Geopolitics

Israel’s ‘Indignados’: How The Popular Protests Look To Palestinians

Some Palestinians take pride in knowing the ongoing protests in Israel were inspired by revolts in the Arab World. But others fear the demonstrations could justify more Israeli settlements – or even a violent crackdown -- in Palestinian territory.

Israeli protestors are complaining among other things of high food and housing prices
Israeli protestors are complaining among other things of high food and housing prices
Véronique Falez

RAMALLAH -- The echo of large Israeli demonstrations for social justice seems far away from the streets of Ramallah, the economic capital of the West Bank. Frankly speaking, many Palestinians during this month of Ramadan have not given the matter much thought.

"Their protests don't affect me. It's not inherently political as in Tunisia or Egypt, but rather about rent prices," said Majdal Nijem, a 22-year-old student, who along with others launched a Facebook group last March to urge Hamas and Fatah to reconcile in the midst of the Arab Spring. "Since they don't have the security problems that Palestinians do, they are more able to focus on internal problems."

For Saleh Abdul Jawad, a political science professor at Birzeit University near Ramallah, the protests are a reminder of how "far away" Israel has become. "There has been a total separation between Israeli and Palestinian societies since the second intifada. Yet the distance that separates us is not about geographical boundaries."

Fady, with a shaven head and clear eyes behind small, rectangular glasses, lives in east Jerusalem and has a small business in Ramallah "where the price of houses is just as expensive." He is a harsh critic of the revolt unfolding on the other side of the wall since "Israelis have a solid economy, a better standard of living and the possibility of taking care of themselves and leaving the country if they want to," he said. Fady also fears the demonstrations are "a political game" that could turn into "a pretext to expand Israeli settlements in the West Bank."

Some Palestinians who watch the protests on Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya, or read about them in the papers take a certain pride in the fact Israelis are "copying" the Arab Spring revolts. Such is the case with Daoud Talhami, a member of the Palestinian National Council for more than 30 years, who hopes this revolt will take a more political turn.

"The forces of peace, much weakened in Israel, could benefit from this climate of defiance," he said. "It could alert public opinion about the link between the occupation and Israel's economic and social problems. The amount of money spent by the government in east Jerusalem and in the West Bank could be redirected toward disadvantaged segments of the population."

The costs of occupation

It is an analysis consistent with that of the Palestinian Authority. "If we look at events from a positive perspective, we realize that it is in fact possible to mobilize Israelis in the streets in the case of justified social demands," says Hassan Balawi, adviser to the Foreign Affairs Ministry. "We can therefore hope to mobilize the street for peace by explaining that our drive at the UN for an independent Palestinian state would permit a normalization of relations between Israel and Arab states as well as economic prosperity."

An "important part of our communications campaign will be directed at the Israeli public," Balawi says. "The occupation is not only costing the Palestinians dearly. Israeli society also pays the price."

Still, the optimistic outlook is quickly tempered by the dread of seeing the Israeli government utilize the conflict with the Palestinians to find an exit to the crisis. "We have already seen in the past that the repression of the Palestinian people is a favorite theme that unites a diverse cross-section of Israeli society," Balawi says.

In downtown Ramallah, a few steps from Manara Square, Amar runs a small bakery. He supports the Israeli demonstrators, but notes that "the Arabs from 1948 living inside Israel proper should join the protests in order to bring down the government of Benjamin Netanyahu."

Arab Israelis – an estimated 20 percent of Israel's population – have for the most part not mobilized, even though they are particularly affected by the rising cost of living.

"Several laws discriminating against them were voted on in recent months by the Israeli parliament. That explains why they are distancing themselves, feeling already excluded from the demands of this social movement," says Sawsan Zaher, an attorney with Adalah, a legal center in Israel that advocates for minority rights. "Now, however, a process is underway, and more and more Arabs are joining the demonstrations."

Read the original article in French

Photo - Ishaip

You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Stories from the best international journalists.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
Already a subscriber? Log in
Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
Geopolitics

The New Iraq, Signs Of Hope Amid The Rubble And Reconstruction

How do you rebuild a country decimated by four decades of war and embargoes? Following the withdrawal of the U.S. military, Iraq faces many challenges, from oil revenues captured by the militias and endemic corruption to religious segregation. However, there are glimmers of hope for the country's future.

Street scene in Erbil, Iraq

Théophile Simon

BAGHDAD — With a vast office located at the top of a tower fiercely guarded by the army and a bell to call the staff, Khalid Hamza Abbas is obviously a powerful character, decked out in an impeccable suit. Abbas runs the Basra Oil Company (BOC), the national company responsible for the exploitation of the oil fields in the province of Basra, in the very south of Iraq, from which four million barrels of crude oil flow daily. It’s the equivalent of 4% of world demand and 65% of central government revenue concentrated in a region of only four million inhabitants.

As he explains the profit-sharing scheme between the world’s major oil companies and his public enterprise, the 50-year-old with thin glasses is suddenly stopped dead in his tracks by the ringing of his telephone. He tries a joke to mask his suddenly worried face: "I'm going to ask you to leave my office for a few moments. If I haven't called you back in 10 minutes, call the police."

Keep reading... Show less
Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Stories from the best international journalists.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
Already a subscriber? Log in
THE LATEST
FOCUS
TRENDING TOPICS
MOST READ