This piece is dated by blogsopheric standards, but as best as I can tell, not many diaries here have reported on this major tragic-hopeful news. This occurred on Sunday, Nakba Day, when Palestinians commemorate the ethnic cleansing that accompanied the founding of Israel:
Israel Defense Forces (IDF) killed 15 Palestinian protesters and wounded hundreds along the borders of Lebanon, Syria and Gaza as the Arab Spring finally came to Israel’s doorstep.
That's the tragic part, Israel's gunning down peaceful Palestinian protestors. The hopeful part is the peaceful, revolutionary fervor that displaced Mubarak and Ben Ali is animating Palestinians, who are quite mindfully embracing that model.
The headlines Sunday were all about the violence of the day: at least four people were shot dead by Israeli forces on the Syrian fence line, and as many as 10 were killed either by Israeli or Lebanese army gunfire at a similar demonstration on the nearby frontier with southern Lebanon. The death toll, along with the accounts of stone-throwing and tear gas, comports with the familiar narrative of the conflict, one constructed over years of Israel's describing efforts to defend itself. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu encouraged that narrative on Sunday, arguing that the protesters were undermining the very existence of the state of Israel.It's important not to overstate the change that this represents. The truth is that Palestinians have long had nonviolent protesters and protests -- a fact regularly denied by the malicious and the ignorant. Where are all the Palestinian Ghandis? Well, many of are in graves and prisons.
But those closer to events found in the day the makings of a new narrative. The Palestinians in Syria, Lebanon, Gaza and the occupied Palestinian enclaves of the West Bank approached Israeli gun positions on Sunday without arms of their own. If some teenagers threw rocks, a protest leader said, they had apparently failed to attend the workshops on nonviolence the organizers had arranged in what they call a new paradigm for the conflict. The aim, which appears to be building support, aims to recast the Palestinian-Israeli conflict on the same terms that brought down dictatorships in Egypt and Tunisia.
That said, as the Palestinian peaceful protest movement grows and becomes ever more linked with the Arab Spring, it will present a stiff political challenge to both Israel and the United States, which will have more trouble than ever denying the moral legitimacy of Palestinian demands for freedom. Yes, this is Bibi's worst nightmare -- surely this prospect is one of the reasons he opposed Egypt's revolution -- and most of official DC isn't thrilled about it, either.
To be sure, the United States hasn't been strongly supportive of Arab democratic protestors in other nations -- and in some countries it's been actively siding with their brutalizers -- so in one sense, opposition to the Palestinian protestors woud be be par for the dreary course. But such opposition will look increasingly monstrous in the eyes of the rest of the civilized world as more and more peaceful Palestinians take to the streets. In terms of political impact, this ain't Bahrain.
The Palestine Spring is also a lead-up to the fall, when the Palestinian Authority will ask the U.N. General Assembly to officially recognize Palestine based on the 1967 borders and to accept it as a member.
Our quest for recognition as a state should not be seen as a stunt; too many of our men and women have been lost for us to engage in such political theater. We go to the United Nations now to secure the right to live free in the remaining 22 percent of our historic homeland because we have been negotiating with the State of Israel for 20 years without coming any closer to realizing a state of our own. We cannot wait indefinitely while Israel continues to send more settlers to the occupied West Bank and denies Palestinians access to most of our land and holy places, particularly in Jerusalem. Neither political pressure nor promises of rewards by the United States have stopped Israel’s settlement program.Israel will try to get European countries to vote with the U.S. in opposing Palestinian statehood, or at least to abstain. Regardless of how the vote goes, the occupation will continue. So too, though, will the protests, carried out by Palestinians who will draw comparisons to the heroes who filled Tahrir Square. Israel will be in a quandary.
"What we saw today was the promo for what we might see in September on the day the United Nations declares a state: thousands of Palestinians marching toward Israeli checkpoints, Israeli settlements and the fence along the West Bank, and Gaza Palestinians coming with their bare hands to demonstrate," a senior Israeli officer tells TIME. "This is a huge problem. We'll have to study what happened today to do better."Got that? Bare-handed protesters are a "huge problem" for Israel.
Any optimism here should, of course, be tempered: this is the I-P conflict, after all. The potential for killing is great. Israel will likely use violence to try to trigger a violence response that appears to justify Israel's intransigence and gives its defenders a handy talking point.
President Obama will give a speech tomorrow outlining U.S. policy toward the region in light of the death of Bin Laden and the democratic uprisings. No one should expect a major policy shift. But the last five months have exposed the limits of the United States' capacity to shape events in the region. Make no mistake: the U.S can and should support those fighting for freedom -- it can make a significant difference -- but its failure to do so won't hold back the tide of history. Here's Peter Beinart. I don't endorse everything he says here (I never shared his illusions), but I think his basic thrust is correct, and he speaks for a growing number of American Jews.
The Palestinians are taking control of their destiny because Israel has not. Zionism, which at its best is the purposeful, ethical effort to make Jews safe in the land of Israel, has become—in this government—a mindless land grab, that threatens Jewish safety and Jewish ethics alike. Once upon a time, when the Arabs were hapless and America was omnipotent, Israel could get away with that. Not anymore. If Barack Obama cannot get Benjamin Netanyahu to endorse—and work toward—a Palestinian state near 1967 lines, events will pass them both by. Others will take the initiative; in the Middle East, the U.S. and Israel will increasingly find their destinies in other nation’s hands. For those of us raised to believe that Americanism and Zionism were can-do faiths, it is harder to imagine any crueler irony than that.