Judging by their love for rhetoric and slogans, it is quite surprising that the “Arab peoples” have not staged one single demonstration in solidarity with Gaza. This was even the case in the West Bank even though its people have proven they still have the ability to protest when it comes to their social and economic demands.
It is no longer possible to say that repressive regimes prevent people from protesting in the Arab world and this is especially not applicable to countries like Egypt and Tunisia let alone Lebanon that is supposed to have broken a record in resisting Israel and where it was not unlikely to see a protest that takes advantage of Gaza’s tragedy to serve sectarian interests.
This kind of stagnation should not be new to anyone who is able to scrutinize developments on the ground. Since the early 1980s, particularly during the Israeli war on Lebanon, it seemed that the phenomenon of the “Arab peoples” had started fading away, for not one single demonstration was staged to declare solidarity with the Lebanese or the Palestinian people.
That pretty much put an end to a stage of political zeal that had started in 1940s and culminated with the coup staged by late Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser in 1952 and the Suez War in 1956 then reached its peak with the Egyptian-Syrian unity in 1958. The Palestinian cause was expected to keep this spirit but the civil wars that erupted in Jordan and Lebanon made this harder and popular support was remarkably low.
Then came the Arab Spring and Arabs seemed to have been rediscovering their hidden nationalistic capabilities and employing them to deal with their domestic grievances. The simultaneity of the Arab revolutions can be compared to the series of uprisings that swept the Eastern bloc form 1989 and 1991 with the fall of Communism. At the time, Eastern European countries joined forces in one battle in which they demanded independence and rebelled against the “one camp” policy.
However, the post-revolution stage unraveled a wide range of rifts that divided the people of each of the Arab Spring countries so that all of a sudden “our people in Benghazi” became different from “our people in Tripoli” and “our people in Deraa” were no longer the compatriots of “our people in Damascus” and that same applies to “our people in Najaf” and “our people in Tikrit” and so on. Therefore, solidarity with “our people in Gaza” became a secondary issue that can hardly find any echo except in fading memories.
This underscores the necessity of creating a new political scene in which democracy takes precedence and in which the myth of “Arab peoples” is deconstructed and the illusions related to them, and for which Palestinians have been paying a dear price, are eliminated. It will also be the Palestinians who will benefit from such rejuvenation.
(The writer is a columnist at al-Hayat, where this article was published on Nov. 20, 2012)