Skip to main content

Changing issues and priorities in the Middle East

Dr Ghada Karmi, a Palestinian by birth, is the author of Married to Another Man: Israel's Dilemma in Palestine.   She is also a University lecturer in the United Kingdom.

She writes in "The Palestinians' last option: A struggle for equal rights" on Al Jazeera on the changes underway in the issues and priorities for the people of the Middle East.

"Once upon a time, Palestine was the Arab world's unifying cause. Justice for the Palestinians was considered a basic pre-requisite for regional stability and peace, and it was an idea that had global resonance. Today, the picture is different and the Palestinian cause has been falling off the political agenda ever since the onset of the Arab Spring, the Syrian conflict, and Israel's success in placing Iran's nuclear programme at the centre stage.

This month, a study by the Arab Centre for Research and Policy Studies confirms this slide. A survey of over 20,000 respondents in 14 Arab countries revealed a widespread engagement, not with Palestine, but with the Arab revolutions and their future, with Syria and the need for democratic systems of government. Only a third cited Israel as the greatest regional threat, about the same percentage as Iran amongst those living in Iraq and the Gulf.

This change comes on top of a gradual loss of Palestinian unity due to the fragmentation of Palestinian society into those under occupation, divided between the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem, those in Israel, those in refugee camps and the rest in exile. The result has been increasingly to replace the national cause with local causes. For example, in November 2012 and again last week demonstrations against economic hardship erupted in the West Bank. The Palestinian Authority has a $4.2 billion debt and a World Bank report in March found an economic slowdown, with low exports and long term unemployment; Gaza is isolated and besieged and survives largely on a tunnel smuggling economy. In such circumstances it is hardly surprising that people's top priority should be how to feed their families, and Palestinian communities elsewhere will have likewise developed their own local priorities.

Palestinians will need to act urgently if their cause is not to be finally buried. The fact that the West is still engaged in trying to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not a cause for optimism. It does not signify a revival of the Palestine cause's centrality, but a push for an end to the conflict on terms most favourable to Israel. The US and Europe, with the recent addition of China, have been urging a renewal of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. The US Secretary of State, John Kerry, has visited the region half a dozen times in this endeavour, and has pledged $4 billion in aid to encourage the PA. In April, an Arab delegation was in Washington to present a revised Arab Peace Plan which offered Israel a land swap with the Palestinians, hoping to draw it into peace talks. More recently Sweden, with the same aim, decided to punish the Palestinians for failing to negotiate with Israel by possibly reducing their aid by 200 million kronor ($30 million).

What these parties are pushing for is the two-state solution which has dominated the political discourse for decades and has never, even partially, been realised. Nevertheless, the international consensus still holds that this solution is the only way forward. Yet a glance at the map will show that no such solution is possible."

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Big Brother alive and well in the USA in 2007

The so-called "war on terror" has shown itself up in a multitude of manifestations. The most dangerous thing has been governments using the "excuse" of the war to restrict certain civil liberties, allowing government agencies to pursue a variety of things that they would otherwise would not - and should not - be allowed to do and gathering, and retaining, a variety of information on its citizens.

The Washington Post reports on the latest incursions into civil liberties of all Americans:

"The U.S. government is collecting electronic records on the travel habits of millions of Americans who fly, drive or take cruises abroad, retaining data on the persons with whom they travel or plan to stay, the personal items they carry during their journeys, and even the books that travelers have carried, according to documents obtained by a group of civil liberties advocates and statements by government officials.

The personal travel records are meant to be stored for as lo…

Whatever democracy the Palestinians had is dying

Almost a desperate cry from a well-known, respected and sober moderate Palestinian.

Mustafa Barghouthi is secretary-general of the Palestinian National Initiative and a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council. He was a candidate for the Palestinian presidency in 2005.

He writes in a piece "The Slow Death of Palestinian Democracy" on FP:

"Palestinian municipal elections were supposed to be held last week. Instead, they were canceled. A statement released by the Palestinian Authority claimed the cancellation was "in order to pave the way for a successful end to the siege on Gaza and for continued efforts at unity" between Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip, and the government in the West Bank.

The cancellation of this election was an unjustified, unlawful, and unacceptable act. It damages democratic rights and makes a mockery of the interests of the Palestinian people.

But this is far more than an internal Palestinian issue. The only lasting peace between Isr…