A CONTINUING INTIFADA
"For four-and-a-half months, the current intifada that has been distinguished by the resort to knives and car rammings, has continued unabated without even forming a united leadership, despite [Israel’s] field executions, the demolition of homes, withholding corpses, collective punishments, large-scale arrests, and monetary fines," writes Hani al-Masri in Tuesday's leading Palestinian daily al-Ayyam.
The occupation's persistent failure to put down this intifada stems from the fact that its heroes are individuals. This is not to forget that some are members of Palestinian factions; but they do not carry out their attacks upon receiving orders from them. Moreover, firearms have been used in some attacks, and some have been carried by a number of individuals acting together which suggests a degree of organization and could point to what may happen in the coming phase if the situation remains as is: A lethal political and factional vacuum that is being filled by the young people staging the intifada.
Many factors and reasons lie behind the outbreak of the intifada in its current form. These have revealed a very profound crisis that has developed over many long years loaded with frustration, defeat, and futile unilateral choices, with the various political factions decaying and manifesting their impotence. The result has been that the individuals' intifada awaits leaders and factions to guide it, but no one has responded to its call.
As a result, the intifada that was launched by individuals has remained individual in its character. Israel's main enemy here is the social media, an enemy that can be neither killed nor arrested.
Talk of an 'individual's intifada' does not necessarily mean that it does not express a collective tendency in light of the fact that hundreds have participated in the attacks, with perhaps as many aborted as those that have been carried out. Moreover, the majority of the public sympathizes with it and those engaged in it, suggesting that this new form of action is occurring in a new space, and not under the conventional Palestinian political ceiling.
Instead of the nonsense uttered by certain intellectuals and PA spokespersons, specifically those speaking on behalf of the PA's security agencies rejecting the stone throwing sometimes, and more often rejecting the use of knives or 'implicating' children in violence and the denunciation of those who 'send' their children, as if anyone were actually doing the ‘implicating’ and sending of children– they should explain how and why the occupation has led our youths and children to such extremes that they are ready to cast themselves into the furnace of confrontation in this manner.
They need to realize that the intifada's fuel, which ensures its persistence and its daily rage, is manifest in the scenes that they see every day, in the cold-blooded [Israeli] executions based on the pretext that the youths and children are carrying out attacks. They must be aware that what is happening is the result of incidents such as the burning [alive] of Mohammad Abu-Khdeir and the Dawabsha family, the cries of pain of Ahmad Manasra, Yasmin at-Tammimi, Kalzar al-'Uwaywi, and many others [Palestinians killed by Israeli civilians or security forces].
The intifada's fuel is also manifest in the savagery of the occupation forces and the hordes of settlers against the background of the mad expansion of settlement activities, the daily assaults on the Aqsa Mosque and on the Palestinians' homes, cars and trees, the completion of Jerusalem's Judaization and Israel-ization, the siege imposed on the Gaza Strip and the mass murder perpetrated against it, with the occupation making it a habit to wage a terrible attack on the Strip every two or three years. And in addition to all this, there is the total absence of any political horizon, the [Israeli right-wing] attempt to revive the idea of 'Greater Israel', the transformation of the conflict into a religious one, and the erasure of the 1967 Green Line.
What is happening is not suicidal. Someone who intends to commit suicide does not target the enemy; he or she will simply jump from the top of a building or hang themselves by a rope, or in some other way. It is not happening out of despair, because someone who is desperate will resort to crime, or prostitution or seek to emigrate. What is happening is a declaration rejecting the occupation and an expression of determination to pave a way out of it; it is a protest against the barren options pursued by the various factions and against the leadership's lack of options.
The fact that the intifada has no organizational structure, no leadership, and no aims is a consequence of the fact that the factions have failed to assume their responsibility either for its outbreak or its continuation. In light of the persistent inter-Palestinian [Fatah/Hamas] split, the main political factions are trapped between two fires: that of their desire to use the intifada to promote their factional interests and revive their options that have already reached a dead-end; and that of the fire of having to pay the price for the intifada and the fear that their domestic Palestinian opponents may use it to promote their own interests and aims at their expense. This is leading the factions to take part in the intifada, but without throwing the necessary weight behind it.
What aggravates matters further is the tendency for some people to dismiss and others to exaggerate the intifada's achievements – both those that have already been attained and those that are attainable. There are those who deny or belittle any achievement, or the very possibility of gaining anything via this intifada; and there are those who claim that the intifada has already achieved miracles, and that it is capable of achieving victory by a knockout blow against the occupation within a short period of time. This is despite the fact that the preconditions for such a victory do not exist as evident from the general Palestinian predicament resulting from the failure of the various options, the persistent split, the Arab’s collapse, and the absence of suitable regional and international conditions.
What the Palestinians need to do is to prepare for the fact that no imminent solution is on the way, either via negotiations or via resistance or via an intifada. The Palestinians should prepare and adapt themselves to a long battle. This may be in their interest in the current circumstances, provided they bear in mind the importance of pursuing the struggle and ensuring that the conflict does not take a decisive turn at this juncture since it is the enemy that can decide the conflict in its favor now.
There are those who have bestowed a sacred aura upon the spontaneous character of the individuals' intifada. They do not accept that this should be temporary. Instead, they portray the fact that the factions are not leading the intifada as being better, because their leaders would only ruin the intifada and divert it from its course.
But there is a difference between the justified concern about a situation where the factions lead the intifada with the result that it could end up either in the same manner or even worse than previous intifadas (with Oslo or the inter-Palestinian split), and denying the need for the political awareness and organization that bring the intifada to fruition. After all, the people want, need, and deserve a victory, not just a new glorious chapter to be added the history of the Palestinian struggle. And victory can be achieved in installments and accumulation, reaching a decisive qualitative moment in which a major national victory is achieved – resulting in the repulsion of the occupation, expulsion of the settlers and an end to the siege on the Gaza Strip, and the release of the prisoners, all on the way towards achieving the remaining aims.
There are those, especially in the PA, who are shedding tears for the intifada's victims and urging it to stick to peaceful means and to steer clear of all forms of violence and confrontation. But the fact is that these people do not want and are not seriously working towards launching any serious peaceful or non-peaceful resistance. For had those who have urged peaceful resistance been serious, they would have thrown their weight behind some form of effective peaceful action. Were these advocates of non-violence to have their way, the youths who are now sacrificing their blood would be doing so without inflicting any losses on the enemy, without a political horizon, and without a leadership to march behind. The fact is that what has made the confrontation assume this form is precisely the Palestinian leadership and the forces' dereliction of their duty in organizing an effective peaceful or non-peaceful resistance that is able to achieve our national aims.
Although the intifada has now entered its fifth month, the Palestinian factions and leaderships continue to express 'solidarity' with it and to say that they 'understand' why it broke out – a bit like [UN Secretary-General] Ban Ki-moon or perhaps a little bit more – but without exerting any genuine effort to back up the confrontation by providing the intifada with the elements that would ensure its persistence and development.
"The missing elements are leadership, political awareness, political organization, the establishment of a national front, and designating the aims of the intifada, transforming it into an action that makes use of the gained expertise, the specificities of the struggle, and the balance of power-- with the aim of changing it," concludes Masri.