A Third Intifada?

Violence is rocking Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, and all Israel's government can come up with is punish the Palestinians even more. It has never worked before. It won't work now.  

The Palestinian response to the Zionist occupation is a manifestation of the French philosopher Michel Foucault’s maxim that where there is power, there is resistance. 

Israel exercises power in a repressive occupation.

Palestinians exercise power in resisting repression.

Power exists in its exercise, despite its obvious asymmetry.

The repression/resistance cycle which is again in full swing in Israel, in the occupied Palestinian territories and occupied East Jerusalem has existed since the establishment of the state of Israel.

Until there are two legitimate states or one state in which all citizens share equal, yes equal rights, the repression/resistance cycle will continue.

It will include death on both sides, and no side, no politician, no civilian, no observer can pretend to be surprised when that happens.

It does not have to, nor should it be ‘situation normal’ but the status quo for Palestinians is not normal, and therefore it is legitimate to ask why it should be for the occupying force.

The question being asked about the current spate of protests and (sometimes fatal) stabbings of Jews and extrajudicial killings of Palestinian suspects is whether or not Israel and Palestine should be bracing for a third Intifada.

The massive resistance to the occupation seen in the first two Intifadas (1987 and 2000) was met with full military force, clandestine death squads, and regulations permitting the IDF to fire even when no clear and present danger existed for the soldiers.

And then, as Neve Gordon writes in ‘Israel’s Occupation’ this colonial-era policing resuscitated to control the intifadas, never dissipated.

Physical and human destruction remains justified under the cloak of ‘security’ - not the security of the occupied people as mandated in international law, but the security of the people who have by their own actions, brought themselves closer and closer to their supposed enemy.

Palestinian villages did not expand into Israel.

Israel took Palestinian land and expanded into the hilltops and valleys of Palestine - just another tactic alongside the commandeering of precious commodities such as water, mass arrests including of children, collective punishments such as house demolitions, and the denial of civil and legal rights which all contribute to the strategy of making life so unbearable that the Palestinians will pack up and go.

But they won’t budge.     

Palestinians exercise what power they have in sumud - the act of steadfastly occupying their own lands.

Now the next generation of people born under occupation and growing up with the mirage of hope in the Oslo process, have spontaneously taken to the streets.

They live every day in danger and fear while their occupiers have lived in relative calm, prosperity, and too often impunity.

Murdering a baby and his parents by firebombing their tiny home while they slept has gone unpunished, but a suspect in a stabbing is shot rather than arrested, the family home of a kid who throws stones is demolished.

The Israeli Prime Minister seems to believe that turning the screws even tighter on Palestinians will force them to be quiet again. Punishment is supposed to force them to shut up and put up with their dehumanisation, with their occupied status.

As he said after a meeting of his Security Cabinet “...I am sure that the actions we take will bring the other side to understand that terrorism does not pay”.

Same old record. It has not worked in the past - obviously. A broken leg can not be fixed with a bandaid.  

So what happens if this latest, albeit embryonic and certainly not officially organised, retaliation refuses to die down?

Do you just kill more and lock up those you can’t shoot?

Been done before. Does not work.

What happens if the asymmetry of stone throwing (and unfortunately some knife wielding) Palestinians confronting the military might of the army of the “only democracy in the Middle East” turns that brawn in on itself until it becomes something that is no longer feared?

The Israeli government fears the power of the prisoner hunger striker. Perhaps it would be wise to fear the anger and frustration of young Palestinians who are determined to stretch their own physical and psychological capacities to breaking point - prepared to die for the cause because the reality is nothing to live for.

Amidst the graffiti on the Separation barrier is written “to resist is to exist”.

Resistance is ceaselessly punished, yet it persists in the belief, and perhaps knowledge, that one day it will prevail.

Netanyahu’s own security service has told him that PLO President Mahmoud Abbas is doing all he can to stop violence from his citizens, yet Netanyahu has told Abbas to “stop lying, stop inciting”.

How can you reason with a man who is hellbent on ignoring the reality and demonizing the most moderate of Palestinian leaders instead of working with him?

How can you reason with a man intent on, for his own political purposes, criminalizing resistance in order to legitimate killing the resistors?

How can you reason with a man who now refuses to release to their families the bodies of three Palestinians with Israeli ID cards shot by the IDF, and threatens to bury them in a remote military area.

He knows very well how to incite Palestinians and then implore the international community to take pity on his helpless citizens under siege.  

Israelis now feel threatened, anxious, concerned in going about their daily routines.

Welcome to the daily verisimilitude of life under occupation.

The spark for the first Palestinian Intifada on December 8, 1987 was the killing of four Palestinians by an Israeli tank transport truck which crashed into Palestinians in Gaza.

Demonstrations following the funerals spread quickly into a new phase of resistance to the occupation - to the sprawling settlements which began to abut Palestinian villages, to the theft of land, to the growing revulsion of young people to the corruption and lack of progress from the PLO, and to the daily humiliation and submission they witnessed in their parents.

Those protesting were labelled terrorists, Israeli forces were encouraged by their own government to shoot and beat demonstrators..to “break the Arab will....beatings never killed anybody”....until they did of course.

Israel’s politicians and soldiers tried to crush the Intifada. They succeeded in unifying Palestinians. 

The second Intifada of 2000 was more violent.

Palestinian bombings killed Israeli citizens. Israeli soldiers engaged in extrajudicial killings and bulldozed thousands of homes.

Innocents on both sides were left dead or wounded.

General Moshe Ya’alon wanted Palestinians to understand “they are a defeated people”.

They did not get the message.

The upshot was all the Oslo process succeeded in doing was place the burden of the occupation on the occupied, and entrench Israeli control.

It is too early to determine if this latest series of confrontations represents the beginning of a third Intifada.

It is not too early to determine that this latest effort by Palestinian youth to shatter their hopeless status quo seems awfully, awfully familiar.

But thank goodness US Secretary of State John Kerry is on his way...again.