The ongoing popular upheaval in Palestine: Reasons and effects

Yasser Seddiq , Friday 30 Oct 2015

A new Palestinian 'intifada' is happening once more, but how long will it last? If it will succeed in fulfilling its objectives is as yet unclear

West Bank
File Photo: Palestinian is pushed by an Israeli policeman during clashes in Hebron, West Bank Saturday, Oct. 10, 2015 (Photo: AP)

Events have been building up in the same persistent pattern across the occupied Palestinian territories, paving the way for a revival of wave of struggle, or as Palestinians prefer to call it, an intifada.

Settlement-building, racial discrimination, confiscation of identity cards, long queues at checkpoints, as well as daily clashes and the desecration of Al-Aqsa mosque, have been Palestinians' daily routine.

It is the Palestinians' "third intifada", and this time Palestinian women are playing a prominent role.

Intifada is the only act where all factions melt together into one national entity. It is also closer to the events of the first Palestinian intifada against the Israeli occupation, which occurred between December 1987 and 1993, in terms of the sequences of the incidents and forms of struggle.

The second intifada started in September 2000 and ended in 2004.

Some, however, might argue that Palestinians are still in the phase of a “rehearsal” of an intifada.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his far-right government, through the notorious displacement settlement policy and the arbitrary practices against the Palestinians, have deliberately killed any possible opportunity to achieve a just and lasting political solution to the conflict.

The clashes that began on 30 September are simply a normal result of the frequent attacks by the Israeli settlers on Al-Aqsa mosque and the Israeli attempts to divide the third holiest site in Islam, similar to what happened to the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron, Munir Al-Jaghoub, who heads Fatah's Information Department in the Office of Mobilisation and Organisation, told Ahram Online.

'New facts'

“Israel is trying to impose new facts on Al-Aqsa mosque, despite denying this, but in fact it is trying. The desperate Palestinian youth are enraged as they feel there is no hope to acquire freedom and independence. Building of settlements in the occupied territories is on the rise,” Al-Jaghoub said.

The Israeli settlements have expanded and largely isolated the Palestinian communities and towns from each other, turning them into semi-isolated islands in the vicinity of the settlement. Israelis who live inside this inter-connected network enjoy the good life, unlike those who live in the Palestinian cities and communities.

It is clear that Israel has taken advantage of this period of Arab weakness and the Palestinian lull, furiously expanded the building of new settlements in the Palestinian territories occupied in 1967. The Palestinians are suffering degradation and humiliation on a daily basis at the Israeli military checkpoints. All of this led to what we see today of clashes in the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem, Al-Jaghoub added.

“Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told the US Secretary of State John Kerry in Amman on 24 October that the Palestinian young people want nothing but freedom and independence and not facilitations by the Israeli occupation to enter Jerusalem or to remove a military checkpoint here or there,” he said. “We want our state, which was endorsed by the international conventions.”

Dr. Abdel Fattah Amin, a lecturer at Al-Quds University and the University of Hebron, told Ahram Online that the reasons behind “the knife revolution” are similar to what Al-Jaghoub said, but he preferred to add further detail. 

“There were indications that it is the time of uprising, but all it needed was a spark. Fire was smouldering under the ashes. The Israeli killing of Diyaa Talahmah, 21, during an Israeli raid near the southern Hebron village of Khursa on 22 September was the straw that broke the camel's back, and then came the revenge by 19-year-old Palestinian Muhannad Halabi, who killed two Israelis in a stabbing attack in Jerusalem's Old City. This was the direct spark of the latest flare-up.”

Knife revolution 

The first Palestinian man who used a knife to stab Israel settlers was Amer Abu Sarhan, the father of “the knife revolution.”

After the Al-Aqsa mosque massacre on 8 October, 1990, which left at least 21 Palestinians dead and over 900 injured, Abu Sarhan decided to take revenge in his own way after the lifting of the curfew imposed by the Israeli forces, which lasted for two weeks after the massacre.

On 21 October of that year Abu Sarhan left his home in Bethlehem and headed to Talpiot settlement in occupied Jerusalem. He managed to kill two Israeli soldiers and a settler with an old knife before he was arrested. Abu Sarhan was sentenced to three life sentences, but he was released after only 20 years as part of the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange in 2011.

According to Al-Jaghoub, the “revolution” is in constant evolution.

It started in the West Bank and spread to occupied Jerusalem and Gaza and then to the Palestinian citizens of Israel. It evolved from stone throwing to stabbing. Calm comes only when Israel leaves the occupied Palestinian territories, dismantles the settlements and adopts the two-state solution. Meeting the demands of the Palestinian people and applying it on the ground could solve the conflict and terminate it.

“All conflicts in the world are over and others began but our cause has gained nothing but more of land confiscation, humiliation and murder,” he said.

The anger of Palestinian residents of Jerusalem has increased in the last three years after the Israeli authorities allowed increasing numbers of Jewish settlers to storm the Al-Aqsa mosque.

The leaders of these groups, including some who are ministers in the Israeli cabinet such as Uri Ariel, publicly call for the Temple to be rebuilt in the heart of the Al-Aqsa mosque.

The majority of young people in Jerusalem insist that their uprising will not stop, according to Dr Kamal Al-Masry, a Palestinian legal researcher from occupied Jerusalem.

“It's a protest upheaval against land confiscation, settlement-building, demolition of homes, and seizing of identity cards” he said.

“It is an upheaval against poverty and impoverishment, the exorbitant taxes and the deliberate lack of everything, especially classrooms and services,” Al-Masry told Ahram Online.

It is Israel, Al-Masry says, that drives young people to leave their families and sacrifice their lives. “It is Israel that brought them to the point of no return, with everything taken from them and made them lose hope in everything.”

“Whenever they demolish a house, they create hundreds of fighters. These children who have been displaced by the Israeli army after their homes were destroyed, what they will do when they grow up? They will fight in retaliation,” he adds.

Popular resistance against the Israeli occupation could lead to change, according to Bassam Hamad, a Palestinian media researcher from the occupied West Bank.

“What is happening now has been imposed by the weaponless young Palestinians on the Israelis, both government and people. This ongoing upheaval is a revival of the Palestinian cause after it was ignored by the international community. Resistance against the occupation, the settlers and their crimes is a sacred duty for every Palestinian,” he said.

The Palestinians are the weaker party and their only choice is resistance, Hamad argued. “What young people are doing now is a kind of resistance. It is an attempt to create the change.”

“What would you expect from a citizen whose house is burned or demolished?” Hamad asked. "Young people are being daily exposed to arrest, insults and humiliation at the hands of the occupation forces. Children feel humiliated at all stages of their education, from school to university."

What the Palestinians are doing now is their right of self-defence, he says.

“We will not allow the militarisation of the intifada. Israel is seeking, through the killings of the Palestinians, to drag the young people to the armed clashes, but we are aware of the aims of our enemy,” Hamad said. 

The upheaval has already brought cohesion to the Palestinian factions and revived the national consciousness within the Palestinian people.

Necessity requires forging the Palestinian reconciliation as soon as possible, especially as the whole Palestinian political spectrum, including Fatah and Hamas, have adopted a unified discourse supportive of the movement of the people, despite disparity in whether to call it an intifada or a popular upheaval.

Mohamed Abed, another Palestinian from Bethlehem whom Ahram Online interviewed to comment on the ongoing upheaval, said it seems that the movement may achieve some political goals that diplomacy has failed to achieve.

“The Palestinian cause is back on the global agenda after a period of absence due to the repercussions of the so-called Arab Spring. The upheaval has drawn the attention of the world that the Palestinian cause is still alive, and that the Israeli occupation is the longest occupation in modern times," the Palestinian lawyer said.

"It is true that these events are not likely to threaten the existence of Israel but it does cause troubles and disturbances to the Israelis. It has imposed a state of terror in the hearts of the Israelis." 

This upheaval has thrown a stone into stagnant water. Palestine has become the destination of diplomats who want to restore calm.
Any attempt to restore calm needs convincing political solutions for the Palestinian people, Munir Al-Jaghoub argues.

“The people want freedom and independence. They want borders and an airport. Our demand is that we want to live freely on our land and we want to move around freely. We are fighting occupation for freedom while the occupation is fighting us to maintain the occupation.”

Short link: