Revolts throughout the Arab region fail to stir embattled Palestinians

By Noah Browning, Reuters

RAMALLAH, West Bank — Popular uprisings have transformed the Middle East and North Africa in the past year, unseating four veteran autocrats and capturing the imagination of a generation of youths. But the protests have left Palestinians — long at the center of the Arab world’s main political conflict — unmoved. Dejected by lingering political divisions and exhausted by decades of mostly fruitless rebellion against Israel, they appear to have lost their appetite to take their fight for change up another level.

“There’s no revolution here because the government is less oppressive than in Egypt or Syria, and anyway it’s Israel that deserves our anger,” said Mahmoud Bisher, 20, a student from the West Bank city of Hebron. “But we’re divided and there’s no coordination. This only serves the occupation’s interests,” he sighed, referring to the schism between the Fatah-dominated Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) in the West Bank and the Islamist group Hamas in Gaza. Small protests waged weekly in some of the villages pressed up against Israeli settlements and a separation barrier in the West Bank are among the few outlets for popular frustration, attracting a regular group of dedicated demonstrators. In Nabi Saleh, Fridays usually see a couple of dozen activists and children surge toward Israeli military positions waving banners and hurling stones, only to be quickly scattered by the advancing soldiers’ rubber bullets and tear gas. “Resistance has been part of our strategy for more than 40 years,” village activist Faraj Tamimi said, flinching as a tear gas canister sailed low, crashing and hissing near his feet. A companion’s deft kick sent it back toward the Israelis to a roar of cheers from his friends. “But after such a long time being suppressed by the Israelis, we get tired of confrontation all the time. The leaders could support us more and we hope protests like these become wider and will have more popular support,” he added. There is no sign of that happening, however, even though the last Intifadas, or uprisings, remain fresh in people’s memories.