World in View: Counter-revolution targets Palestine

May 25, 2011

From the May-June 2011 issue of NEWS & LETTERS:

World in View: Counter-revolution targets Palestine

by Gerry Emmett

Something is becoming more apparent in the Middle East. Whenever counter-revolution raises its head, it begins looking in the direction of Palestine.

The governments of both Jordan and Syria have made efforts to blame the Palestinians for the freedom demonstrations that have broken out. Jordan’s King Abdullah has tried to deflect the demands on his regime by blaming both Israel and the Palestinians for fomenting trouble. He has gone so far as to appoint as his Minister of Culture, a journalist who threatened Jordan’s Palestinian majority with civil war.

In Syria, government spokesmen have claimed that Palestinians were taking part in the mass freedom demonstrations and had burned down government buildings in Daraa and Latakia. These statements shocked the large Palestinian community.


In Palestine itself, shock and outrage followed the West Bank murder of actor/playwright Juliano Mer-Khamis, 52, in Jenin, April 4. He was shot five times near the entrance to his Freedom Theatre. His pregnant wife was also wounded.

Mer-Khamis was the son of a Palestinian father who was a leader of the Israeli Communist Party, and a Jewish peace activist mother who worked with children in the Jenin refugee camp. He considered himself to be, in his own words, “100% Palestinian and 100% Jewish.”

Suspicion in Mer-Khamis’ killing falls upon religious fundamentalists who objected to the liberating and liberalizing impact his Freedom Theatre had, especially on the youth of Jenin. Mer-Khamis saw his work as promoting creativity as a model for social change, and the Theatre had been attacked a number of times before.

In Gaza, shock also followed the murder of Vittorio Arrigoni, a well-loved Italian activist with the International Solidarity Movement. In this case, the killers were a fundamentalist group aligned with Al Qaeda who demanded the release of one of their own leaders in return for Arrigoni’s life. But Arrigoni’s body was found the next day in an abandoned building.


Meanwhile, in contrast, there has been a growing movement–particularly among youth–inspired in part by the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt. “Tahrir Squares” have sprung up on the West Bank in various cities, and demonstrations have called for an end to the fighting between the ruling parties of the West Bank and Gaza. In the words of West Bank activist Rami Liddawi, “Hamas and other organizations are not interested in changing the reality of the division.” He also said, “The settlements are turning into an obstacle that threatens any future arrangement. Even the youth in Israel, which believes in peace, must join our battle against the settlements, so we can live together. We don’t want violence, and are seeking to reach an arrangement through peaceful means, through negotiations. This is our message.”

The true voice of Palestinian youth is making itself heard now–pained, carrying unconscionable burdens but not cynical; a vital part of the young revolutions in the Middle East.

In a grim historic irony, Palestinians today find themselves in a similar situation to Europe’s Jews in the 1930s. A victory for world reaction–of the kind represented by a war between Israel and Iran, with which both states have been flirting, rhetorically and militarily–could profoundly endanger the Palestinians’ very existence.

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