THE ABSENCE OF LEADERSHIP
"Is what is happening in Jerusalem a flare up, an intifada, the prelude to an intifada, or an 'intifada' that responds to and adapts to the existing conditions?" asks Hani al-Masri in the leading Palestinian daily al-Ayyam.Much of what is happening points to the fact that what is taking place is an intifada in some form or another. But the absence of leadership, goals, organization, and participation by the entire nation renders it more akin to localized and intermittent flare-ups, with a pace that varies significantly from one area to another. In Jerusalem, the conditions are those of an intifada; but in other areas, we have intermittent flare ups of varying intensity.The third intifada is not expected to be similar to the first or second. The facts, expertise, and local, Arab, and international conditions are totally different. Some areas – such as Jerusalem – have been annexed in a manner that goes beyond mere occupation. Others – such as the Jordan Valley and the so-called Areas C – are under Israeli sovereignty with the PA retaining certain powers and coordinating with the occupation in terms of security. For its part, the Gaza Strip has been under siege and subject to repeated Israeli aggression and incursions.After Oslo and the destructive inter-Palestinian [Fateh/Hamas] rift, a relatively large class emerged inside and outside the PA that has an interest in preserving the status quo. This class opposed the outbreak of an intifada, while the PA president [Mahmoud Abbas] has frankly undertaken to prevent such thing from happening. Meanwhile, the Palestinian [political] factions are in miserable disarray.An intifada today will reflect these specificities. This is why it has assumed numerous forms, unfolding in waves and in popular flare-ups.But the truth is that it is not vital for the next intifada to last for years. On the contrary; it may be more appropriate for it to unfold in successive waves and under various guises, pausing every now and then for a while, only to begin again with each flare up and uprising building on the achievements of those that have preceded it– provided that it has a goal, a leadership, and a national front that ensures its ultimate success.What is happening in Jerusalem is a new link in the chain of the struggle. The situation exploded after conditions reached a point that the Jerusalemites were no longer able to withstand. After more than 47 years of occupying Jerusalem, annexing it, and declaring it to be Israel's united and eternal capital, and after more than 20 years after the signing of the Oslo Accords that separated the territories occupied in 1967 from Jerusalem, the city is still being subject to systematic and continuous activities that aim to Judaize and 'Israel-ize' it, and expelling the largest possible number of its [Arab] citizens in an attempt to create a situation in which the Palestinians are a small minority subject to the will of the Jewish majority.The Jerusalemites have reached the point of total frustration, believing that it is impossible to change the hell in which they are living. In fact, they can see the situation heading to what is even worse, especially after the burning and killing of [the Palestinian youth] Mohammad Abu-Khdeir, the escalation of heavily armed settlers’ attacks, and the proliferating discourse of killing [by Israelis] whose perpetrators do not fear punishment. Attacks on people, property, and sacred sites have become a daily routine.The people of Jerusalem also suffer from their leadership's inability to protect them or find a way to salvage their cause after reaching a dead-end. They suffer from the leadership's dithering in choosing a new path, doing nothing other than denunciations and condemnations, and relying on the Arabs and the Muslims at the time when they are failing to respond to the calls for help.In response to this, and in the shadow of a persistent inter-Palestinian rift that prevents an intifada from breaking out, and despite the ongoing threats and dangers, the Jerusalemites have found no alternative but to stage a new form of intifada that matches the situation on the ground. This is because failing to confront what is happening would mean that the settler-colonial project had achieved total victory, and because each individual is driven to defend him or herself in the manner they find best when they are left leaderless.Instead of building a path that would offer an alternative to bilateral negotiations under exclusive U.S. sponsorship – one that adopts resistance in both its peaceful and armed forms, and that is based on Palestinian rights and grounded in international humanitarian law, as well as on a single national point of reference – we see something that is totally different. Armed resistance is being denounced [by the PA leadership] even though it is an inalienable right. It is referred to as 'targeting civilians,' as if the conflict was one between two states equal in power, each with its own army, or as if those carrying out these attacks are fully developed factions with own leaders and capabilities.But these attacks are being waged by individuals who are doing what they can against their enemy. They do not distinguish between what is civilian and what is military, and what is a religious site, and what a military barracks, when [Israeli] clerics are the spearhead of a racist, settler, colonial project at the same time. As a result, and under various excuses, these fedayeen attacks are being stripped of their heroic nature via an artificial distinction between acts of resistance and acts of revenge, and via talk of effective and ineffective resistance, denying the effectiveness and justifiability of the previous intifadas.One cannot blame a drowning man if he tries to hang on to whatever helps him escape death by any means possible. When collective national institutions, factions, unions, and societies are absent, the intifada will be that of individuals. It would be more one of despair than of hope, whereas the major intifadas that are able to achieve victory are those motivated by hope. However, in the midst of the confrontation, a leadership may emerge that is able to restore both hope and the Palestinians' ability to stand their ground and achieve victory.Instead of writing the intifada's obituary before it has begun, and instead of totally rejecting its armed dimension, the Palestinians’ elite and leaders must contribute by providing the conditions necessary for its victory and preventing it from being transformed into total anarchy. No one party can determine the various forms that the struggle may take. When the occupation commits all sorts of unprecedented crimes, and when racism assumes the status of law that leaves no place for the Palestinians in their own homeland, armed resistance cannot be totally excluded.Despite all the above, the Israeli government is obviously very confused as a result of the losses caused by the acts of resistance. Disagreements within Israel are worsening regarding what is happening and the means of addressing it, so as to ensure that it does not grow and turn into a full-fledged intifada. Fear of an intifada in Jerusalem has reached the point of blaming the government and its extremist and racist policies (that aim to unify the city under occupation) for what is happening, and the government now seems more divided than ever before.The conflict that has broken out in Jerusalem may yet reshuffle all the cards and existing equations. It can turn the situation against Israel's interests and objectives and against those who are backing it. But it can also drive matters towards anarchy in a manner that serves Israeli aims."Will we dare to make the correct choice? Or will we be destroyed by our internal divisions and by the fear of a confrontation that has been imposed on us?" asks Masri in conclusion.