الرئيسية » هاني المصري »   22 تشرين الأول 2015

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هاني المصري

"The debate continues as to whether the peaceful nature of the intifada should be maintained or whether it should be militarized, as well as over the stabbings that remain the most distinguishing characteristic of the current uprising wave so far," writes Hani al-Masri in the leading Palestinian daily al-Ayyam.

Could this wave have spread and escalated had it not been for the Beit Furik attack [October 2nd West Bank incident in which two Israeli settlers were killed] and the resort to knives, car rammings, and other attacks in Jerusalem and various areas in Israel? And do such attacks unite Israel, as is claimed, which means that the focus should be on resistance in the territories occupied in 1967 alone? Or is Israel united anyway and will not divide unless it begins to pay a price for its ongoing occupation, aggression and settlements – as evident from the unprecedented voices urging separation from the Arabs these days?

Had it not been for the 'intifada of the knives,' would the events have secured such popular participation and support? And would they have managed to bring the marginalized Palestinian cause back onto the world agenda? And would the Israeli economy have retreated in various vital areas as a result of the loss of security, so much so that at least one major Israeli newspaper came out with a headline announcing that 'Israel is no longer a safe place to live'? Would this not lead to the beginning of divisions inside Israel, rather than unity behind the demand to adopt the most savage measures against the Palestinians?

What explains this intifada is the extent and scale of the ongoing repression and humiliation against the background of the absence of any political horizon. For Israel has been going to extreme in consolidating its occupation and expanding its settlements, in its individual and organized acts of terrorism, and in completing the Judaization and Israel-ization of Jerusalem.

Everyone – especially intellectuals – should play their role in explaining why the Palestinians have been staging uprisings for over 100 years, and why there are flare-ups, even revolutions, between one intifada and the next. They need to explain why the current intifada is assuming a different form and why previous struggles have failed to achieve the victories that would warrant the sacrifices made (rather than claiming that they achieved nothing).

Had it not been for the revolutions, intifadas, painful sacrifices and armed resistance, the Palestinian cause would not have remained alive. The Zionist movement would have been able to achieve all its aims by expelling what remains of Palestine's people and establishing a purely Jewish state on the entire ‘land of Israel.'

It is impermissible for us after all these trials and tribulations and all these struggles, to consistently return to the starting point: Should our struggle be peaceful or armed? Should we engage in negotiations or resistance? After all, it is this 'either/or' that has been one of the reasons why we have reached where we are today. For what decides the form of struggle is not the victim alone, but the nature and peculiarities of the settler-colonial project that seeks to expel us from our land, that accepts no compromises and that remains an open-ended enterprise.

The difference in circumstances and conditions between the first [1987] intifada and the current wave, and the growing imbalance of power, compel us not to opt for armed resistance as the main means of struggle. Armed resistance calls for capabilities, weapons, monies, and supplies, as well as for domestic factors and conditions that currently do not exist. They include a unified strategy, and the presence of a supportive Arab depth and an appropriate international climate. But to exclude armed resistance in light of the ongoing Israeli aggression and its increasingly savage use of force highlights the importance of insisting on our right to resist, including armed resistance, but using it in accordance with international law based on all known religious tenets and human conventions.

The current 'intifada wave' is just one Palestinian response to the need to confront the Zionist colonial project as it stands today. This project is trying to grab the opportunity in light of the Arab current divisions, impotence and domestic wars, and to achieve what it has failed to do so far. This is evident from the fact that it has stripped the PA of its powers and has driven the option of establishing a Palestinian state to the brink of death.

The question is not why the youth who were born during the Oslo period are stabbing the occupiers; the question is why this natural reaction took so long to emerge – as many Israeli commentators and some Zionists, have noted.

This form of intifada has emerged because of the vacuum created by the absence of leadership, which has declared that its chosen path [of negotiations] reached a dead end years ago. But it has also declared that it does not want an intifada, even while threatening one, at times, while using such threats at other times as a tactic aimed at reviving the negotiations and improving its stance in them, instead of exploring a new path.

Moreover, the forces that raised the slogan of armed resistance [e.g. Hamas] have also reached a dead-end as evident from the fact that they have reached a number of truces since 2003, and from their continuing efforts to conclude a long-term truce, in return for maintaining their control and lifting the siege imposed on Gaza – until 'God decides what is best.’ This continued until the current 'intifada' took everyone by surprise.

It is true that Fateh has sought a 'flare up' as a means of regaining its fading popularity and in order to back the policies that the president hinted at in his last speech at the UN – especially his threat not to abide by the agreements with Israel as long as it fails to abide by them. 

But Fateh was taken by surprise by the course taken by the intifada since the Beit Furik attack that almost everyone welcomed. It was taken by surprise by the 'knives phenomenon' that seemed to have no alternative in the absence of leadership, will and broad popular action that would produce a speedy response that befits the scale of Israeli aggression and crimes, and that would stir the people to act. As for Hamas, its aim was to escalate the intifada in the West Bank only in the hope that this would help it to emerge from its predicament in Gaza.

Instead of blaming the heroes who have taken the situation to a higher plane with their attacks, the blame should be directed at the leadership and the forces that are still confused despite the fact that twenty days have already passed since the intifada broke out, without rising to the occasion. Instead, both the leadership and those forces have tried to keep the intifada hostage to the inter-Palestinian split and to the failed policy of trying to reap the political fruits of intifadas before they have ripened, or dealing with the struggle as if its sole aim were to keep the fire of resistance alight until the Arab or the Islamic 'titan' will rise up and act in their favor.

The leadership and the various forces should try to exploit the struggle politically so as to ensure that the Palestinians feel that they are securing some gains and that they are marching – if only in a cumulative manner – down a road whose definite end is certain victory. And this calls for the adoption of an achievable goal. It calls for consolidating the intifada's civic and popular character, but without totally ignoring the armed resistance that is necessary for raising the Palestinians' morale and rendering the occupation costly for Israel. 

For if the intifada were to remain one-hundred percent peaceful and confine itself to marches in the public squares and city centers, and to lighting candles and some form of settlement boycott and the mere repetition of slogans that are one-hundred years old, then given the occupation army’s absence from the cities, Israel will not bat an eyelid, and the international community will remain frozen, assured that its interests and influence will remain untouched.

I was one of the few people who publicly criticized the martyrdom attacks carried out during the second intifada not because they were 'suicidal', but primarily because they drove the conflict towards decisive and critical battles at a time when we were not ready for them; and they did allow the occupation to push for such battles, in fact. But the 'intifada of the knives' is the intifada of individuals who can no longer bear to live as they were. And their intifada has managed to make tangible gains so far.

"It has delivered a blow to Netanyahu's plans for an economic peace and for the annexation and separation of Jerusalem from the rest of the occupied territories," concludes Masri.