The Reductionist View of an Intifada
15 July 2016
By Ramzy Baroud
Associating the ongoing Palestinian intifada (uprising) with the number of
stabbings or alleged stabbings carried out by Palestinian youths was a mistake
from the start. An intifada is a collective movement, not individual acts of
violence, no matter how frequent.
The current intifada dates back to last October, when a large number of
Palestinian youths began staging protests and clashing with Israeli occupation
soldiers in various parts of occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank.
One aspect of the intifada was an increase of Palestinian reciprocal attacks,
often involving youths wielding knives. They targeted occupation soldiers,
armed colonists and also Israeli civilians. Many reported incidents of such
attacks were contested by Palestinian and certain Israeli groups as
fabrications, which often led to the death and injury of Palestinian
civilians. In contrast to commonly-held views, a recent assessment by Israel's
internal intelligence, the Shin Bet, indicates a palpable decrease in the
number of stabbings in April, compared to earlier months.
To some, this reported decrease has led to the conclusion that the Intifada is
dying. However, the real reason behind the decline in Palestinian retaliatory
attacks is unclear. One theory argues that Palestinians in general are
increasingly finding such attacks of no practical use. Another, as argued by
Adnan Abu Amer in Al-Monitor, suggests that ''security coordination between
the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) and Israel has been an important
factor behind the possible decline. ''On May 5, Shin Bet chief, Yoram Cohen,
said that the PNA security services have been thwarting attacks soon after
receiving intelligence from Israel, praising the security coordination's role
in the efforts,'' Abu Amer wrote.
This has been corroborated by Palestinian officials themselves. Head of the
Palestinian General Intelligence Service, Majid Farah, said in an interview
with DefenseNews last January, that his agents managed to thwart ''200
potential terror attacks against Israel'', as phrased in Israel's YNet News.
While Farah spoke of arresting over 100 Palestinians in cooperation with the
Israeli army, Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, told Israel Channel 2 last
March that his security forces are cracking down on Palestinian school
children. Apart from apprehending suspected Palestinian resisters, the
security coordination includes searching school children's bags for knives,
according to the Palestinian leader. ''Our security forces are entering
schools and checking if students are carrying knives. In one school, we found
70 students with knives, and we told them that this was wrong. I told them I
do not want you to kill someone and die; I want you to live and for others to
live, too,'' he said.
Yet, reducing a historic event as popular as the intifada to knives allegedly
hidden in schoolbags is a major misrepresentation of what is taking place in
the Occupied Territories. The issue is much larger than that, and is unlikely
to be quelled by Abbas's henchmen or Israeli occupation forces.
The nature of the current uprising in the West Bank and occupied East
Jerusalem is testament to a pent-up anger of an entire generation that grew up
behind walls and checkpoints. They are fighting two separate enemies — the
occupation army and their own oppressive leadership.
Previous uprisings were massive in their mobilisation, clear in their message
and decisive in their delivery. They were willed by the people and, within
days, imprinted themselves on the collective consciousness of Palestinians
everywhere. The current uprising is different, particularly because it is yet
to have a clear sense of direction — a leadership, a political platform,
demands, expectations and short and long-term strategies. At least that is how
the 1987-93 intifada played out and, to a lesser extent, the 2000-2005 Al Aqsa
intifada as well. But is it not possible that the outcomes of these previous
Intifadas are what is making the current uprising different?
The first intifada metamorphosed into a worthless peace process which
eventually led to the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993. A year later, the
leadership of the Palestine Liberation Organisation was reproduced into the
emasculated form of the PNA. Since then, the latter has served largely as a
conduit for the Israeli Occupation.
The second Intifada had less success than the first. It quickly turned into an
armed rebellion, thus marginalising the popular component of revolt that is
required to cement the collective identity of Palestinians, forcing them to
overcome their divisions and unify behind a single flag and a distinct chant.
That intifada was crushed by a brutal Israeli army: Hundreds of activists were
assassinated and thousands were killed in protests and clashes with Israeli
soldiers. It was a watershed moment in the relationship between the Israeli
government and the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah and between the
Palestinian factions themselves.
Mahmoud Abbas was elected President of the PNA in 2005, shortly after the
death of Yasser Arafat. Abbas's greatest achievements include the cracking
down on civil society organisations, ensuring total loyalty towards him —
personally — and towards his branch within the Fatah faction. Under Abbas,
there has been no revolutionary model for change, no 'national project'. In
fact, no clear definition of nationhood to begin with.
The Palestinian nation became whatever Abbas wanted it to be. It consisted,
largely, of West Bank Palestinians, living mostly in Area A, loyal to Fatah
and hungry for international handouts. The more the Abbas nation agreed to
play along, the more money they were allowed to rake in.
Until October of last year, when the current uprising slowly began building
momentum, the situation on the ground seemed to be at a standstill. In the
West Bank, occupation was slowly normalised in accordance with the formula:
Occupation and illegal colonies in exchange for money and silence.
Gaza, on the other hand, stood as a model for barbarity that was regularly
meted out by Israel as a reminder to those in the West Bank that the price of
revolt is besiegement, hunger, destruction and death.
It is against this backdrop of misery, humiliation, fear, oppression and
corruption that Palestinians rose. They were mostly young people born after
Oslo — those who became politically conscious after the 2006 Fatah-Hamas
clash, and were raised in the conflicting worlds of their own leadership
coexisting with the Occupation, on one hand, and clashing with other
Palestinians on the other.
This is a generation that is the most educated, yet, most politically savvy
and, thanks to the huge leaps in digital media technology, the most connected
and informed of the world around it. The ambitions of these youth are huge,
but their opportunities are so limited; their earth has shrunk to the size of
a single-file queue before an Israeli military checkpoint, where they are
corralled on their way to school, to work and back home. And, like the
Israelis who shot at anyone who dared protest, Abbas imprisons those who
attempt to do so.
The current intifada is an expression of that dichotomy, of a generation that
is so eager to break free, to define itself, to liberate its land, yet which
is resisted by an Old Guard unremittingly holding on so tightly to the few
perks and dollars they receive in the form of allotments every month.
It matters little whether stabbing incidents are on the decline or not. An
intifada is not sustained by such acts anyway. The latter is merely an
expression of angst, pain and anger. What has become clear since October is
that the new generation in Palestine is ready to effect a paradigm shift, and
that the current situation of a quisling leadership and a belligerent
occupation is simply unsustainable.
The outcome of this tension will not only define this entire generation, as it
defined previous generations in 1987 and 2000, but will define the future of
– Dr. Ramzy Baroud 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'. His website is: