Saturday, March 26, 2011

The "Different" Palestinian Protests

The protests in the middle East are markedly different in Palestine, but only because of how fundamentally similar they are.
An Israeli skyscraper rises behind an impoverished Jewish community, the target of gentrification.
As the pro-democracy protests swept the region, most commentators kept their eyes trained on a 60-year old conflict whose turbulent history is hard to match. The body of articles referencing this conflict can easily dwarf the output of media on entire continents. Withstanding this girth of knowledge are the stubborn and unassuming prejudices that some media cultures exhibit - perhaps most persistent across the US.

Across the country, pro-democracy protests across N. Africa and the Middle East have been heralded as everything from liberating populism to Islamist barbarism. This is notable only because the same kinds of 3rd-world uprisings have historically been met with direct augmentation of oppressive regimes on the ground, and deliberate maligning of the struggle for liberation in the form of media whitewashing of prevalent power structures. This is hardly better illustrated than the examples in South America: Nicaragua, Argentina, Colombia, Venezuela and Chile to name a few.

This difference, the moderate approach (selectively applied, of course) to popular uprisings, marks a clear strategy: "ossified governments" are seen as weak and locally illegitimate, and one may as well endorse the preeminent movement that is in the process of seizing power. All the while, the facts on the ground proved this American indifference to the changes taking place: the Egyptian military 'top brass,' which had been in Washington when the protests hit, stood by as the police battled protesters - occasionally joining the movement against the police when things got bitter. All of this was in keeping with a stable, safe regime for US-Israeli interests in a state key to the maintenance of the Gaza siege.

When the protests broke into Palestine, however, they weren't attacking their "leaders," at least not in the way that the protests have gone in other countries: they called for collaboration between the two largest parties:
"But tens of thousands of Palestinians took to the streets of Gaza and the West Bank last week to demand that the two factions end their long-running rivalry.
"Following the demonstrations Abbas accepted a Hamas invitation to go to Gaza, saying he was prepared to make the trip in an attempt to "end the division and form a government of independent national figures"." Al Jazeera English
This may sound bizarre to Westerners who take on the mainstream-liberal attitude about the protests: after all, Fatah seized power after Hamas won elections, and the latter promptly overthrew Fatah in Gaza, a Hamas stronghold. Since then, attacks on the media, labor unions and public workers have been central themes to the power-struggle between the factions. In this blending of conditions between Middle Eastern / African repression and Wisconsin-Michigan style attacks on labor, how puzzling it might be that Palestinians aren't protesting their government. But reading on might reveal the real repressive power structure that is galvanizing Palestinian resistance:
"Dweik, who had previously expressed his intention to accompany Abbas to Gaza, said he doubted the Israelis would grant him a permit." Al Jazeera English
That's right, the "Hamas head of the Palestinian legislature" might not get a permit to visit his own nation or greater constituency. Not only that, but Abbas has recently suggested that he may dissolve his Palestinian government - the aim, of course, is to create international recognition (and legal responsibility) of Israel as the occupying force in the West Bank.

And here is where the crux of the issue lies: Israel is the ruling force in Palestine, the central theme in nearly all oppression that Palestinians face on a daily basis. Hamas and Fatah are theirs to some extent (though Israeli funding and manipulation of both is well known). They are the only apparent hope, and Palestinian protest follows this to its logical conclusion: support and augment the enemy of my enemy. Democracy will come to Palestinians only after external forces cease daily assassinations, raids, bombardment, expulsions, home-destruction and once the "beehive" structure of Israeli-manned roadblocks are lifted. Maybe then the cynical Hamas-Fatah leadership will be held accountable.

Israel is the executor of political power in the region. It is not for want of this that, as the article above points out, Jewish and Palestinian targets of the ethnic cleansing - gentrification program of the Israeli regime - are now starting to join together to fight their common oppressor.

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