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From Palestine to Syria: Three Intifadas and Lessons for Popular Struggles

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image of Middle East Law and Governance

What lessons can the Palestinian national movement offer contemporary revolts in the Middle East in general, and Syria, specifically? Though the Syrian revolt to overthrow dictatorship is distinct from Palestinians’ mobilization against occupation, many issues and patterns link them as popular struggles. Looking for such patterns, this essay examines three major uprisings in Palestinian history: the Great Revolt of 1936–39, the first Intifada beginning in 1987, and the second Intifada beginning in the year 2000. Comparing these cases to the ongoing Syrian rebellion, it draws conclusions about the factors shaping the course and success of grassroots struggles. Specifically it points to the yearning for dignity as the fundamental engine of popular mobilization against oppressive rule, the effect of state repression in escalating protest, and the relationship between movements’ internal political unity and the effectiveness of their campaigns for change.

Affiliations: 1: Northwestern University,


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