"There is no need to argue endlessly over the proper description of what is happening: 'flare up,' 'wave,' 'intifada,' or 'defensive reaction', for regardless of its name, what is happening offers new and living evidence that the Palestinian giant has left the bottle in which it has been trapped, especially over the past ten years," writes Hani al-Masri in the leading Palestinian daily al-Ayyam.
All those claiming that the era of intifadas is over – that the Palestinian people are torn apart, that they are wallowing in frustration, that they are enjoying the benefits of economic peace and the PA's blessings, and that they will not rise for a long time to come – have shown to be wrong.
The 'intifada' has demonstrated that the Palestinians can act despite the dark inter-Palestinian [Fateh/Hamas] split, despite Arab desolation, the marginalization of their cause, and Israel's superiority and its ability to pick on them alone armed with American support and international impotence and hypocrisy. They have proven that they can act in the most dire circumstances, despite a leadership [the PA] that does not want an intifada because it fears that it would be unable to control it and that a new leadership will emerge, as well as fearing the consequences of changing the rules of the game it has been pursuing since Oslo  till now. It also fears another party [Hamas] that is wagering on regional changes and a religious/political project, and that wants to exploit the intifada to 'play in extra time' until the 'Islamic' giant wakes up, emerges from its predicament and pounces on its domestic opponents.
The Palestinians have once again come to the realization that they have to remove the thorns in their flesh with their own hands without waiting for anyone. This is similar to what they did when their contemporary [post-1948] revolution began without waiting for Arab unity, or salvation from the proletarian international or the establishment of the Islamic caliphate state. That revolution managed to bring them together in a single national entity, and transformed their cause from a humanitarian one into a national liberation cause backed by all free people around the world.
It is true that the impromptu character of the current intifada wave is akin to any spontaneous reaction that embodies an embryonic awareness. But this could be the first step on the path towards crystallizing an awareness and a ‘dress rehearsal’ for an all-out intifada that is capable of achieving victory if it specifies its aims, formulates its main slogan, and forms a united leadership that is able to rally the people behind it.
The main difference between a ‘wave’ and an all-out intifada is that the former is spontaneous motivated by anger and despair; and it often ebbs without achieving anything and only a section of the people take part. By way of contrast, an all-out intifada has a final goal and a leadership; it can continue long enough to achieve its aims and there is no alternative but for the majority of the people to take part-- something that has not happened so far in the current case.
Moreover, intifadas are not the result of despair, as is commonly believed. They are motivated by hope and confidence that it is possible to achieve victory. Thus, the 1930's revolution [1936-39 Arab Revolt] was full of confidence in the possibility of a victory against the Zionist movement and its racist, settler-colonial project. The 1987 ‘intifada of the stones’ was confident in its ability to achieve freedom and independence. As for the year 2000 intifada, it had the aim of establishing a Palestinian state and breaking the humiliating shackles of the Oslo Accords.
A number of factors are delaying a third intifada, despite the presence of many of the preconditions for its outbreak. Most important are the following:
- First, there is a discrepancy between the huge sacrifices made by the Palestinians in the 18 plus uprisings and intifadas they have staged since the emergence of the so-called 'Palestinian problem' till today, and the victories they have achieved. Therefore, the concern that an intifada may fail, slide towards anarchy and chaos and be used to reactivate the negotiations in favor of certain individuals and sectors of society, partly explains why there has been no such intifada over the past years, and why there has been no large-scale participation in the current 'intifada wave.' But if the people become convinced that the current activity is capable of victory, or even of achieving a single basic aim as a result of absorbing the lessons and morals of its precedents, they will join in staging a great and unprecedented intifada.
- Second, the national program remains unclear. Is it still to establish a state along the 1967 borders, despite the fact that the possibility of achieving this has eroded in light of the cancerous settlement expansion? Moreover, it is difficult-- impossible indeed -- to achieve the aim of liberating the whole of Palestine or establish any form of state in light of the Palestinian and Arabs’ loss of direction, weakness and division. Therefore, determining the basic aim for the current intifada is many times more important than it was compared to any previous intifada.
These conditions and circumstances explain why the third intifada is assuming the form of temporary or localized intifada waves of the kind we have witnessed before over the past years. These waves break out against the background of a single factor such as settlement activities, or Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, or the Aqsa Mosque. And no sooner does one wave ebbs than another begins to flow.
To clarify the above, we note that the first intifada  broke out in a spontaneous manner and that the Palestinian factions headed by Yasser Arafat then took over its command. And when that leadership prematurely believed that its message had been delivered, it was in a rush to pluck its fruits. In tandem with Arab and international changes, this lead to acceptance of the Oslo Accords that were the worst agreement concluded between a national liberation movement and its enemy.
And when Yasser Arafat somewhat belatedly tried to alter the rules of the game in the second [2000-2005] intifada, he paid with his life as a price. After him, a Palestinian leadership emerged that concluded that one of the reasons for the failure – or foiling – of the Oslo Accords was the fact that the Palestinian performance had been bad; that the commitment to the Accords' peaceful spirit based on [PLO chief negotiator Saeb Ereikat’s] slogan that 'life is negotiations' and that negotiations represent the sole means of achieving Palestinian aims, was weak; and that the implementation of commitments and the denunciation of terrorism was combined with the adoption and encouragement of resistance, including martyrdom attacks.
The Oslo Accords were thus re-produced in an even worse format on the basis of this totally fallacious interpretation. A policy was adopted based on demonstrating Palestinian worthiness and good intentions, one that rests on wishful thinking, pleas and building institutions as the path towards ending the occupation. This was based on proving that a new sort of Palestinian had emerged who would contribute to providing security and stability for Israel within the framework of the international [Quartet] ‘Roadmap' that was the point of reference for all security considerations. But that 'roadmap' was stripped of any of its positive points after [former Israeli PM] Sharon linked Israel's acceptance of it to his fourteen reservations, denuding it of its substance and transforming it into an Israeli 'roadmap.'
With this in mind, I posed the question, 'What is the aim and governing slogan of the current intifada?' to my friends and acquaintances on Facebook. I received an endless number of views and proposals in response, beginning with the demand that this be the ‘independence’ intifada, proceeding to portraying it as the embodiment of the effort to keep the flame of resistance alive ‘until conditions and circumstances change’, and not ending with viewing it as the 'return and liberation' intifada.
In light of the above and in the shadow of the balance of power and the prevailing Arab, regional and international conditions, it may be unfair and an exaggeration to burden the current 'intifada wave' with the mission of totally ending the occupation and achieving freedom and independence in a single blow. In fact, insisting on this will threaten to turn the intifada into yet another glorious leaf in Palestinian history, one that threatens to slide towards anarchy and to subside without achieving anything, except--in the best of cases-- holding a new round of negotiations that are used to consolidate the occupation.
If we were to search carefully for Israel's lethal point of weakness – we would find that it lies in its settler-colonial project, a point that is subject to criticism around the entire world, even in the U.S. and certain Israeli circles. This project remains unacceptable, illegitimate and illegal. The Hague's legal verdict [on the West Bank Separation Wall] has determined this at the international level, deeming settlements unlawful and as failing to establish a right, or providing a basis for any future commitment.
In light of this, it would be best if the current intifada's governing slogan becomes that of ending the establishment of settler colonies and upholding the international legal position in support of their illegitimacy by securing a UN Security Council resolution that stresses this. The intifada should focus on urging the need for removing and dismantling all settlements that have been established in the past, and cancelling all that has happened in the process of building them, such as the confiscation and Judaization of the land, the expulsion of its inhabitants, the demolition of their homes and the attacks on the holy sites, especially the Noble Sanctuary in Jerusalem.
This is a slogan on which all Palestinians are unanimous, despite their disagreements. It is accepted by the advocates of the establishment of a state and negotiations, as well as by the advocates of full liberation and resistance. It is also an aim that deserves the sacrifices needed to achieve it. Moreover, it is an achievable aim, especially if it helps to formulate a comprehensive vision and comprehensive roadmap that calls for a total block on any revival of the so-called 'peace process' and bilateral negotiations in continuation of the Oslo Accords and its annexes.
The Palestinian struggle against the racist settler-colonial occupation is long. It is not possible to achieve victory with a knockdown blow, only by points. This is especially true since the settlers’ extremism now verges on madness, leaving their government unable to control them. And that makes it easier to mobilize the world against them.
The current 'intifada wave' can have aims that stem from its governing slogan. They can focus on the Noble Sanctuary in Jerusalem, ending the siege imposed on Gaza, releasing the Palestinian prisoners, removing Israeli checkpoints, ending the aggression against the Palestinians, getting rid of Oslo and its commitments and achieving unity by rebuilding the PLO's institutions.
Victory in the battle against the settler-colonial occupation will pave the way for greater victories on the path towards achieving Palestinian national aims and rights. The ability to achieve this victory depends on transforming the current 'intifada wave' into a lifestyle, ensuring that one wave breaks out after the other. Collectively, we would then be able to use the term 'third intifada' to describe all these waves, making sure that they do not result in terrible losses that the nation cannot withstand.
But this requires the intifada to rely on popular resistance and the pursuit and boycott of Israel internationally, while maintaining its popular character and criminalizing anyone using firearms in the demonstrations and confrontations at the [Israeli] checkpoints and residential neighborhoods. Weapons should only be used in self-defense or target the occupation forces and the hordes of armed settlers who wage continuous attacks. We should not resort to martyrdom [suicide] attacks or fire rockets from Gaza. This is necessary to ensure that Israel does not transform the confrontation into an all-out war in which it can exploit its military superiority and promote its claim that resistance is really nothing but 'terrorism.'
All this does not mean that the intifada has to be fully peaceful. It means that we should understand the people's creativity and their ability to come up with all forms of struggle, including individual initiatives.
"This is especially true of those initiatives aimed at self-defense and deterring the settlers, forcing them to think more than once before perpetrating new attacks," concludes Masri.