Egyptian activist Hossam on inspiration from Palestine

Key Egyptian democracy activist Hossam (3arabawy) el-Hamalawy had an important piece in the Guardian Unlimited yesterday, underlining the degree to which the Palestinian intifada of 2000– which, lest we forget, started out with many days of unarmed peaceful protest until the death toll rose so high that people’s patience wore out; check the B’tselem figures on this– served as an inspiration for his generation of Egyptian activists.
El-Hamalawy wrote:

    Only after the Palestinian intifada broke out in September 2000 did tens of thousands of Egyptians take to the streets in protest – probably for the first time since 1977. Although those demonstrations were in solidarity with the Palestinians, they soon gained an anti-regime dimension, and police showed up to quell the peaceful protests. The president, however, remained a taboo subject, and I rarely heard anti-Mubarak chants.
    I recall the first time I heard protesters en masse chanting against the president in April 2002, during the pro-Palestinian riots around Cairo University. Battling the notorious central security forces, protesters were chanting in Arabic: “Hosni Mubarak is just like [Ariel] Sharon.”
    The anger was to explode on an even larger scale with the outbreak of the war on Iraq in March 2003. More than 30,000 Egyptians fought the police in downtown Cairo, briefly taking over Tahrir Square, and burning down Mubarak’s billboard.
    The scenes aired by al-Jazeera and other satellite networks of the Palestinian revolt or the US-led onslaught on Iraq inspired activists across Egypt to pull down the wall of fear brick by brick. It was in 2004 that pro-Palestinian and anti-war campaigners launched the Kefaya movement, which took on the president and his family…

So many western commentators have been sounding off to the effect that these current wave of massive democracy protests in the Arab world somehow “prove” that Arabs don’t care about Palestine. This is palpably untrue. Yes, the democracy activists have a lot to do in their own countries, and that is without a doubt their highest priority. But if the pro-Israeli-power crowd thinks that means they don’t care about Palestine… Well, that shows either that they’re hopelessly out of touch or that they’re wilfully lying. Maybe both…

3 thoughts on “Egyptian activist Hossam on inspiration from Palestine”

  1. Zionist denial of the implications of the changes taking place in the Arab world, and far beyond, are inevitable. They have painted themselves into a corner from which escape is impossible, because they have chosen that it should be.
    The irony of Ehud Barak’s torpedoing of the Labour party, which occured almost at the same time as the Egyptian uprising is something to marvel at, for the Labour party might have offered a route back to, if not quite sanity then at least a place within hailing distance of it.
    The developing situation, in which Israel is wholly isolated and surrounded by states whose rulers do not dare, for fear of popular rage, treat with it, is what the Revisionists have always wanted. It leaves Israel with no alternative but to fight, and fighting means expansion.
    That the US government will, instinctively, seek to adopt this Israeli strategy seems inevitable, irrational though it is. US foreign policy has long been irrational for the very simple reason that, as we know, it has systematically purged anyone who might question automatic support for Israel from those who influence policy.
    The real problem is that Israel is so full of weaponry and has command of so much fire power that it is extremely dangerous.
    Making it more dangerous is the fact that it is also greatly influenced by diaspora forces which are far beyond the impress of reality: in Israel it is very likely that democrats and realists will be reviving their strength, but their opponents are sustained by people, living far away, who simply have no incentive to be sensible and to look for that compromise with Palestinians which would allow the founding of a national home and refuge while dismantling the Apartheid state.
    After all the cheap islamophobic propaganda nourished by Israel the region is beginning to emerge as one in which the real source of religious fanaticism in politics is not in the muslim community but within Israel where the simple minded, often racist bigotry of the fundamentalists appeals where reason offers the prospect only of painful choices.

  2. How long can the US trained security forces of Abbas and Fatah keep a lid on the Palestinian freedom movement in light of the events across the Arab world? I think is the biggest issue the Obama administration sees in the mideast (after, of course oil, which is far and away the major driver of US policy).
    I believe they feel that some sort of agreement must be forthcoming with the Quisling PA even though it would certainly be rejected by the Palestinian people if it resembled the leaks from the Palestinian Papers. (Significantly, the odious Dennis Ross was secretly sent to Israel.)But it would , at least provide another fig leaf of legitimacy to help Israel ride out the storm. Unfortunately for Israel and the US, that ship has sailed. Abbas’ recent refusal to accede to US threats and bribes to withdraw the UN settlement condemnation resolution shows that the he has finally realized how truly precarious his situation is.
    That leaves only some sort of unilateral “temporary” state being proclaimed by Israel to try to legitimize the apartheid. Netanyahu is already floating this idea. The only acceptable Palestinian response would be to dissolve the PA and recognize the ongoing occupation and turn the struggle into a civil rights struggle.

  3. Thanks Helena. Of course Avigdor Lieberman and his ilk claimed that Palestine had no link to the present unrest in Arab lands, but you are one of the few to bring evidence of the contrary.

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