A Palestinian woman makes the victory sign during the funeral of a child killed in an Israeli attack in Gaza last week. Photograph: Said Khatib/AFP/Getty Images
Friday 16 November 2012
In the nations of the Arab spring, people are now rising up to demand Palestinian rights as well
If you click here, you can listen to the Israeli attacks on Gaza. You can hear explosions, drones and ambulances. This is the soundtrack of the lives of Palestinians there now. They’re recording it and transmitting it, and their friends all over the world – particularly the Arab world – are listening to it live.
We are also reading the tweets and blogs the young Gazans are putting out, and taking a good look at the images they’re posting – like the one of Ranan Arafat, before and after. Before, she’s a pretty little girl with green eyes, a green halter-neck top and green ribbons in her hair. After the Israeli bomb, she’s a charred and shrunken figure. Her mouth is open. A medic lifts – for just a moment – her blue hospital shroud.
In that hospital, Shifa in Gaza City, we watched the Egyptian prime minister, Hisham Kandil, this morning. For the first time in 42 years an Egyptian prime minister was where we Egyptians wanted him to be. For the first time a government official was telling the truth when he said he spoke for the Egyptian people. And he was spot on when he referred to the Egyptian people first, before the Egyptian president.
Since he won the presidency, Mohamed Morsi has tried to be a pragmatic politician. He pressed on with “security co-ordination” with Israel in Sinai; he started sealing up the tunnels that provide a lifeline to the besieged Gazans; he rejected the proposal of a free trade area on the borders between Egypt and Gaza; and he sent an ambassador to Tel Aviv with a fulsome letter to Shimon Peres. And so he found himself uncomfortably cosied up with remnants of the Mubarak regime and aficionados of the military government.
The rank and file of the Muslim Brotherhood and their Freedom and Justice party had a hard time justifying the actions of their man in the presidential palace to the rest of the country. Progressives and liberals mocked them for their big talk on Palestine all the years they were in opposition, and their resounding silence now they were in power. Skits about Morsi’s “love letter” to Peres appeared online and parodies on Cairo walls.
Now, the Israelis have pushed him – pushed him perhaps into a position where he’ll find himself more at ease in his presidency, and more in tune with the people. Large groups of young Egyptians have been heading for Gaza; my youngest niece is one of them. Like the efforts of the world’s civil society to send ships to Gaza, young Egyptian civilians with a passion for freedom are going to support their friends. And on a more “official” level, medics and pharmacists have already arrived there. Abdel Moneim Aboul-Fotouh, a presidential candidate and doctor, has gone – as he did in 2008 during Israel’s “Operation Cast Lead“, long before he had political intentions. The Arab Doctors’ Union has called for donations and volunteers.
Israel has always sold itself to the west as a democracy in a sea of fanaticism. The Arab spring has undermined that narrative, possibly fatally. So Israeli politicians have been pushing hard for a war against Iran and, in the interim, they’ve gone on a killing spree in Gaza. If they had wanted to instigate violence against themselves they could not have done better than to assassinate Ahmed al-Jaabari, the Hamas commander who’s prevented attacks on Israelis for the past five years. With his killing they’ve raised the probability of these attacks resuming, as is happening now. They can then try to hijack the narrative of the Arab spring and wind the clock back to “Islamist terrorists v civilised Israelis”. Meanwhile, they take the heat off Bashar al-Assad’s murderous activities in Syria – and, of course, score hawkish points for Binyamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak before the coming elections.
But they have served to remind the world that Israel is a democracy where politicians may order the murder of children to score electoral points. Palestinian children, true. But the citizens of the world don’t make racist distinctions. On Thursday there were protests for Gaza across the world. They continued today. And there will be many more.
In every Arab country where the people rise up to demand their rights, they demand action on Palestinian rights as well. Tunis has just announced that its foreign minister is heading for Gaza. In Jordan today, hundreds of thousands were on the streets and, as well as demanding the fall of their own regime, they’re also calling for justice for Palestine. Protesters are out in Libya. In Egypt, people are heading for Rafah. We are heading for true representation of the people’s will in the region and, in the coming years, governments will need to follow the road shown to them by their people.
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