Egypt opens a new chapter for Palestine

The Egyptian people could not have chosen a better date than 11 February to bring down the Mubarak dictatorship. It was on 11 February 1250 that the Egyptian army led by the Ayyubid Sultan Turanshah defeated the Seventh Crusade led by King Louis IX of France. Not only this, it was on 11 February 1949 that Shaikh Hasan Al Banna, founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, was assassinated in Cairo. More recently, the great South African freedom fighter Nelson Mandela walked free on 11 February 1990. With the ousting of the Mubarak regime, the Egyptians are about to write a new chapter in their history and, indeed, that of the entire Middle East.

Throughout the past three decades Egypt has been the epicentre of US-Israel coordination in the region. It was from Cairo and Sharm el-Sheikh that a new breed of Arab-Zionists operated. Egypt’s pivotal role in this enterprise turned the country into a western outpost, largely dependent on American “aid” in return for protection and support for the Zionist entity on the other side of the Sinai Peninsula. The Egyptian people did not benefit in the least. On the contrary, they were subjected to a state of emergency for thirty years, losing their fundamental freedoms of speech, assembly and organization in the process.

The political, social and economic conditions in Egypt were replicated in many other places in the Middle East; hence the success of the popular revolution has been welcomed well beyond Egypt’s borders, with scenes of jubilation echoing Tahrir Square in every Arab capital. From Doha to Algiers, where the military intervened to prevent celebrations, people poured on to the streets to welcome the new dawn.

Undoubtedly, the aftershock from Egypt’s political earthquake has been most felt in neighbouring Palestine. Under Mubarak, Egypt was instrumental in maintaining three outrages: the blockade of the Gaza Strip, the division of the Palestinian national movement, and security collaboration between the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli occupation authority in the West Bank.

With the removal of the lynchpin, Egypt’s despot Mubarak, there is now frantic behind the scenes diplomatic activity to “restart peace talks” between Mahmoud Abbas and Benjamin Netanyahu. These efforts should be seen for what they are and not be misconstrued as a serious attempt to resolve the main issues. They are nothing but an attempt to take pre-emptive security measures which will try to ensure that the tremors of popular revolt don’t destabilise the status quo. As it has always been the case, “stability” of regimes will take precedence over democracy and human rights.

Two significant changes have occurred since the protests in Egypt began. First, the wall of fear which was constructed by the old regime has been broken beyond repair. Second, the regional intelligence network coordinated from Cairo and Tel Aviv has been damaged, perhaps fatally. Only by aborting the nascent democracy in Egypt will we see a return to the past oppression and brutality. Yuval Diskin, the head of Israel’s internal intelligence agency, Shabak, said the rules of the game have changed. Accordingly, it is expected that there will be an urgent review of the situation in the West Bank to pre-empt any change there. Despite their unreserved and absolute collaboration with the Israeli occupation, the Palestinian Authority security forces will be faced with more demands, which, ultimately, may prove counterproductive.

Many of the objectionable conditions which existed in Egypt are present in the occupied West Bank, including Jerusalem. While the Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, will remain the main target of repression, other sections of Palestinian civil society are unlikely to be spared. Students and academics can expect increased police harassment; there are currently 70 students from the Najah National University in Nablus held in detention in PA jails for political reasons. If Diskin’s remarks are to be taken seriously, there will be greater censorship and control over internet and cyber facilities. Workers are still being dismissed because of their alleged political affiliations and teachers in Hebron are locked in a dispute with the Fayyad government over cuts to their wages. Lawyers are withholding services because of intimidation and attacks by the security forces. Meanwhile, civilians are still being tried before military courts, as in Egypt under Mubarak. With this combustible mix it will take a miracle to prevent the near-inevitable people’s revolt.

The coming storm will not bypass Jerusalem, where sixty percent of Palestinians live below the poverty line. Abandoned by the Palestinian Authority they now fend for themselves in the face of a vicious Israeli occupation that has made ethnic cleansing the cornerstone of its policies in the city.

The first reaction of the Israeli government to the events in Egypt was to adopt a bunker mentality. Prime Minister Netanyahu ordered construction of the wall on the border with Egypt to be speeded up, and there have been calls for the reoccupation of the Philadelphia corridor along Egypt’s border with Gaza and the Zionist state. All of this suggests a security solution. Of course, the Israelis don’t appear to have learnt from the failed Egyptian model, where even the notorious security apparatus could not stop the people’s protest once it started.

The demise of the Mubarak regime offers a new opportunity for the Palestinian people. They must ensure that they obtain a truly representative leadership capable of protecting their national interests before any other. Never in their history have they been in such dire need of a leadership that is capable of ending the disgraceful divisions imposed from the outside on the Palestinian people. If restarted before this is achieved, negotiations with the Zionist entity will result in more losses and greater oppression of the people in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

As Nelson Mandela once said, “There is no such thing as part freedom”. The Palestinian Authority can never claim to be truly free until and unless they speak and act on behalf of all Palestinians. Ignoring the results of the revolution in Egypt and scurrying back to the negotiation table with the Israelis will demonstrate to everyone that the Authority of Mahmoud Abbas represents its own interests, not the interests and rights of the Palestinian people.

Middle East Monitor

12 February 2011


One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Kipp Dawson on February 13, 2011 at 12:46 pm

    From a Jew in the US who celebrates with the worldwide supporters of the Egyptian people: thank you for this! You show so well one of the most important impacts their struggle is having for perhaps the most oppressed people in the Middle East, our Palestinian sisters and brothers. Si se puede!


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