September uprising? Hopes, prospects and obstacles for Palestinian popular struggle

Israel/Palestine
on 23 Comments
nabisaleh
residents of the village of nabi saleh demonstrate in support of the united nations bid for statehood (photo: activestills.org)

The Palestinian bid for statehood at the United Nations (UN) was on the mind of the Tamimi family. Tea flowed and the coals on top of the nargileh pipe smoked on a warm Ramadan night last month in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh as a snapshot emerged of the divisions across Palestine regarding the bid for recognition at the UN.

“The UN move is a mistake,” one woman remarked, worrying aloud about some US officials’ threats to cut funding for the Palestinian Authority (PA). Her husband works for the PA’s security forces, and any further strain on the PA budget could prove detrimental to their livelihood.

Bashir Tamimi, though, was unequivocal in his support for the PA strategy of asking for UN membership at the upcoming General Assembly session in September, although he too wondered about the future. Tamimi is a member of the popular committee in Nabi Saleh that organizes weekly demonstrations against the nearby settlement of Halamish.

“It will be a long month. It’s difficult to understand what will happen,” he said, dragging on a cigarette as a Real Madrid vs. Barcelona soccer game crackled over the radio. “As leaders of the popular committees and popular resistance, we will demonstrate all over the country in order to support this decision of our leaders in order to make pressure on the world.”

The lines of thought expressed in the village about the Palestinian leadership’s decision to apply for some kind of membership at the United Nations are only two of many. There remains uncertainty about what exactly the Palestinian Authority is looking to attain this month, and what might come next. Perhaps the biggest question is what the reaction on the ground will be.

And so as debate over the UN strategy among the Palestinian disapora, those in refugee camps and Palestinians living under occupation continues, Palestinian activists are preparing the ground for a renewed wave of popular nonviolent resistance to Israel. Still, there is little consensus in occupied Palestine and around the world about the UN bid’s effect on the Palestinian struggle.

Palestinians “appear to be greeting the entire UN episode with considerable skepticism, a result of growing frustration with the leadership and of concrete questions regarding the impact of the move,” reads a recently released report by the International Crisis Group. “Ironically, [many Palestinians would be] hostile to a decision to drop the bid, viewing it as yet more evidence of the leadership’s powerlessness and vulnerability to outside pressure.”

Negative sentiment is even more pronounced in the Gaza Strip, where the Hamas leadership has criticized the UN bid and young bloggers have spoken out against what they see as an undemocratic and potentially rights-damaging move by an unrepresentative leadership.

The skepticism that exists, though, is not stopping West Bank popular committee leaders from preparing to seize the spotlight the UN bid will give Palestine.

“I don’t think the people here will be quiet,” said Mousa Abu Marya, a soft-spoken popular committee coordinator in the village of Beit Ommar.

His village, located near Hebron and surrounded by six settlements, has been a target of the Israeli military in recent weeks. “Maybe in September, many demonstrations will happen. But not only because of September, but because of the situation. [After], the Israelis will cut the money [to the PA]. The people will have no salaries and no good food…They will do something.”

Abu Marya, Tamimi and a host of other popular committee organizers are busy trying to turn their “maybes” into definite answers. They are planning to take action in the form of rallies and demonstrations against the occupation. The fate of their plans, while depending mostly on their ability to mobilize large numbers of Palestinians to challenge the occupation, will also be determined by the response of Israel and the US, the PA and the newly empowered Arab public in surrounding countries. The big question mark is whether a fragmented Palestinian polity can catch the winds of the Arab uprisings and put intense pressure on Israel’s occupation regime. It’s a high-stakes moment for the Palestinian popular struggle.

Going to the UN “is a positive step,” said Hassan Mousa, spokesman for the Nil’in village popular committee. “We expect Palestinians to continue their struggle through a comprehensive strategy…It needs struggle on the ground and diplomatic and political struggle at the United Nations. So both struggles come together.”

In July, the Palestine Popular Resistance Conference was held in three villages: Beit Ommar, Nil’in and Budrus. The conference was dedicated to the protests Palestinians continue to hold in villages affected by the separation barrier and settlements. It ended with the drafting of a statement that laid out the coalition of West Bank activists’ position on the PA going to the UN.

“Next September is the immense popular battle for the recognition of the State of Palestine,” the statement read. “The committees commit themselves to initiate to work in order to develop intensive action and mobilize people to expand the struggle for recognition of a Palestinian state in the Palestinian and the international arenas using an immense popular struggle program.”

The conference closed out amidst the firing of tear gas canisters by the Israeli military in response to an unarmed protest in Budrus—the usual response of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). The response to the Budrus protest and other popular resistance campaigns by Israel, though, could pale in comparison if Israeli media reports pan out.

The government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned that the UN move could lead to “violence and bloodshed.” But Palestinian activists, based on the crushing experience of the second intifada, say that there is no place for armed struggle anymore in resistance against Israel’s occupation.

“The nonviolent resistance is the important resistance at this time,” Abu Marya said. “The second intifada was a big mistake. It moved Palestine 100 years into the past. So now the people are starting to think about something new.”

The IDF, though, has been instructed to meet any mass demonstrations by Palestinians in September with force. Last month, the Israeli daily Ha’aretz reported that if Palestinian protesters cross a “red line” in approaching illegal settlements, “soldiers will be allowed to open fire at the legs of the demonstrators.” In addition, the IDF has armed settlers with tear gas and stun grenades to confront Palestinian protests with.

There have been recent previews of how the Israeli army will react to any large-scale Palestinian protests. Last May’s actions to commemorate the Palestinian Nakba, or catastrophe, ended in bloodshed as thousands of unarmed Palestinian refugees in neighboring countries calling for the right of return marched to the border with Israel. Over a dozen were killed and scores injured when the Israeli army opened fire on the Syria and Lebanon borders. However, recent events, like the September 9 Egyptian protest that resulted in the Israeli embassy being broken into, will also be on the mind of the Israeli military establishment.

“Everybody feels that everything in the Middle East is changeable. The people will change the situation at any time,” well-known Palestinian activist Ayed Morrar told me as we sat in an office of Fatah, the political party Abbas belongs to. “So I think the Palestinian issue after the Arab movements will be different in the future than what it was before.”

To stem the possibility of large protest actions in the West Bank, the Israeli military is working closely with PA security to respond. To prepare, the PA has reportedly purchased tear gas grenades and rubber bullets from Israel.

Although PA President Mahmoud Abbas has called for mass protests in September in support of the UN strategy, the PA has also made it clear it wants to keep them confined to major urban centers under its full control (Area A under the Oslo agreement).

Having the PA control protests in the West Bank could also put to rest Israeli worries about the regional reaction in response to their soldiers opening fire on unarmed Palestinian protesters.

The PA, it seems, is hoping that the combination of the UN bid and controlled protests are a way out of their quandary: having to both show the Palestinian public that they are doing something to end the occupation and pleasing the US and Israel by keeping control.

But while some Palestinian activists are loath to commit to actively confronting their own leadership as the occupation remains present, criticism of the PA has been heard loud and clear.

“If they decide to fight us in any way, we will never turn back. This is our official stance,” said Morrar. “[PA Prime Minister] Salam Fayyad succeeded in controlling the situation this time because after seven years of oppression, and suffering [as a result of the Israeli response to the second intifada], the people need the time to take rest. But sooner or later they will wake up and discover that their targets are not achieved yet.”

The PA has, in fact, stopped protests from reaching Israeli checkpoints. On the May 15 Nakba protest, PA security stopped demonstrators from approaching a checkpoint.

Morrar criticized the PA’s protest strategy. “It will not make pressure on the occupation to force them to feel that there are another people that need their freedom,” he said. “We must pressure the occupation, to force them to feel that this is a loser project. And all these activities, we don’t aim to kill anybody from the other side, from the Israelis. We want to initiate a nonviolent struggle in order to achieve freedom and justice.”

Besides the PA and Israel, Palestinian activists also have to worry about galvanizing a tired and frustrated Palestinian public. Some are skeptical.

“I don’t expect that huge of a reaction on the ground. It will be a little bit more than now, but not huge. I don’t expect that. We are working to push it that way to make it huge, and I wish, I hope I’m wrong,” said Younes Arar, the executive manager of the Beit Ommar-based Center for Freedom and Justice and a popular struggle activist. “People they are really, really frustrated. They are frustrated with the situation…. Somehow they give up. And that’s bad.”

In the meantime, popular struggle leaders are continuing to push to use the UN bid as an opportunity to focus the world on the Palestinian plight.

“This is a decisive stage,” said Mousa. “It is a matter of life or death…When Palestinians realize that their existence is at stake, I think they will be having the courage, the resolve to participate and join in our struggle.”

Alex Kane is a New York City-based freelance journalist who blogs on Israel/Palestine at alexbkane.wordpress.com. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.
 

23 Responses

  1. yourstruly
    September 18, 2011, 3:41 pm

    whether or not a palestinian uprising can catch the winds of the arab awakening?

    if it does?

    justice for palestine

    but if it doesn’t?

    the struggle continues

  2. seafoid
    September 18, 2011, 3:45 pm

    I think it’s interesting to compare the micro level where Jewish soldiers run all the checkpoints and control all Palestinian movement in the West Bank with the macro level where Defence Minister Chicken Licken is so freaked out that he isn’t even in Israel now and has gone to Washington to ask the Great Father WTF to do.

    In the Zionist space the Palestinians don’t even register on the radar but globally they are considered as people with rights and the PA is right to push this button and see what happens.

    For all of their arrogance and flash sunglasses the Israelis have been engaging in a lot of frenzied movement recently and it is very interesting to see the “give peace a chance” video to see how ludicrous the Jewish claim to the West Bank is. Is that the best Israel can do? Facts on the ground arguments seem to have vapourised.

    link to unitedwithisrael.org

    Israel is such a racist, small minded, bigoted freak show.

    Here is John Lennon with the same message

    link to youtube.com

    Who does the world listen to?

    • john h
      September 19, 2011, 1:19 am

      The warmongers, of course! That’s where money and power is.

  3. Taxi
    September 18, 2011, 3:46 pm

    Bill Clinton sounding like an idiot who hasn’t got a clue and yet he’s offering his ‘insight’ with words lifted from Aipac’s memo:
    link to msnbc.msn.com

    Politicians like to ‘rush’ into bad decisions and plans that have no clear and defined ‘exit’ strategy.

    • AhVee
      September 18, 2011, 9:31 pm

      “Politicians like to ‘rush’ into bad decisions and plans that have no clear and defined ‘exit’ strategy.”

      It’s to be expected, for lack of any kind of meaningful repercussion. When the shit hits the fan, the worst thing that can happen to them is retirement and waiting a few years for grass to grow over the whole affair. It’s funny how retirement from office is seen to be the *ultimate punishment* for a politician, while being made to retire with huge monthly income is probably your average Joe’s wet dream. The moment I see the likes of Bush & Bibi & various other heads of states having to defend themselves in front of the Den Hague tribunal is the day I’ll start having a little more faith in the way things are approached and run.

  4. seafoid
    September 18, 2011, 4:06 pm

    The Palestinian reticnnce on this should be put into perspective. The Palestinian people have been shafted by the world at every single turn since the Balfour Declaration.

    Oslo was probably the worst betrayal of confidence of them all.

    People gave up lives and businesses abroad to come back to Palestine and build what they thought was going to be a new state. And what did they get? Ariel Sharon.

    • john h
      September 18, 2011, 10:08 pm

      >> “The Palestinian people have been shafted by the world at every single turn since the Balfour Declaration.” <<

      This echoes what I said on another site some time ago:

      "There are three players in this whole sorry affair, but only one has always been shafted. That player is the Arabs of Palestine.

      Palestinians have continually been betrayed, ignored, disowned, and demonized. That is, betrayed by the powers, ignored by the world, disowned by other Arabs, and demonized by Zionists and their supporters."

  5. muzz al atesta
    September 18, 2011, 4:26 pm

    plenty of strength and sumud my brethren & sisters

    you are not alone

  6. POA
    September 18, 2011, 5:06 pm

    There is certainly no mystery behind what is about to occur.

    “Uprising” does not go near far enough in describing what Israel is about to do in order to cast the Palestinians as bloodthirsty savages. There will be unspeakable atrocities attributed to the Palestinians. Perhaps the Israelis will sacrifice an entire school, or, perhaps, the wing of a hospital.

    For sure, dead Israeli children are about to be paraded before the world community, held high as examples of how undeserving the Palestinians are of their own state.

    Extra, extra, read all about it.

    “Heathen monsters, one and all, these Palestinians. Feral and rabid animals. Look at these poor Israeli victims of the murderousPalestinian jihadists”

    THAT is the tale that will soon be plastered on our TV sets and on the front pages of the media manufactured sheets of coarsely abrasive toilet paper.

    • longliveisrael
      September 18, 2011, 11:21 pm

      Israel does NOT parade dead children murdered by terrorists and there have been plenty. Palestinians on the other hand do it all the time, even if they have to fabricate it. Of course, attempting rational thinking with someone who says that Israel would sacrifice a school or part of a hospital to make the Palestinians look bad is futile.

      • Hostage
        September 19, 2011, 5:13 am

        iIsrael does NOT parade dead children murdered by terrorists and there have been plenty.

        Of course you do. See Why did Israel release bloody images of the family slain in Itamar?”

      • Shmuel
        September 19, 2011, 6:59 am

        Israel does NOT parade dead children murdered by terrorists

        And Israeli bombers kill (far more) innocent civilians without committing suicide. The aesthetic argument is overwhelming.

      • Chaos4700
        September 19, 2011, 8:35 am

        BULL. SHIT. Two words: Holocaust industry. And I no longer associate S’barro with pizza, by the way.

      • Chaos4700
        September 19, 2011, 8:42 am
      • POA
        September 19, 2011, 9:08 am

        “Israel does NOT parade dead children murdered by terrorists and there have been plenty”

        Oh horseshit. “Parade” is a figure of speech. And to state that Israel does not hasbarize, exagerate, underscore, and capitalize on Israeli deaths is disingenuous to an extreme. Most Americans, if queried, are so misinformed and brainwashed that they would state with certainty that far more Israeli children have died than Palestinian children. Of course, you and I both know that to be a LIE. If this widely accepted UNTRUTH is not the result of Israel PARADING falsehoods about Israeli deaths, than just WTF do you attribute it to?

        I feel dirty everytime I engage one of you hasbarists. My God, is there anything more despicable than you characterless liars?

      • longliveisrael
        September 19, 2011, 10:58 am

        I feel dirty everytime I engage one of you hasbarists. My God, is there anything more despicable than you characterless liars?

        Yes, terrible parasites that we are, I can see why you feel dirty. Nothing a good shower won’t help. You do have showers, right?

        “Most Americans, if queried, are so misinformed and brainwashed that they would state with certainty that far more Israeli children have died than Palestinian children”

        Again this high and mighty leftist arrogance. We know it all, all other Americans are idiots and don’t have a clue.

      • annie
        September 19, 2011, 11:12 am

        jewish victims commonly make the mainstream news here very quickly. palestinians rarely do. that’s simply factual.

      • POA
        September 19, 2011, 6:55 pm

        “We know it all, all other Americans are idiots and don’t have a clue”

        Actually, you souless amoeba, here is the Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations, Ron Prosor, in a column today on the op/ed page of the Los Angeles Times….

        “Blahblahblah……Perhaps the citizens of southern Israel, semi-permanent residents of bomb shelters, could offer an informed answer. The continued rain of Hamas rockets, mortar shells, and missiles on ISRAELI HOMES, HOSPITALS, and SCHOOLS provides a vivid illustration that the Palestinian Authority is both unwilling and unable to uphold….blahblabhlah…..”

        So uh, tell me, LLI, when was the last time a school or a hospital was hit? And, whats the difference between a “rocket” and a “missile”? Could it be that Head Ambassador Scumbag Prosor is a feckless liar, composing rhetoric that can ONLY be described as absurd and disingenuous??

        Heres another little Prosor ditty, dished out to the gullible American public by this over-rated manufacturer of texted toilet paper, The L.A.Times…….

        “Blahblahblah…..Abbas has not set foot in Gaza since the Hamas Terrorist organization carried out a bloody coup and took control of the area in 2007……..Blahblablah…………..blahblah….”

        Damn, and here I thought Hamas was democratically elected.

        It is truly telling how much of the Israeli narrative is constructed of pure unadulterated crap. Don’t you dirtbags understand that if you have to defend something with lies and obsfucations, that it is not worth defending?

      • Chaos4700
        September 19, 2011, 7:28 pm

        “Leftist arrogance” didn’t kill thousands of American troops and over a million Iraqis and Afghanis.

  7. tombishop
    September 18, 2011, 6:46 pm

    It seems the world is finally waking up to the injustice that the Palestinians have suffered since 1948. If nothing else, this week will expose the reactionary nature of the Zionist settler movement, as they must do on the world stage what they have been doing for years.

    I have concerns about the two state solution, however. The Zionist settler movement has made this solution unviable. What the Palestinians will be left with is an apartheid state completely at the mercy of the Zionist leadership in Israel.

    The other danger is that a two state solution could lead to a situation that existed in the partition of India and Pakistan along religious lines in 1947. Abbas’s recent statement that Jews and Muslims cannot live together in Palestine/Israel is not reassuring. It is estimated that the ethnic cleansing required for the partition of India and Pakistan lead to the slaughter of over one million people in 1947/48. There is constant military tension between them that has lead to four wars. Could this be the future for Palestine and Israel?

    The only way forward is for a leadership to emerge in Israel and Palestine calling for one secular and democratic state where all would be treated equally without regard to religion or national origin. The current leadership of both countries is looking out for the economic interests of a tiny elite in their country, not the interests of all the people of the region.

    This may sound far-fetched given the current situation, but look at the alternative!

    • john h
      September 18, 2011, 10:29 pm

      I agree with you, tombishop, that the 2ss is unviable, especially as the 1967 lines seem to be the basis rather than the 1947 partition legal borders.

      Your mention of the India/Pakistan 1947 partition “solution” is a fitting reminder of a situation too similar to brush off. Their history since then is, however, not necessarily a good example of similar future I/P relations, as it is too skewed by the continuing result of the disastrous undemocratic decision at the time on Kashmir. That is what has always poisoned good relations.

      The way ahead you propose does not sound at all far-fetched regardless of the current situation, and bears repeating:

      “The only way forward is for a leadership to emerge in Israel and Palestine calling for one secular and democratic state where all would be treated equally without regard to religion or national origin.”

  8. Daniel Rich
    September 18, 2011, 7:33 pm

    Q: There remains uncertainty about what exactly the Palestinian Authority is looking to attain this month, and what might come next.

    R: A dreaded trip to one of the courts in The Hague? Where’s John Bolton when you need the sixth wheel to a five-member, Israeli delegation to the UN?

  9. Hostage
    September 18, 2011, 8:14 pm

    The PA, it seems, is hoping that the combination of the UN bid and controlled protests are a way out of their quandary: having to both show the Palestinian public that they are doing something to end the occupation and pleasing the US and Israel by keeping control.

    That is a frequently repeated analysis, but it has always been the United Nations General Assembly, the Security Council, and the Quartet that have laid down the conditions, including the adoption of the armistice lines as interim borders pending final negotiations on swaps and the role of the PA Security forces. The cost of that deal has always been elimination of illegal outposts, a freeze on new construction in the settlements, putting an end to the occupation, removing the Wall from their territory, and recognition of their own independent state:

    *Affirming the necessity of ending the conflict on the basis of the two-State solution of Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace and security based on the Armistice Line of 1949, in accordance with relevant Security Council and General Assembly resolutions, – A/RES/ES-10/14 link to unispal.un.org
    *Reaffirming also the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, including their right to their independent State of Palestine, . . . Calling upon both parties to fulfil their obligations under relevant provisions of the road map, the Palestinian Authority to undertake visible efforts on the ground to arrest, disrupt and restrain individuals and groups conducting and planning violent attacks, and the Government of Israel to take no actions undermining trust, including deportations and attacks on civilians and extrajudicial killings, A/RES/ES-10/15 link to unispal.un.org
    *Phase I: Ending Terror And Violence, Normalizing Palestinian Life, And Building Palestinian Institutions, Present To May 2003 . . .Palestinians declare an unequivocal end to violence and terrorism and undertake visible efforts on the ground to arrest, disrupt, and restrain individuals and groups conducting and planning violent attacks on Israelis anywhere. . . . Rebuilt and refocused Palestinian Authority security apparatus begins sustained, targeted, and effective operations aimed at confronting all those engaged in terror and dismantlement of terrorist capabilities and infrastructure.
    *Phase II: Transition, June 2003-December 2003 . . . the Palestinians will have the active support of the Quartet and the broader international community in establishing an independent, viable, state. . . . Quartet members promote international recognition of Palestinian state, including possible UN membership. –S/2003/529, Annex, Quartet Road Map.

    *”If the United States wants the Palestinian Authority to continue to exist, then the price is the establishment of a Palestinian state in keeping with the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital . . . But if the United States vetoes accepting Palestine to the United Nations in the Security Council, uses its financial aid to the PA as political blackmail and leaves Israel as the source of authority, then in my opinion, the PA must cease to exist. . . .The Palestinian Authority has a mission called independence. If the PA cannot achieve independence, it’s better that it didn’t exist at all.” — PLO Executive Committee Member Saeb Erekat link to haaretz.com

    Now the Palestinians are trying to redeem those promises and it is the General Assembly, the Security Council, and the Quartet who are hesitating to accept the 1967 borders with agreed swaps as the interim basis for UN membership and a final solution – even though that is a violation of their own resolutions and Road Map.

    To prepare, the PA has reportedly purchased tear gas grenades and rubber bullets from Israel.

    The PA has deny reports in the Israeli press that it has purchased Israeli weapons. It claims they were simply an attempt to incite the Palestinian public. link to maannews.net

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