Thursday,20 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1280, (28 January - 3 February 2016)
Thursday,20 September, 2018
Issue 1280, (28 January - 3 February 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Preserving the right to protest

The Palestinian leadership’s failure to fully back the current intifada leaves it open to further losses to its authority, writes Hani Al-Masri

Al-Ahram Weekly

The Palestinian intifada that has been going on for four consecutive months now has not yet turned into a comprehensive and popular intifada, with a united leadership and specific goals, for many reasons.

The most important is that the leadership has not adopted the emerging intifada as its own, and has remained content with giving it only hesitant support. This is out of fear that it will turn into a movement that cannot be controlled. It is also afraid that an internal competitor or rival will use the movement against it.

However, various actions have been increasing popular support for the intifada, among them popular gatherings at the funerals of martyrs and protests calling for the return of martyrs’ bodies, as well as the formation of human chains around their homes. These gatherings have hindered, on several occasions, Israel’s execution of demolition orders.

This article looks at the Israeli policy of house demolitions of the homes of those carrying out protest operations, as part of the measures the occupation authorities have decided to take as a form of punishment and a deterrent to prevent others from doing the same.

Since the beginning of the intifada, Israeli media outlets have circulated the idea of a contrast between the Israeli military and security agencies, on the one hand, and the political leadership, on the other, with regards to the feasibility of the house demolition policy, as well as the policy of withholding the bodies of the martyrs and other strategies.

The recent events, in the eyes of the army, have been proof that these policies will exacerbate the situation and are not conducive to extinguishing the intifada. This has driven the occupying authorities to release the majority of the bodies of the martyrs, while keeping the bodies of those from Jerusalem.

This is because responsibility for bodies from Jerusalem does not fall on the shoulders of the army, given that Jerusalem has been annexed to Israel and, therefore, Israeli law is applied. However, Israeli law is not applied in the Territories that were occupied in 1967.

The story began in the Shufat Camp in Jerusalem when a number of people organised a campaign to collect donations to restore the home of martyr Ibrahim Al-Akkari. Despite their difficult living conditions, many people responded. Rich and poor alike contributed to the campaign. That got the ball rolling, and another campaign, called “Rebuilding the Homes of the Free”, was set up in Nablus, where over $250,000 was collected.

A campaign to rebuild Mohannad Al-Halaby’s house was also launched, collecting approximately $125,000 in addition to land, equipment and free labour. The now-dissolved Palestinian Workers Union, currently facing a court case, announced its decision that each member should pay one per cent of his salary to support the campaign. Had the Palestinian Authority (PA) applied this decision, about $1.2 million would have been raised.

Other unions were encouraged to do the same and to double the amount that would be used to rebuild demolished Palestinian houses and help the families of martyrs and prisoners now suffering under the Israeli occupation.

The donation campaigns show once again that the Palestinian nation is willing and prepared to fight and to give, but the leadership and the elites are absent. The national initiatives were not launched by the leadership, nor did the PA adopt them. This is despite the fact that the PA should commit to rebuilding every home demolished by the occupation and not give the excuse of a lack of resources. Meeting these needs is a national priority and one that takes priority over any other issue.

The PA’s thinking on this initiative is not known. It has not adopted a policy to cover the losses resulting from the occupation’s measures and the crimes committed against the people under the pretext of responding to the intifada. This is because the PA is afraid of the reaction of the Israeli occupiers should it decide to adopt such a policy, although the PA is greatly exaggerating this.

The PA led the Second Intifada, and Israel did not dissolve the PA then because the alternative was worse. It also did not dissolve the PA because it was betting on finding a new PA and, unfortunately it was able to do so. After the Second Intifada, the PA was worse than ever.

Before the Second Intifada, it was part of the political process that it hoped would end the occupation, but after the collapse of the Camp David Summit and the return of the occupation to the West Bank, the PA had no political horizon.

If the PA is afraid to adopt the task of rebuilding the demolished homes, how will it convince the Palestinian people that it will implement the decisions of the central committee regarding its relationship with the occupation, ending security coordination, and ending the Palestinian economy’s dependence on Israel and others?

Those who only participate in the martyrs’ funerals in a limited manner and not at the highest level, and those who do not initiate or adopt the campaigns to raise money to rebuild the homes of the martyrs will not change the relationship with the occupation from “a partner in peace” to an enemy unless they are forced to do so, or in response to major events or crimes.

We must be alert and make sure that Israel does not succeed in using the current events and the Palestinian divisions to subjugate the PA further, especially during the rule of the successor to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen).

There are some who accept whatever the PA does or doesn’t do, arguing that this is better than nothing and that the PA is governed by agreements and obligations. They also argue that if it did differently, the PA would be punished, ultimately leading to its collapse or dissolution and thus opening the door to chaos.

These justifications have reached the point of considering that the fact that the PA and the leadership have not condemned the intifada and prohibited protests in the Territories is a great blessing and better than nothing.

This is unacceptable. It is true that supporting the intifada and showing solidarity with it, as Sweden is doing, for example, is better than condemning and prohibiting it, but it is still not enough. This may be because the PA is afraid that the intifada will backfire or turn against it, which may lead to the PA prohibiting it or preventing it if it thinks it can do so.

Perhaps the prohibition on protests at the Israeli settlement of Beit El and other areas where protestors have been approaching the occupation’s checkpoints and barriers is a means of testing the waters and the beginning of what is to come.

The leadership and the PA say that they support the peaceful popular uprising, but we do not know what is stopping them from organising it. If they did so, they would not be afraid of the intifada turning against the

  There is a need to preserve this right and to use it when needed in accordance with a national decision and as part of a national strategy in the context of self-defence at any time and in any place judged necessary.

The peaceful resistance that the PA wants consists of protests in cities far from confrontation with the occupation forces and settlers. Such an “intifada” would not be able to attract the masses, and the occupation would be able to live with it forever.

In the most complete sense of the word, peaceful resistance consists of over 200 forms of confrontation. It includes all non-violent acts of resistance, including destroying all the occupation’s institutions, roads and infrastructure. It also includes organising protests attended by thousands and tens of thousands of people, which are peaceful and which head towards settlements and settlers in Jerusalem, Hebron and elsewhere. These protests should be led by the PA, the PLO and the Palestinian faction leaders.

The PA and the leadership could also adopt a campaign to boycott Israel, even if it started out only by boycotting the Israeli settlements in terms of trade and cooperation. It is illogical for there to be Palestinian investment in Israel and the settlements, and illogical for Palestinian shops to carry Israeli products after announcing the boycott, especially in the light of recent news of Israeli supermarket owner Rami Levy building shopping centres in cooperation with Palestinian businessmen. He says he aims to achieve “co-existence” between Palestinians and Israelis, including settlers.

Do we need another attack on the Gaza Strip to reactivate the boycott? The PA must not only blame the businessmen, but also itself, because the private sector will be forced to accept and adhere to any policy adopted by the PA if it is serious in enforcing a boycott.

If we do not act on the basis of being in a national liberation phase, there will be no solution. Israel does not intend to accept a settlement that will grant the Palestinians their basic rights.

We need to protect Palestinian existence in Palestine, provide the elements of steadfastness, preserve and maintain what we have left, reduce our losses, and thwart Israeli projects, plans and alternatives. If not, we will continue to go down a path that will only become worse.

We cannot maintain the current situation. What is occurring is a slow deterioration and erosion of Palestinian rights and liberties, and if it continues our unhappy ending is only a matter of time. However, the possibilities and opportunities open to us can change this fate through steadfastness, giving and resistance in all its forms.

These may fade and grow again, taking on new forms. But our resistance never stops. It can also change by means of the global solidarity with the Palestinian cause and other matters that are based on reliance on the Palestinian people, who have proven throughout their history that they do not disappoint those who rely on them.

The writer is a Palestinian political analyst and a columnist for several Palestinian and Arab newspapers.

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