Defeats in Libya -Demonstrations in Gaza

A Bethlehem protester hold a sign saying “Yes to the Unity of the Homeland”
on 15 March 2011. [MaanImages/Luay Sababa]

The news  from Japan has been so compelling that some developments are going almost unnoticed – in other  times a couple of them would have been major front page headline.  The  one story that has not fallen off the front page completely is Libya.  The reports are not good for the rebel forces as it appears they are still being driven back, while European and Arab states talk about helping.  Today Saif – you know, the sword of Islam – Gadaffi’s second son,  said it will all before over in two days.  He said by the time the European and Arab states decide what to do, there will  be nothing to do.  It is difficult to asses the truth of anything he says, but it is possible to assess the mood in his father’s camp from his interview; I watched part of it on al-Arabya; he was relaxed, happy and even laughing during the interview.  A week or two ago,  he showed the signs of stress and uncertainty – not today.

Across the border in Egypt  where the “foreign” workers – Gaddafi’s government has raised the level of rhetoric about al-Qaeda and “foreigners” and their role in the revolt – are  fleeing  into jobless, the revolution continues.  The Egyptian government has said it is disbanding the internal security agency. The agency was one of the major targets of the demonstrators as it  had been the arm of the previous government most responsible for suppressing any expression of political or personal independence. That makes this announced extremely significant and indicates Egypt is indeed moving toward a more democratic state.

The really big story that no one is reporting is from Palestine; in both Gaza and the West Bank there have been repeated demonstrations; they appear to have been motivated by the events in Egypt and Tunisia – Libya is not going to be a model for any popular movement judging by the way it is ending.  The Palestinian demonstrators are  calling for an end to the political separation of the two parts of Palestine.  Coverage differs, there have been reports of the army/police being used against the demonstrators in both the West Bank  and Gaza.  But most reports simply say there are thousands of people calling for an end of the war between Hamas and Abbas’ governments:

In Gaza City, organizers released a statement late on Tuesday, thanking the estimated 300,000 who participated in the protests “on the first day of the Movement’s campaign towards ending the despicable Palestinian-Palestinian split.”

It seems that both were listening – Abbas  has been invited  to Gaza  to discuss the issue and has agreed to come; Abbas has not been to Gaza since 2007.  He said he will delay appointing his cabinet to give the Hamas government’s Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh a chance to participate and join in a coalition.  Abbas also announced he would not be running for office again, not for his current office or the head  of a combined government.  Next to the events in Egypt, these developments represent the largest  changes yet in the status quo in the Arab world. A little side note about the danger of reading in  one language what people are saying in another; the picture comes from a media outlet expressly devoted to Palestine; and yet the  caption says “homeland” when the sign says Palestine.


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