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Q: Will Arab Spring benefit the Palestinian cause? A: No

on 11 Comments

This post is part of Marc H. Ellis’s “Exile and the Prophetic” feature for Mondoweiss. To read the entire series visit the archive page.

The Guardian is reporting dozens more killed in Egypt.  We don’t know yet whether martial law is just taking hold or whether it’s unraveling.

This as reports circulate that one of the reasons for President Morsi’s ouster was his liberal policy toward Hamas. If you’re shocked at this revelation, you need a reality check.  Egypt’s self-interest is tied to Israel and America not to Hamas and the Palestinians. 

We now have a preliminary answer to the question prominent a year ago:  Will the Arab Spring benefit the Palestinian cause?  So far the answer is a resounding ‘no.’   Over the last year a promising instability has turned threatening and bloody. The next decade will find Egypt and the other Arab nations focused internally.

Palestinians were always a rhetorical luxury anyway.  In the post-Arab Spring even pro-Palestinian rhetoric is fading.

The reliance of Egypt on America is absolute. The U. S. go-ahead on the coup makes this clear as does U. S. funding of Egypt’s martial law regime now firmly (back) in place.  Egypt’s reliance on Israel is less clear or at least less in the open.  One wonders what the links are between the Egyptian and Israeli military.   They may be like Israel’s links with the government of Jordan.

You see, Jordan’s self-interest is likewise with Israel over against Palestinians.  As usual, Lebanon has several states within, one of them being Hezbollah.  But in its self-interested heart of hearts, wouldn’t Lebanon be better off if it could strike an Egypt-like deal with America and Israel?  This might be part of America’s interest in de-stabilizing Syria.  If the Syrian-Lebanon link is derailed, the next phase of struggle might once again be within Lebanon.

And while we’re at it, if Susan Rice calls on the phone, listen up.  Unlike Samantha Power who is disingenuous and ready to confess her sins, Rice takes no prisoners.  Rice is the Obama administration’s ‘Decider.’ 

True, Rice will lay out your options, offer a few helpful suggestions, tell you the ball is in your court and then give you a moment or two to think things over.  When time is up, your decision is important.  If it goes Rice’s way, you’re in the clear.  If it isn’t, it’s off with your head.  Ask (former) President Morsi.

What does Rice have to say about the rise of the ultraconservative Islamic party, Al Nour, which the New York Times features on the front page this morning?   It seems they are taking the place of the Muslim Brotherhood in a brokered settlement of the Egyptian secular-religious divide.  But then on-line, the Times has updated its reporting. Al Nour is suspending its participation in the interim government. It seems that the consequences of martial law are getting in the way.

The thing about martial law, national self-interest, Deciders and religious conservatives is that the ball in the court of power is moveable, elastic, without ethical concerns, always strategic, making no friends and having only allies as long as they serve your purpose.

What kind of Egypt – and world – does that leave us with?

Perhaps the Decider knows the answer to that question, too.

Marc H. Ellis
About Marc H. Ellis

Marc H. Ellis is Professor of History and Jewish Studies and Director of the Center for the Study of the Global Prophetic. His latest book is Finding Our Voice: Embodying the Prophetic and Other Misadventures.

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11 Responses

  1. Citizen
    July 8, 2013, 1:11 pm

    Yes, Obama has figured out the same thing Bush Jr did (both being ivy league grads & all, Obama the smoother affirmative action kid, Bush Jr being the more awkward legacy kid): The deciders decide in the now, make things happen the way they wish, and the pundits flail about for or against in the same NOW, and, eventually, long after the deciders have reaped all the material benefits for their entire lives, the historians will gild the lilly, and then the revisionist historians will give us some actual truth and perspective, the lesson learned without impact, and the cycle will repeat.

  2. frankier
    July 8, 2013, 1:41 pm

    “Will Arab Spring benefit the Palestinian cause?”

    I have been reflecting on the title. I am not sure how and why would the Palestinians benefit from the Arab Spring.

    In pretty much all the countries where the Arab Spring has, to any extent, happened, it has been the people of those countries who have “asked” something of their governments.

    Has this happened with the Palestinians? Have they “asked” a change of direction by Hamas of the P.A.? Are they too overwhelmed by the Israeli oppression to realize that the P.A. is part of the problem as well? Are the Palestinian people organized beyond reacting to single instances of Israeli oppression? What would happen if the Palestinian people would have a more confrontational posture toward the P.A.? Would the P.A. squash them? Would they risk a civil war? I not sure how the Gazans would interface and coordinate with the West Bankers.

    Maybe we are waiting for an osmotic process whereby the Arab Spring permeates inside of Palestine and drives “enlightened” rulers to make some concessions to the Palestinian people. We know they are not the Israeli or the P.A. or Hamas.

    Lots of questions and open issues that are not conducive to an Arab Spring for the Palestinians.

  3. American
    July 8, 2013, 3:23 pm

    Egypt deporting Palestinians trying to return to Gaza
    07/08/2013 – 03:26

    Told you there were rats in the woodpile of this revolt.
    Evidently this is the culmination of efforts to sour the Egyptian population on Palestine’s plight by blaming food supplies to Gaza for Egypt’s shortages and to turn the secular against it because if the Brotherhood supports Hamas then the Palestine cause should not be supported.
    The clamping down on Gaza didn’t take long.

    Unfortunately the Egyptains have gained nothing with this latest revolt. ..except the Egyptan military came out of the closet..are they smart enough to notice that?
    They’re going to have to protest the military in Revolt III.

    • Citizen
      July 8, 2013, 7:18 pm

      “They’re going to have to protest the military in Revolt III..”

      Gonna be hard to do that since, unlike the Egyptian Military, they don’t get at least one fifth of their income from the USA. Rather said military controls at least 40% if not 50% of the Egyptian economy, jobs, etc.

      The US has Egypt over a barrel, same as they do so many states in the ME, except Israel. Irony is, they could have Israel over a barrel too but for AIPAC & the Jewish Establishment organizations and super rich Zionists in America–see Allison Weir for the list (IfAmericansOnlyKnew) comprising the IsraelFirst Lobby in the USA, who only allow more carrots, never sticks as US foreign policy. Follow the money that Dick and Jane do not. Thanks you, US mainstream media.

    • Taxi
      July 9, 2013, 1:52 am


      It’s not a question of whether the Egyptians are “smart enough”, it’s a question of pragmatism and strategic realpolitik. It’s like having the zealot warmonger John Hagee as USA president and after one year of disastrous Hagee Rule, the majority of Americans decide that enough is enough and the only force that can help them depose Hagee is General Dempsey – although he too is part of the Military Industrial Complex. I would think that having a non-zealot like Dempsey would still be an improvement in choice in the interim. I think we would choose Dempsey instead of rivers of blood on the streets, we would choose Dempsey over a protracted and violent civil war, just like Egyptians chose General Sisi over a mass sectarian bloodbath.

      For Arabs, Palestine is not just a country under zionist occupation, it is the ultimate symbol of Arab resistance to western imperialism. Or, romantically speaking, the virgin bride kidnapped on her wedding night and imprisoned in the tower. Regardless of the degree of incompetency and neglect that Arab leaders display towards Palestine, I assure you that Arab populations deeply revere the liberation of Palestine and no force on the planet can make them stop this reverence and aspiration. Israel and the west may be able to control Arab leaders, but they’ve got zero influence on the Arab masses – note the Egyptian protests daily taking place, not just against Morsi (or even the Egyptian army), but against, SPECIFICALLY, the American Ambassador in Egypt herself, Anne Patterson.

      • American
        July 9, 2013, 12:48 pm

        @ Taxi

        I’m not implying they are stupid but people in distress and impatient often dont stop to strategize or plan before they act. If they wanted to get rid of the MB they should have thoroughly cleaned out all of the Mubarak regime waiting in the wings
        My money says the Egyptian military (generals) is not their friend either…it belongs to that 1.5 billion it gets from the US.
        So what are going to do about that?
        If their elections dont produce a leader who will separate the military from the 40% hold they have over the Egyptian domestic economy (and the elites) then they are right back they started from.
        Stay tuned for Revolt III.

      • Citizen
        July 9, 2013, 2:23 pm

        @ Taxi
        Exactly, well said.

  4. JustJessetr
    July 8, 2013, 7:24 pm

    “…post Arab Spring…”

    That’s definitely a better way to look at it.

  5. wondering jew
    wondering jew
    July 9, 2013, 4:52 am

    I agree with Robert Kagan in Washington Post of July 5, 2013, that this coup is not good news. (part of me also refers to Chemi Shalev in today’s Haaretz, who suspends all judgement because nobody knows, but I have to come down off the fence and I feel this was not good news.) If I wish to emphasize one thing it is this line from Kagan: “Then it put little or no tangible pressure on Morsi to end his undemocratic practices, which might have forestalled the most recent crisis.”

    Kagan is referring to the Obama administration and they were the ones who had the real power to possibly change Morsi’s undemocratic tendencies and decisions. But I would refer it also to MW for its refusal to speak out against Morsi when the going got tough. MW should have spoken out against Morsi’s actions and MW was Missing in Action.

    How can anyone (objective) take MW seriously on I/P, when MW will not step forward and take a solid stand on Egypt or Syria? MW knew how to celebrate the original Tahrir square revolt, but after 17 days MW declared victory and did not admit that there was still hard work to do. Syria is a tougher nut to crack (than Egypt), but then MW should have done an “on the one hand and on the other hand” piece, but instead we hear from Annie Robbins on the side of Assad and from MW himself a comment once in a blue moon. This is MIA. Maybe this is in order to avoid antagonizing anyone from the pro Palestinian movement. But ultimately it shows that MW is a dilettante when it comes to the Middle East. Not serious. It is serious regarding I/P, but regarding the region as a whole and specifically the Arab Spring it is a dilettante.

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