This weekend, Palestinians massed along Israel’s borders, had street clashes in the West Bank, and the foreign press told us It’s the Arab Spring.
This BBC screengrab captures the spirit of the times. The headline, a photo suggesting a popular uprising, along with a spirited quote and the Beeb’s breathless adjectives: emboldened, inspired.
But an absolutely must-read Oliver Duggan response utterly demolishes the idea that the Naqba day protests are really part of the Arab Spring movement.
He explains how Hezbollah and Hamas organized the protests down to logistical details such as bussing refugees to the border, distributing flags and patrolling the event. The significance?
Every broadsheet newspaper in the country dangerously, if not deliberately, mischaracterised the event. Rather than be presented with the utter complexity of Israeli statehood, we are having the wool pulled over our eyes (again). Instead of facing daunting facts, we are to believe that the ‘Arab spring’, after rushing down the mountain tops and Egypt and Tunisia, has gathered enough momentum to crash through Israel’s well-militarised borders – that this was a spontaneous eruption of democratic rebellion from an oppressed people pushed to the precipice.
It wasn’t, far from it. It was a protest organised by those least likely to support democratic revolution in the Middle East. It was a calculated abuse of unprecedented world media attention on the region. And it was likely designed to provoke an Israeli response that could mirror the harsh crack-down on revolts by other tyrannical regimes . . .
For Palestinian refugees in Lebanon there are few options available for orchestrating mass protests. They have to cling to whatever organised opposition force they can. And for all their faults, religious fundamentalist can sure organise a march. But a march that can be included in a chronology of the ascension of Arab democracy? Surely not . . .
‘Hezbollah protests’ are actually only being portrayed as ‘Arab srping protests’ because it fits the current zeitgeist better than, well, ‘Hezbollah protests’.
I’m sure Fatah and Bashar Assad had a hand in orchestrating things too.
Big Media has indeed missed the real story. On the surface, the Arab Spring and Facebook along with Palestinians and Israelis may combine for sexy angles, self-important analysis and damning editorials. But if you look a little deeper, as Duggan has done, you find there’s no dramatic new narrative being written.
How will we know when the Arab Spring really reaches the Palestinians?
When they shake off the entrenched Hamas and Fatah regimes and demand democracy — dare I say with Israel’s help.