Reclaiming Palestine: How Israeli Media Misread the Intifada
13 December 2015
By Ramzy Baroud
Israeli commentators, Yaron Friedman, of ''Ynet News'' and Haviv Rettig Gur,
of the ''Times of Israel'' are clueless about the driving force behind the
Palestinian mobilization and collective struggle. In two recent articles, and
with unmistakable conceit, they attempted to highlight what they perceive as
the failure of the current Palestinian uprising, or 'Intifada'.
Gur argues that 'the terrorism' of the Palestinians is not a surge of
opposition to Israel but a ''howl against the pervasive sense that resistance
has failed''. He reduces the Intifada to the mere act of alleged stabbing of
Israelis, and points out to the painful truth that the Palestinian Authority
'elites' are paying lip service to the 'martyrs', while ''simultaneously
acting with determination on the ground to disrupt and stop attacks''.
In his long-winded article, ''Losing Palestine'', Gur essentially claims that
the current struggle against Occupation stems mostly from internet fervor and
is more a deceleration of defeat than a strategy for victory, and that no
Palestinian leader dares to be the first to accept this.
Friedman, on the other hand, describes the 'knife Intifada' as a 'fire
without coal'; that the ''insane actions of the stabbers'' is designed to
ignite religious fervor, ultimately aimed at blaming the Jews.
Those who launched the Intifada ''have no real internal or external support
(financial or with weapons) and it broke out at a time when the nightmare of
all the Arab world's leaders is the social protests turning into anarchy,''
There is little sense in arguing against the unsympathetic approach Zionist
commentators use to describe Palestinians or their insistence on seeing
Palestinian collective action, violent or otherwise, as an act of 'terror';
on their refusal to see any context behind Palestinian anger or on how they
inject a religious narrative at every turn, and lob 'anti-Semitic'
accusations unfairly, whenever they see fit.
But what is particularly interesting about the Israeli take on the
Palestinian Intifada, as presented by Friedman, Gur and others in the media,
including from within the Israeli political establishment, is the attempt to
display an exaggerated sense of confidence, that unlike other uprisings, this
one is a farce.
In fact, the Israelis are certain that the uprising is likely to deflate once
the limited tools at its disposal are contained. This supposition has led
Israel's Deputy Foreign Minister, Tzipi Hotovely, to meet with
representatives of YouTube and Google ''to discuss ways to cooperate in what
she calls the fight against 'inciting violence and terrorism','' reported
MEMO, citing Israeli daily, 'Maariv'.
This hasty self-assurance among Israeli state officials and media is
predicated on several suppositions:
First, while the PA has not yet moved to take part in crushing the Intifada,
it has done its utmost to thwart the people's effort at mobilizing
Palestinians beyond the limited confines of the ruling Fatah faction and its
worthless promises of peace and statehood.
The PA knows well that if the Intifada escalates beyond its current scale, it
could undermine – if not entirely challenge – the PA itself, which has served
for many years as a line of defense for the Israeli Occupation. Thanks to the
'security coordination' between the Israeli army and the PA, Palestinian
resistance in the West Bank has, until recently, been largely contained.
Second, Hamas, although it has openly called for an escalation of protests
against Israel, is swamped in its own problems. The siege on Gaza, tightened
further with the closure of the Rafah border and the desperate need to
rebuild what successive Israeli wars have destroyed, makes it difficult for
Hamas to take part in any effort that could open up another war front with
One must recall that the Israeli war on Gaza in the summer of 2014 was,
itself, an Israeli attempt at redrawing the battle lines. At that time, a
momentum for an Intifada was taking shape in the West Bank following an
increase in Israeli army and settler violence against Palestinians. The war
on Gaza managed to change the narrative of that budding conflict into an
Israeli war aimed at defending its own borders, as Israeli hasbara dictated.
Israel is now relying on the assumption that Hamas would avoid, at least for
now, a repeat of that scenario which cost Palestinians over 2,200 lives and
thousands of wounded and maimed, let alone the massive destruction of the
already impoverished Strip.
Third, Arabs are consumed with their own regional fights, whether for
political or sectarian domination. Almost every Arab country is somehow,
either fully or partially, involved or is affected by the various wars and
conflicts under way in Syria, Libya, Egypt's Sinai, Iraq and Yemen. The
supposedly successful Tunisian model is suffering its own fallout, too, from
militant violence, whether homegrown or that which spills over from violent
Previous intifadas succeeded, or so goes the Israeli logic, because of Arab
backing. But the most that Arabs have done is to pay lip service and nothing
more. In fact, if the PA itself is keen on spoiling popular Palestinian
initiatives, little can be expected of the Arabs, who are busy fighting one
However, the Israeli argument is, as has always been the case, narrow-minded
in its view of history, or it conveniently applies history to fit whatever
political argument Israeli officials or mouthpieces deem handy. Just a few
weeks ago, Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, absolved the Nazis
from the idea behind the Holocaust and pinned the blame on the Palestinian
Previous intifadas, but more importantly the 1987 'Intifada of the stones',
was not constructed as a strategy for liberation, but was a spontaneous
reaction to a series of Israeli provocations, and the adjacent failure of the
Palestinian leadership, all positioned within the larger context of the
ongoing Israeli occupation.
Palestinians do not revolt when 'the time is right' for them to do so, but
whenever their collective suffering has culminated to the point that they
cannot be silenced anymore.
Those, whether Israeli or even Palestinian intellectuals, who opine about the
need for the intifada to do this or that, change directions or tactics, stop
altogether or move forward, are simply unable to understand that the momentum
of a collective struggle cannot be dictated from above.
This is not to argue that a grassroots, genuine Palestinian leadership that
operates outside the confines of fatalism and defeat as demonstrated by the
PA is not a necessary step needed to galvanize the popular efforts. But that
is a decision to be taken by the youth themselves, and its timing and nature
should be determined based on their own reckoning.
The Israelis are counting on their shoot to kill policy. The Palestinian
leadership is waiting for the anger to fizzle out before resuming its endless
quest for a frivolous peace process and financial handouts. The Intifada
itself, however, operates on the basis of an entirely different arithmetic: a
collective spirit that can neither be intimidated by violence nor procured by
In fact this is precisely why the Intifada started in the first place and, as
long as the factors that led to its inception remain in place, it, too, is
likely to continue and escalate, not for the sake of liberating Palestine
through some magic formula, but for the urgent need to regain national
initiative, redefine priorities and a new sense of collective, as Palestinian
first and foremost.
– Dr. Ramzy Baroud has a PhD in Palestine Studies from the University of
Exeter. He has been writing about the Middle East for over 20 years. He is an
internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author of
several books and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com. His books include
'Searching Jenin', 'The Second Palestinian Intifada' and his latest 'My
Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza's Untold Story'. Visit his website: