Arab spring, Palestinians and the right of return

Photo of Mahmoud Abbas and Ismail Haniya
Hamas' Haniyeh (left) and Fatah's Abbas (right) continue to play by rules made under very different conditions (Photo: PressTV)

Nassar Ibrahim,



While the Arab world is the theatre in which global changes and clashes are being played out, Hamas and Fatah continue with old strategies developed under radically different conditions, without leveraging current changes to alter the rules of the game governing Palestinian national rights. Palestinian leadership requires a courageous abandonment of narrow manoeuvres which have failed to carry the heavy and symbolic Palestinian cause in all of its dimensions and to ensure fundamental rights. Nassar Ibrahim explains.

Stormy changes in the Arab world, the region and the world mark this current period of time, a historic moment of clashes amongst military, cultural, political and social strategies and projects. For various reasons the Arab world as a whole, its individual component states, the local political and social forces together with the area’s geopolitical status, are now the primary global theatre for these direct clashes. The results of these clashes will apparently decide the future of the Arab world for decades, in addition to the destinies of the nations and political forces intimately involved in these struggles.

In the midst of these ongoing clashes, which are occurring on various levels, the active global political forces interacting on a comprehensive level will reformulate the very reality of the Arab world;  some social and political forces will rise while others will fall. Some bets will succeed while others will fail. Some axioms will disappear while new facts will occupy their place.

In the context of this confrontation, the strategies of regional and global intervention focus on the following two fundamental circles: the first to follow-up the experience of the Muslim Brotherhood, which came to power in the biggest Arab country, Egypt, as well as in Tunisia and Libya, in an attempt to control this experience and set the rhythm of redrawing the map of international alliances.

The second fundamental circle is Syria, where concerted attempts are being made to  crush and destroy the Syrian sovereign national state, with all its related policies, options and pan-Arab ideas as well as its regional and global alliances. Behind these two issues stand strategic global interests, including an imposition of a recognition of the emerging roles of regional countries; control of energy sources and gas fields discovered on the coasts of Palestine Lebanon and Syria; and a holding of the keys to the flow of gas from Iran and the Caucasus, Russia and the Gulf to Europe.
In the context of this process major axes and alignments of powers crystallised in two primary fronts:

American European - Israeli - reactionary Arab world, especially the Gulf states’ alliance, backed by Turkey. This alliance acts to impose its choices through use of political and social forces, especially the Arab comprador, brokers of the World Bank and the political and social forces that adopt a colonial-democratic paradigm in every sense of dispossession and dependency at various levels. Here, too, are the traditional forces of political Islam, in addition to the Wahabi and Salafi, as well as al-Qaeda.

On the other front stands the alliance of Russia, China, the axis of resistance (Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and those who remain committed to the Palestinian resistance), along with the BRICS which today present a huge human, economic and military global power. In this group are included many Latin American countries and those who dream of independence and more balanced and realistic international relations. This alliance is supported in the Arab world by progressive, leftist, secular and nationalist movements, together with the social forces and intellectuals who believe in freedom and dream of an end to the domination and subordination of the Arab peoples, and who struggle for real democratic and social change for justice, national dignity and the aspirations of the Palestinian people for real freedom and independence.

After more than two years of standoff and continued confrontation, we can now say the indicators confirm that the stage of American unilateral hegemony over the world is coming to an end, and that the world is moving towards a new balance after the end of the Cold War era and the American hegemony that began with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the socialist bloc. What the world is witnessing today is the return of an active and decisive role of Russia, China and the BRICS, meanwhile the role of the U.S. is declining, as well as the role of its historical ally in the region, Israel. All of this comes together with the continued economic crises in the European and American economies.

But what does all of this have to do to the Palestinian cause in general, and with the right of return in particular?
The Palestinian cause in all cases and in all equations will remain a cornerstone in the region and in the global scene, whether through its direct influential presence or through its absence; any strategic solution in light of the aforementioned changes to the Palestinian issue will be at the top of the agenda, without which it is impossible to discuss stability in the Middle East.The problem here is that the majority of Palestinian political forces, especially the two biggest - Fatah and Hamas - are still walking in place, still working within the same strategy, betting on the same political choices. They have not taken into account the radical changes taking place in the Arab world’s theatre of confrontation, and have therefore not been exploiting these events to change the rules of the political game concerning the Palestinian cause. Not only this: political indicators show the opposite, in the sense that Hamas has settled under the roof Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood in order to give them the opportunity for success, and thus no pressure to embarrass anyone concerning the Palestinian issue. From here we can understand Hamas’ silence on the Egyptian commitment to Camp David treaty, Egypt’s continued supply to Israel of gas and the closure of tunnels on besieged Gaza Strip borders, as well as pricing discrepancies with entities of the resistance axes (including Iran, Syria and Lebanon’s Hezbollah).

In this way we can also understand the repositioning of Hamas with the Qatar-Turkish alliance, with all the political and strategic meanings and indicators of this move and its impact on the resistance strategy of the Hamas movement.
From its side, the Fatah movement is still betting on the U.S. role and negotiations as the sole option. Fatah has not provided any political signs that it has understood and possesses the ability to recruit changes taking place in the Arab world and on the global level in order to promote Palestinian steadfastness and to maintain the Palestinian people’s national rights, and to face the political and economic pressures of the U.S. and Israel.

In the context of these facts, it appears that the United States, during  the recent  visit of Barack Obama to the region and later the visit of Secretary of State Kerry, has succeeded in cooling or marginalising the Palestinian issue. On one side, the US has emphasised the adoption of Netanyahu’s policies and conditions regarding any negotiations with the Palestinians. On the other, coupled with its reservations about settlements, the U.S. has emphasised its commitment to protect the security of Israel which includes the provision of all types of developed  weapons to Israel, without  giving any respect for the rights of the Palestinian people.

More worrying are media reports about the possibility of reaching a comprehensive package deal in the Middle East, a deal in which Turkey’s Erdogan and Qatar will play key roles. It is in this context that we should understand the recent affirmation of Jordan’s role as caretaker of Jerusalem’s holy places and the growing talks about the Confederation choice with Jordan, and the resettlement of Palestinian refugees.

The political translation of this scenario means that any deal regarding solution of  the Israeli – Palestinian conflict will be determined by the terms and references specified in the American - Israeli  alliance,  in other words, any solution will essentially come from the limits of the Oslo Accords, which  were the political product  of the previous political stage of Arab defeat, decline of Palestinian resistance, deterioration in the role of Russia, Chinese silence and the defensive status for the Iranian-Syrian axes.

These facts illuminate more than a red light, which imposes its political and social forces on the Palestinian people. They necessitate immediate attention and intervention because the success of this deal based on the American parameters will mean the liquidation of Palestinian national rights in general and the right of return in particular, together with the transformation of Jerusalem into a collection of mere religious places.

In light of the foregoing, it is essential to crystallise the bases of confrontation which call on the Palestinian political forces to be an active movement which invests in the changes of the regional and global strategic developments. This is needed to remove the Palestinian issue from the American monopoly and to rework the determinants and terms of reference of the political solution to ensure the maintenance of Palestinian national rights. This will not be achieved unless the Palestinian political forces possess a clear strategic vision to reposition the Palestinian cause in its natural national place, i.e. within the regional resistance and pan-Arab axes, and within the progressive global front. There can be no more acceptance of appeasement and manoeuvres in a gray area. It is only through this strategic shift that the Palestinians can cut off the strategic colonial and reactionary Arab and regional projects, which seek to control the Palestinian cause, and  to compensate for the losses of the Arab nation and, in the heart of this nation, the Palestinian people's rights.

We stand at a watershed moment in history and must identify the major options required by the approaches and performance of all Palestinians political forces and leaders. Brilliant imagination, clarity and courage are required, as is an abandonment of the bets and narrow manoeuvres which lack the capacity to carry a heavy and symbolic issue such as the Palestinian cause in all of its historical, political, moral and social dimensions.