Egypt,  Israel/Palestine

Central to everything?

Brendan O’Neill writes in The Australian:

“Until the Palestinians are given back their rights we’re going to have instability throughout the Middle East,” declared John Pilger on ABC1’s Q & A last night. “That is central to everything.”

Yet, one of the most striking things about the uprising in Egypt was the lack of pro-Palestine placards. As Egypt-watcher Amr Hamzawy put it, in Tahrir Square and elsewhere there were no signs saying “death to Israel, America and global imperialism” or “together to free Palestine”. Instead, this revolt was about Egyptian people’s own freedom and living conditions.

Yet on the pro-Egypt demonstration in London on Saturday, there was a sea of Palestine placards. “Free Palestine”, they said, and “End the Israeli occupation”. The speakers had trouble getting the audience excited about events in Egypt, having to say on more than one occasion: “Come on London, you can shout louder than that!” Yet every mention of the word Palestine induced a kind of Pavlovian excitability among the attendees. They cheered when the P-word was uttered, chanting: “Free, free Palestine!”

This reveals something important about the Palestine issue. In recent years it has moved from the realm of Arab radicalism, where Egyptians and other peoples frequently demanded the creation of a Palestinian state, and has instead become almost the exclusive property of Western middle-class radicals, such as Pilger.

Two points:

–As I’m sure some of our commenters are anxious to note, there were some signs in Tahrir Square featuring a Star of David covering Hosni Mubarak’s face, as well as some anti-Israeli chants. But they were hardly the dominant motif.

–Virtually everyone, in Israel and everywhere else, supports (or at least accepts) the creation of a Palestinian state. I think it’s more accurate to say the belief that justice for Palestinians requires the elimination of the Jewish state, and that this is “central to everything,” is indeed “almost the exclusive property of Western middle-class radicals.”

In fact it appears the speakers at Saturday’s London rally came from the ranks of the Israel-bashing usual suspects.

One way to clear most such people from the next demonstration is to add as a theme solidarity with the women, students and trade unionists struggling against repression in Iran. Add solidarity with pro-democracy Cuban dissidents and you’ve frightened all of them away.

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