Posted on Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011 at 11:36 pm
Author: Feature Writer
Gc contributor: Anna Lekas Miller
Have you heard the one about the Hamas militant and the IDF soldiers?
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. A Hamas militant fires a rocket into Israel. Israel gets defensive and retaliates, randomly opening fire on Gaza, wounding and killing several innocent civilians. Those in the pro-Israel camp say that these are unfortunate casualties, but will continue as long as fundamentalist Hamas terrorists sacrifice their lives for the destruction of Israel. Those in the pro-Palestine camp mourn the loss of innocent civilians and condemn Israel as the violent, illegitimate state that is robbing them of both their land and their livelihood.
No one ever changes their opinion, but they are both willing to (sometimes literally) fight it to the death. What came first, the rocket fire or the occupation? It can be easily twisted to make either argument seem legitimate. It is frustrating, confusing, and can feel very personal even when the actual conflict is taking place on the other side of the world. People often hide their emotions behind diplomacy, saying that both sides are to blame, one constantly provoking the other either in reaction to either an isolated violent incident or to the pervasive violence of military occupation.
It is all too familiar. It happened just last night in Gaza. In response to a Hamas militant shooting a mortar round shot into a southern Israeli town, Israel retaliated with airstrikes, wounding seventeen and killing eight. It fits the pattern perfectly. Israelis regret the loss of life, but emphasize their need for self-defense. Palestinians are devastated, mourning their loss as five children are confirmed dead. Journalists could probably save time and energy by recycling old articles, replacing the date and the number of casualties, and reprinting the same old story.
But things may be different in Palestine this time around.
Unlike the rest of the Arab world, Palestine never called for its own “Day of Rage.” Instead, Palestinians called for March 15, their designated day of the Arab Spring, to be a day of non-violent unity protests. These protests were not meant to overthrow despotic leaders or even protest the Israeli occupation. They were meant to unite the infamous political factions, Hamas and Fatah as Palestinians, not political parties, striving towards a shared dream of Palestinian unity and an end to the occupation.
Palestinians borrowed ideas from Egypt and Tunisia, using Facebook , Twitter and word of mouth to rally their scattered people across the West Bank, Gaza, and refugee camps in Jordan and Lebanon. Though they copied aspects of the social media model of the Arab revolution, Palestinians are different in that they are far more experienced with protesting and have already had their intifada –twice. This time, instead of trying to rise up against a regime, they were trying to bring one together. Instead of trying to destroy and reorganize a political system, an undertaking that can risk years of political instability, they sought to shed their differences, and unite as Palestinians under the same flag and demand for sovereignty.
After all, now more than ever the world is reminded that a people united will never be defeated.
It is difficult to deny legitimacy to peaceful calls for political unity. However, many Hamas officials were not as amenable to the protests as the people –or even certain members of the government. Hamas officials quickly cracked down on the protests, fearing their intensity, and in an effort to remain non violent, the protestors complied. Though the protests in Gaza and Ramallah have been dispersed (for now), the familiar flicker of revolutionary embers lingers in the air in Palestine. It could re-erupt at any minute.
Things could be very different for Israel this time around too.
Tunisia and Egypt not only humanized, but glorified the Arab world. Arabs are no longer the fundamentalist, culturally backwards terrorists who are solely responsible for 9/11 and the dissolution of European society. Arabs are now heroes who demonstrated incredible amounts of courage to prove that democratic revolution in the Middle East, something that was previously thought of as impossible, is now inevitable. Their revolutions have taught the meaning of “solidarity” to the world, inspiring both their immediate neighbors and other protestors across the globe to pour into the streets and demand their rights.
The Israeli occupation of Palestine depends on this dehumanization of the Palestinian people. As long as Palestinians can be stereotyped and categorized as foreign terrorists, Israel can continue to institutionalize an apartheid system, aided and abetted by Western governments. However, the minute that Palestine’s struggle is affiliated with the “Arab Spring,” this power dynamic begins to shift. Suddenly, Palestinians become portrayed as a young, lively, revolutionary people advocating for peaceful protests and national unity. The Israeli occupation is their oppressor, and their “Mubarak moment” is when this occupation ends once and for all.
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