The Palestinian Authority's tortured relationship with the Arab Spring

The Palestinian Authority's tortured relationship with the Arab Spring
Comment: The Palestinian Authority's refusal to support any of the revolts during the Arab Spring amounts to a betrayal of the Palestinian stand against oppression.
4 min read
09 Feb, 2015
A protester against the Syrian regime wears the Palestinian colours [AFP]

The Palestinian Authority (PA) warned Palestinians away from the Arab Spring with the same excuse Fatah used to warn Palestinians away from other Arab causes: "We do not get involved in the affairs of Arab countries," - as though Arab regimes have never been involved in Palestinian affairs.

But the PA is forgetting its involvement in the bloody conflict in Jordan in 1970 and in Lebanon from 1970. It was a major player in Lebanon for much of the civil war.

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The official Palestinian position of animosity towards the Arab Spring is not explained by the excuse of non-interference, but rather by the position the PA occupies in the Arab world.

The transformations that took place within the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) over the past few decades, especially since the Oslo Accords, has solidified its position at the heart of the PA and the PA's position as part of the Arab world.

It was once seen as a rebel against that regional order. This transformation can be traced back to the 1970s, when the PLO was struggling to define its programme. The Arab world recognised it as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people in 1974.

From a rebel to part of the status quo

The PA's position of animosity toward the Arab Spring is explained by the the position the PA occupies in the Arab world.

By the time Mahmoud Abbas came to power, the transformation of the PLO, and then the PA, into a fully fledged member of the Arab world had long since been completed.

It was quite natural for such an authority to stand by its Arab allies against the Arab Spring, which started in Tunisia, against a regime that had hosted the PLO for years. After that the Arab Spring hit another PA ally and supporter when it toppled Egypt's Hosni Mubarak.

The PA considers the Arab Spring to be a loss, as it lost Arab allies and the media spotlight during the Arab revolts - the PA only has itself to blame for reducing the Palestinian national struggle to a media phenomenon.

While we can understand the PA's position towards the Arab Spring, in that it toppled two of its closest allies in Tunisia and Egypt, what we cannot understand is its support for the Syrian regime under the excuse of "non-interference" even though the Syrian regime and its barrel bombs, underground prisons and siege of refugee camps have killed thousands of Palestinians.

Neither the PLO nor the PA has condemned the Syrian regime's crimes against Palestinians, nor condemned the regime's crimes against the Syrian people. Both organisations have left Palestinians in Syria to face the massacre and displacement of Palestinian refugee camps alone, like the Syrians who have themselves also suffered destruction and displacement.

Syrian Palestinians have been completely let down by the PA, their legitimate representative, which did not even try to ease their suffering. The only thing it has done is to allocate a million dollars a month for those refugees, but that is understood mostly to have gone into the pockets of its officials.

It has made a show in the media about asking Israel to allow Palestinian refugees from Syria into the Palestinian territories. But no Israeli source has confirmed the request was ever made, making it appear as just another PA claim to have done something to help the refugees.

The PA's animosity towards the Arab Spring and its support of the tyrants exposes the nature of the "authority", and its transformation into part of the Arab establishment. While the Palestinian cause has become a symbol of justice and a rallying cry for international solidarity with the oppressed, the PA supports oppressive regimes - which is especially surprising as it represents the Palestinians who have been oppressed by the Israeli occupation.

However, it seems that the transformations within the PLO and its merger with the PA has made it closer to the oppressors than the oppressed, despite the fact that it does not even have full authority over its land.

The loss of moral authority

The PA is closer to the oppressors than to the oppressed.

The PLO has not represented the struggle of the Palestinian people for a long time. Then the Arab Spring completely exposed the rift between those who head the PA and the cause of the Palestinian people, who have suffered historic oppression.

This authority not only stands in opposition to the aspirations of the victims of Arab tyrants, but also stands in opposition to the Palestinian people. Palestinians, as victims demanding their rights, can only attain those rights by confronting the occupation. But the PA has placed itself as a barrier between the Palestinians and the occupation.

The Palestinian cause has for decades been a symbol for struggle against oppression and injustice. It is, therefore, in every way at the heart of the Arab Spring, and any uprising against tyranny and authoritarianism. Whomever supports the Palestinian cause must stand against the oppression of any human being. The Palestinians should be the first to take a stand against oppression.

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.

This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.