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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

LA Times spins it

The Los Angeles Times reports with some degree of surprise on the lack of 'Palestinian' participation in the 'Arab Spring' uprisings.
Most of the West Bank protests in recent months have mustered only a few hundred — sometimes a few dozen — demonstrators. Facebook pages calling for a "third intifada" and mass actions against Israel count tens of thousands of online followers. But turnout for a March 30 protest on the Palestinians' Land Day was so small that one organizer nearly quit in disgust.

Some predict that big protests could kick off this weekend when thousands of Palestinians are expected to gather as they have in the past to mark their 1948 displacement, which they call Nakba Day. Several websites have declared May 15 as the start of the next uprising. Others are looking to September, when the Palestinian Authority may seek statehood recognition from the United Nations.

But the absence so far of the kind of sustained mass demonstrations that have erupted in other Arab countries has many Palestinians, international observers and activists scratching their heads.

The reasons, many conclude, are that Palestinians — unlike idealistic youths in neighboring countries who are rising up for the first time — are cynical about the prospects of ending the Israeli occupation and skeptical that their current political leaders can make the difference.


Palestinians are also divided on whether the immediate focus of protests should be confronting Israel or replacing their own leaders, activists and pollsters say. And they are skeptical about whether nonviolent techniques can work in the West Bank, where generations of youths have been raised in a culture of violent clashes with Israeli troops.

Nonviolence, says activist Ahmad Azzeh, is a hard sell.

"Even the name in Arabic has a negative image," said Azzeh, a trainer in nonviolent resistance at the Bethlehem-based Holy Land Trust, a Palestinian advocacy group. "People think of it as cowardly and submissive."
It takes a long time until the Times actually gets to the real reason why things are quiet, and it's the same reason that Mahmoud Abbas told Jackson Diehl that he could afford to leave a generous Israeli offer sitting on the table two and a half years ago: Unlike their brethren in Egypt or Libya or Tunisia, the 'Palestinians' have a good life.
Though Palestinians are cautiously optimistic about the unification deal signed May 4 by Fatah and Hamas, Jiryis said she believes many Palestinians are more focused on their daily lives, jobs, education and mortgages.

"People have become more economically comfortable," she said. "It makes you lose the drive to get out there and do things that endanger that status. It's a kind of numbing."

Activist Azzeh, 31, said the Palestinian resistance movement has been undercut in recent years by an Israeli strategy to ease tension in the West Bank by allowing a minimal amount of economic growth, political expression, freedom of movement and even occasional protests.

"Israel has been very smart to leave a small vent for people to express their frustration," he said. "When people have a vent to release, it makes it harder for a revolution."

Opinion polls show that although most Palestinians do not support a return to violent resistance, most still view it as an effective tool against occupation, ranking higher than peace talks, boycotts or nonviolent protests. But Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has said he will not allow another violent uprising as long as he's in power.
What could go wrong?

The picture at the top is Ramallah's five-star Movenpick Hotel.

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