Michael Harris | Practice and Theory of the Arab Spring

There are passing references to the Palestinian experience of uprising in the readings for Uprising 3/13.  Did the First Intifada, in particular, serve in any way as a model for the protests of the Arab Spring?  Commentators have pointed out parallels between the events that were separated by an interval of 24 years:
Similar to the uprisings in the “Arab Spring”, there were no political parties and leaders to organise the mass [First Intifada]. It was in every sense an organic revolt which began with mass civil disobedience, which included the boycotting of Israeli goods, refusal to pay tax, organising strikes and demonstrations, unarmed confrontations with the Israeli military, famously by stone throwing youths, establishing their own mobile medical clinics and providing social services as a measure to take back some control of their lives.
And the direction of influence can be reversed:  numerous articles were published during the first half of 2011 proposing explanations for the apparent absence of a “Palestinian spring.”
For a short time, New Yorkers who are following Uprising 13/13 will be able to draw their own conclusions with the help of the Freedom Theater of Jenin, whose production of The Siege is now playing, through October 22 at NYU’s Skirball Center.  The Siege is a lightly fictionalized account of an extended faceoff that took place in 2002, during the Second Intifada.   The all-Palestinian cast plays a small group of armed militants who had taken refuge in Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity to escape a massive Israeli military deployment.  The circumstances are rather different from the demonstrations in Tunis or in Tahrir Square in Cairo, or for that matter in Ramallah during the First Intifada.  Nevertheless, the play makes it dramatically clear that the practical issues faced by the besieged militants are inseparable from the kinds of ethical and political — and existential — questions that any uprising has to address.
The performances are astonishing, and there are apparently still tickets (though they are not cheap).

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