Roots of Resistance: Israeli repression reminiscent of the first intifada may provoke a new uprising


Israeli soldiers torture Palestinians during the first intifada. (Warning: Graphic)

This post is part of the series “Roots of Resistance: 25 year retrospective on the first intifada.” Read the entire series here.

Yesterday, two Israeli ministers initiated a request within the Knesset that, if approved, would permit the Israeli army the right to use live ammunition against Palestinian civilian demonstrators. If passed, such a ruling sets a dangerous standard in place for all Palestinians committed to nonviolently resisting Israel’s occupation.

However, Israel’s use of live ammunition on unarmed Palestinian civilians is by no means a new tactic. In fact, it is eerily reminiscent of the days of the First Intifada, the 25th anniversary of which we celebrated just three days ago. While working as a medical doctor in occupied Palestine, I had to provide medical care and organize first aid teams to help the thousands of young people shot and injured by the Israeli army. Many of them were shot in the back, leaving them paralyzed from the waist down. Those were the lucky ones, however. The unlucky ones ended up suffering fatal gunshot wounds to the head.

Logo design2
A Palestinian woman outside Gaza’s Ansar II prison camp,
January 8, 1988. (Photo: Sven Nackstrand/AFP/Getty Images)

During the six years of our First Intifada, 1,200 Palestinianins—237 of which were children—were killed by the Israeli military and over 120,000 were imprisoned. Moreover, in just the first two years of the, approximately 29,900 children required medical treatment for injuries caused by beatings from Israeli soldiers, according to data compiled by the IMEU.

The systematic brutality of the Israeli army in those days cannot accurately be described.

Demonstrators who were caught by the Israeli army had the bones in their hands shattered to pieces with rifle butts. Yitzak Rabin, the Minister of Defense in 1987 and subsequent Nobel Peace Prize winner, had given explicit orders to his troops instructing them to break the limbs of Palestinians participating in the uprising. The order was unerringly carried out and eventually exposed on by video tape displaying four Israeli soldiers using stones to break the bones of two young Palestinian men they had just detained. The clip can be seen in the second part of the video above.

During this period, in April of 1988, I accompanied four physicians with American Physicians for Human Rights, three of which were Jewish-American doctors, who came to the territories in order to document and expose the grave violations committed by Israel against Palestinian civil rights activists. They came in response to the wide number of injuries and the then Israeli run health care system’s inability or, more probably, lack of will to appropriately treat them. At the time, the Israeli government was in complete charge of the territories as well as its health system. To glimpse the situation briefly, at the time Israel was allocating $600 USD in health services for every Israeli citizen and just $18 USD to every Palestinian citizen for the same purposes. Our health care system just couldn’t handle the number of injuries.

For that reason, we organized and trained thousands of first aid volunteers in order to meet our struggling population’s needs. Any demonstrator taken to a hospital was at risk of being arrested, so we organized a community based first aid system and popular blood bank that operated within people’s homes and small informal clinics within the villages. We went from house to house, compiling a comprehensive blood donor network – a database we compiled on our first ever computer, a 286 Dos, one of the few computers in the entire country at the time.

Whenever someone was injured, we would check their blood type against our database and call up the appropriate donors; however, soon enough, our doctors had to pay the price for their humanitarian work.  In response to our grassroots efforts in treating the wounded without informing the occupying Israeli authorities, the Israeli army began to arrest and jail our medical doctors. Doctors such as Mahmoud Brighith, the current Director General of the Palestinian Medical Relief Society (PMRS) as well as Mohammad Abushi, the director of PMRS in the Tulkaram area, were both arrested for over a year for treating injured people without a permit from the Israeli army.

I will never forget the images of those who were viciously killed while peacefully demonstrating for our freedom. I will never forget the image of the young man who was shot and killed while climbing a street light in an attempt to hang the Palestinian flag. All he wanted to do was raise our flag.

So many sacrifices were made. If history was just, the first Intifada should have brought us our independence. If it wasn’t for Oslo, that awful trap into which the Palestinian leadership fell and which subsequently dragged this conflict on for the last twenty years and counting, today we would probably be living in freedom and peace in a sovereign Palestinian state via the full implementation of the two state solution. 

Instead, we have seen Israeli settlements rise exponentially  over the last 19 years. Israel’s illegal settler population has more than doubled since the beginning of Oslo and now lies somewhere in the realm of 550,000 in both the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

And now the Israeli army is officially allowing its soldiers to shoot peaceful civilian demonstrators, in addition to ramping up its settlement activity and withholding Palestinian tax dollars. To me, these aggressive actions seem to be the type of constant provocations that would push things towards a third Intifada—hopefully a peaceful nonviolent one through which we will achieve what should have been achieved twenty years ago, a just and lasting peace with dignity and full sovereignty.

About Dr. Mustafa Barghouti

Dr. Mustafa Barghouti is a member of the Palestinian Parliament and Secretary General of the Palestinian National Initiative.
Posted in Israel/Palestine, Israeli Government, Occupation, On the ground reports, Roots of Resistance

{ 20 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. IrishMark says:

    The “most moral army in the world” in action.

    I read yesterday that the IDF raided a Palestinian NGO on the orders of Moldovan former bouncer Avigdor Lieberman. The Irish Times

    The EU is sadly, spineless. Despite harsh words, they will not do anything as all member states have to agree on policy. I have written to our foreign minister but he says that it’s unlikely any change in policy will occur. Even labelling settlement produce is contentious.

    These videos need to have English subtitles before people will pay attention. 90% of my co workers have no idea what goes on because they don’t read it or see it on TV.

  2. Dan Crowther says:

    Got to think they want another intifada, not so sure I would be rooting for one – not saying Barghouti is, just saying with all the war(s) going on right now in the region, Israel will have the full support of the US no matter what it does in the name of security, right up to and including “temporarily displacing” Palestinians on the West Bank, and opening up the gates to the Egyptian border with Gaza right before they invade from southern israel. If the whole ME is on fire……..

  3. Edward Q says:

    Elie Wiesel wrote an editorial in the Washington Post about the first Intifada, stating that the Jews would never forgive the Palestinians for forcing them to such brutality.

  4. Kathleen says:

    Powerful.

    For some reason when I try to link the above post to my facebook timeline it will not post. This has never happened before from your site.

  5. American says:

    U.S. to sell Israel munitions to renew stock after Operation Pillar of Defense
    Department of Defense notifies Congress of $647 million deal that includes the sale of 6,900 precision bomb kits to the Israel Air Force.
    By Barak Ravid | Dec.11, 2012 | 11:21 AM | 72

    The deal will include the supply of 6,900 precision bomb kits to the Israel Air Force. The U.S. Department of Defense notified Congress of the sale on Monday.
    The deal states that the U.S. will supply Israel with some 6,900 Joint Attack Munitions tail kits, which convert regular bombs into “smart” munitions, which are guided by satellite and allow precise hits on targets.
    The U.S. will also supply Israel with 10,000 bombs of various kinds – 3,450 bombs weighing a ton each, 1,725 bombs weighing 250 kilograms each, 1,725 BLU-109 bunker-buster bombs, and 3,450 GBU-39 bunker-buster bombs intended for fortified targets with minimal impact in order to prevent harm to innocent civilians.
    The purpose of the deal is to renew Israel’s munitions inventory following Operation Pillar of Defense in Gaza last month. During the operation, Israel carried out more than a thousand attacks in Gaza and the IAF used munitions mostly in attacks against rocket-launching tunnels as well as weapons smuggling tunnels belonging to Hamas and other terror groups in Gaza.
    link to haaretz.com

  6. Avi_G. says:

    The US media would refuse to broadcast this:

    In response to our grassroots efforts in treating the wounded without informing the occupying Israeli authorities, the Israeli army began to arrest and jail our medical doctors.

    But they would eagerly broadcast this:

    In response to our grassroots efforts in treating the wounded without informing the Iranian occupying Israeli authorities, the Iranian Israeli army began to arrest and jail our medical doctors.

    Heck, I don’t even think doctors in Iran need permission from authorities before they treat the wounded.

    The Only Democracy in the Middle East. Shared Values. Judeo-Christian Values. Closest Friend and Ally.

    • subconscious says:

      Using medical need to punish peaceful dissidents, of which intimidation of doctors who’d provide such treatments would be an example, is among the most merciless practices of repressive regimes which is not all that rare in the Middle East. Contrary to your belief, the Islamic Republic of Iran has engaged in such practices. Dragging injured protesters from hospitals, thereby scaring them out of seeking treatment, and ordering doctors to report such patients were practiced during the 2009 post-election protests:
      link to iranhumanrights.org
      Withholding of medical attention for the purpose of torturing political prisoners is an ongoing practice of the IRI:
      link to thelancet.com
      link to amnesty.org

      Bahrain is another instance where injured protesters and medical personnel who help them have been under attack during the recent unrest:
      link to hrw.org
      And in Syria bombardment of hospitals and torturing of doctors are gov’t favorites:
      link to pbs.org

  7. mondonut says:

    This part makes no sense at all. In the absence of Oslo the Palestinians would have foregone Jerusalem and the RoR? Or would they have somehow taken Jerusalem and forced the Israelis to admit millions of hostile Palestinians into Israel?

    If it wasn’t for Oslo, that awful trap into which the Palestinian leadership fell and which subsequently dragged this conflict on for the last twenty years and counting, today we would probably be living in freedom and peace in a sovereign Palestinian state via the full implementation of the two state solution.

    • ritzl says:

      The trap is that instead of entering into a formal arrangement with a party that everyone now knows operates in total bad faith, enabling that party to use the arrangement to confiscate more land, while the PA simultaneously acquiesced (quiesced?) in an effort to show itself to be the eternally just out of reach “partner for peace,” they would have continued to actively resist and point out the bad faith/dispossession through ongoing, growing (and increasingly uncomfortable for Israel) popular protest.

      • mondonut says:

        ritzl says: The trap is that instead of entering …
        =================================
        Thanks, but that does not answer how the absence of Oslo solves the red line issues.

        • oslo was a fraud that allowed israel to determine what WB land could be designated as state land for military necessity/ security purposes. that’s how they stole the land. google ‘netanyahu leaked tape(or video) oslo’

        • mondonut says:

          Annie Robbins says: oslo was a fraud ….
          ======================================
          Again, how would have the absence of the “fraud” led to the implementation of a 2SS ?

        • ritzl says:

          @mondonut Just for clarification, what are the “red line” issues to be solved, to you?

        • mondonut says:

          @ritzl. As above, Jerusalem and RoR.

        • ritzl says:

          @mondonut Well, in the “knowing now what we only suspected then” department:

          Jerusalem: Palestinian residents of Jerusalem should have taken the citizenship or voting rights offered then (iirc) and voted as a block to create enough of an unignorable minority, or with some coordinated effort with Jewish Israeli allies, a majority bloc to vote less thuggish ethnic cleansers into the Jerusalem municipal government.

          RoR: The default position, sans Oslo, would have been an again, un-ignorable (effected and compounded by protests), condition where there were (are still) a couple of million internally displaced persons (IDPs) within what would have been recognized 20 years ago as one state. None of this “what are we trying to achieve, really” confusion about tactics on the Palestinian side, or consuming obfuscation on the Israeli side. IOW, clarity of purpose.

          There’s probably myriad other ways this could have played out, but those are just two possibilities off the top of my head.

          I have no idea, even in hindsight, what the outcome(s) would have been for each “red line” with a 20 year head start on where it all is today, but I think it’s safe to say there would have been much more early-on clarity in terms of the extent and acceptability of Israeli actions and disingenuousness, and perhaps through that clarity, more unanimity and therefore progress in terms of strident (a 20 year peaceful intifada?) Palestinian tactics and results.

          So in your “red line” terms, the trap was/is that the Palestinians are now in a vastly weaker position (arguably, but only arguably because of their current option, if it hasn’t been negotiated away in advance, to access the ICC), with vastly tougher obstacles to overcome.

  8. Les says:

    On Jeffrey Blankfort’s Takes on the World today on KZYX radio, Blankfort observed the sadism of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.

    I recommend Mondoweiss followers to look at Eyal Weizman’s short article about Israel’s latest atttack on Gaza in the current London Review of Books. Note that Weizman is a London based architect.

    link to lrb.co.uk

  9. Kathleen says:

    Folks should link this post where ever they can. So important that these video’s of what has and continues to take place under the apartheid government of Israel needs to be spread far and wide. These video’s are brutal to watch. And one thinks about what the Israel Occupation Force does behind closed doors. Does anyone know what happened to the first young man in the clip that was bloodied and they kept beating him and the other two Palestinians that looked as if they were having every limb in their bodies purposely broken. These soldiers are sick sick individuals. The whole culture of Israel has become very ill..

  10. Bumblebye says:

    And so it begins.
    Breaking News on Al Jazeera right now, 17 y o killed at a checkpoint in Hebron. Latest on their front page is up to 3 dead in the following uproar.
    link to aljazeera.com

  11. RE: “Israel’s use of live ammunition on unarmed Palestinian civilians is by no means a new tactic. In fact, it is eerily reminiscent of the days of the First Intifada . . .” ~ Dr. Mustafa Barghouti

    AS TO THE SECOND INTIFADA, SEE: “The Dogs of War: The Next Intifada”, By Uri Avnery, Counterpunch, 9/03/11

    [EXCERPT] . . . The second (“al-Aqsa”) intifada started after the breakdown of the 2000 Camp David conference and Ariel Sharon’s deliberately provocative “visit” to the Temple Mount. The Palestinians held non-violent mass demonstrations. The army responded with selective killings. A sharpshooter accompanied by an officer would take position in the path of the protest, and the officer would point out selected targets – protesters who looked like “ringleaders”. They were killed.
    This was highly effective. Soon the non-violent demonstrations ceased and were replaced by very violent (“terrorist”) actions. With those the army was back on familiar ground. . .

    ENTIRE COMMENTARY – link to counterpunch.org