Thursday, May 19, 2011

Arab Spring: Palestinians key to success of Arab uprisings, says UK historian

IRNA -- The deputy director of the London-based Muslim Institute, Yaqub Zaki, has revised his scepticism about the success of the Arab uprising following coordinated protests across Israeli-occupied territories in Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank and Jerusalem.

“The Palestinians are the most radicalised of all the Arabs, so when they join the phenomenon the Western media have dubbed the Arab Spring there are grounds for hope,” says Zaki, who is a historian and former lecturer in Islamic Theology at the University of Lancaster.

“Even if the movement were not truly radical to begin with, the Palestinians might succeed in radicalising it,” he said in an interview with IRNA, after previously cautioning people in the Arab world about proclaiming success in the series of uprisings.

Israeli troops opened fire, killing up to 17 protesters taking part in mass demonstrations on the occupied borders of Syria, Lebanon, West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem to mark the 63rd anniversary of Nakba Day on Sunday.

“This phenomenon of mass border crossing - symbolic as showing that the Palestinians do not acknowledge the borders which sell-outs like Mahmoud Abbas are prepared to settle for - is something that Abdul Qadir al-Murabit has been calling for for years,” Zaki said.

“The way to overcome Israel is not start a war but for all Muslims to move simultaneously across all of Israeli frontiers, and although many would be shot down (as has happened), they could not kill all the Muslims in the world but would be overwhelmed,” he said.

“It seems that this, on a diminished scale, is what is happening. And the people who achieved that are sending a message not just to the Zionists but to their present leaders.”

The academic expressed surprise how protesters managed to get through, the fence on the Lebanese side, having seen it, with an Israeli Defence Force outpost only a few feet behind.

“This mass movement is important, for each time the Arab regimes announce their terms for peace they make a territorial retreat. As for the losses it is only what one would expect: Israel is above the law and knows it can get off with murder.” he said.

In an earlier interview with IRNA, Zaki warned against “premature jubilation” of the domino effect sweeping North Africa and the Middle East, suggesting there may be a “hidden hand manipulating events from behind the scenes, to produce a series of pseudo-democracies to replace the dictatorships that are no longer tenable.”

Of recent development, he said the situation was now looking up in Egypt with the opening of the border with Gaza, negating the effects of the Israel's blockade.

The problem for the west was that it was in a “quandary” as they cannot decry pro-democracy movements in the Middle East whilst at the same time applauding them in China and in Burma, Zaki added.

“This is seen in the mixed signals coming out of Washington; Obama simply does not know how to react, and his advisers are equally confused. This movement has wrong-footed them,” he said.

“We should never make the mistake of attributing infallibility to the leaders of the new world order or fall into the trap of thinking them invincible. They make many mistakes, and they are making one now.”

An issue was that the Arabs are a “mercurial people who pass easily from over-confidence to abject despair; they lack the staying-power, perhaps even the attention span, of a European people,” Zaki said.

His message was “not fall into the trap of over-estimating your enemy, for that is precisely what he want you to do. Their continuance in power depends on their maintaining the illusion of infallibility.”

“The leaders of the new world order are not infallible, they make many blunders, which Muslims must learn how to recognise so they know how to react when they do make one. They are making a big one at the moment, and Muslims must know how to utilize this opportunity,” Zaki said.