PALESTINE AFTER THE ARAB SPRING

Mouin Rabbani, Norman G. Finkelstein and I have an article in the latest issue of Insight Turkey examining the impact of the Arab uprisings on the prospects for Palestinian self-determination.

Unfortunately the full text is behind a pay-wall (accessible via ProQuest), but here’s how it begins:

When a series of uprisings across the Arab world in 2010-2012 overthrew a number of autocratic rulers and weakened others, the initial expectation was that these developments would significantly strengthen Arab official support for the Palestinian struggle for self-determination, and remove various restraints on popular support for the Palestinians and the latter’s freedom of action in the Arab world. The response to Israel’s late 2012 assault on the Gaza Strip, Operation Pillar of Defense, appeared to validate such assessments, as – in sharp contrast to Operation Cast Lead in 2008-09 – Arab leaders beat a path to Gaza City amidst intense bombing to demonstrate their solidarity with not only the Palestinian people but a Hamas government most of them had previously spurned.1 Similarly, there were few constraints against popular expressions of support for the beleaguered Palestinians. One notable consequence of this mobilized Arab-Muslim support was that Pillar of Defense was much less destructive than Cast Lead.

Since then the situation has shifted dramatically. On the one hand, a growing number of Arab states have been consumed by internal strife and foreign intervention, and are no longer capable of pursuing a coherent and active foreign policy beyond – at best – regime preservation. In other states, most notably Egypt, the old order has returned with a vengeance, attributing many of its problems to contrived Palestinian subterfuge and encouraging unprecedented levels of anti-Palestinian hysteria in the media.

More broadly, regional upheaval has intensified the regional Cold War. In this equation, several key conservative Arab states have sought out Israel as a valuable ally in their rivalry with Iran. Rather than outbidding each other in support of the Palestinians, or seeking to control the “Palestinian card,” as was the case in previous eras, this time around the Palestinian question is all but ignored, seen primarily as an obstacle and nuisance to more important affairs of state.

From the vantage point of 2015, the prospects for Palestinian self-determination could hardly be worse. A regional agenda no longer exists, and rather than serving as a unifying factor for rival camps, the Palestinian struggle is overwhelmingly absent. For their part, competing Palestinian factions have become subordinate elements of these regional coalitions, desperately seeking supporters (and funders) rather than leveraging the autonomous (symbolic) power of the Palestine cause. To an even greater extent than during the height of the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s, Palestine is absent from the Arab agenda.

We wrote it before the recent wave of knife attacks; see here for our thoughts on that.

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