either the AK-47 or the mushroom cloud, but even the most inept logicians occasionally hit upon the right conclusion, even if they arrived there by the wrong path. But unfortunately reporting the violence as the result of something it wasn’t confuses things, and potentially muddies already unclear waters.
Sunday’s skirmish was not indicative of widespread ‘regional volatility’ nor did it ‘catapult the Jewish state’ into the midst of Arab uprisings. It was not born out of the ‘political unrest’ of other countries nor is it a ‘new flashpoint’ for Middle Eastern change. Sadly, it in fact amounts to little more than another footnote in the long history of a people brutalized by Israeli occupation and manipulated by tyrannical terrorists stealing their cause. And it would add insult to serious injury if the Palestinians were now incorrectly swept up in the 24-hour news’ ‘Arab spring’ story-arch.Tagged in: gaza strip, golan heights, hamas, Hezbollah, lebanon, Nakba, Palestine, protests, syria
Recent Posts on The Foreign Desk
- Obama lectures Modi’s government on religious tolerance at the end of a hyperactive visit
- A shouting economic adviser, a Nobel Laureate and a rock star scientist on stage at the Jaipur lit fest
- Obama's India trip is significant but expect limited results
- India’s Seven Sisters – so near and yet so far
- Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalists undermine his reforms agenda
Latest from Independent journalists on Twitter