x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

An opportunity to turn the page after this Nakba

Another Nakba anniversary has seen Palestinian protesters killed, but this is not the same resistance movement of years past. There is a chance to move the Palestinian cause forward.

Palestinians throwing stones, only to be met by Israeli bullets, is an image that is as ingrained as the Nakba itself. With 16 Palestinians killed in Sunday's protest and yet another example of Israel's willingness to use deadly force against demonstrators, it might be hard to see the promise of this 63rd anniversary. But 2011 is not years past - the Arab Spring, the futility of recent negotiations with Israel and, most importantly, renewed resolve among Palestinians offer a chance to break with history.

There are still the same barriers to overcome, not only from Israel's unjust policies, but from the old bias that treats the Palestinians as an exception to the rest of the world. On Sunday, as thousands of demonstrators protested in Gaza, the West Bank and inside Israel and along the borders with Lebanon, Syria and Jordan, foreign TV stations soon turned to soft-news feature coverage. Where else in the world are civilians being shot down by a government so easily considered old news?

As the world has been transfixed by the struggles of the Arab Spring, and coverage of Egypt, Libya and Tunisia, the Palestinian struggle is in its seventh decade. And yet there is no doubt that the Arab Spring and its model of people's protest has given the Palestinian resistance a renewed strength.

Taking their cue from young activists from Tunisia, Egypt, Syria and others, Palestinians created Facebook pages calling for Nakba demonstrations across the region. This is a popular movement that also exerts pressure on the leadership in Hamas and Fatah to prove their recent reconciliation talks are genuine.

In many ways, the first Intifada grabbed the world's attention for its symbolism. Pictures showing children throwing rocks at tanks forced Israel to the negotiating table, although to little long-term effect. In 2000, the Aqsa Intifada had similar popular origins, but was eclipsed by equally powerful symbolism - Hamas's campaign of suicide bombing.

It is far too early to speculate about a third Intifada arising, or what it would look like. Israel's unceasing construction of settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem makes the resolution more urgent than ever.

A peaceful resistance remains the best option for Palestinians, and a struggle in any event. With a United Nations vote is gather momentum on Palestinian statehood, there should be renewed optimism that the world will no longer look away. But Israel's response to Sunday's demonstrations shows just how uncertain that dream remains.