Wednesday, November 4, 2015

REDFLAG: Palestine's history of resistance

Dear friends,
please find below my latest article published by Redflag on the history of Palestinian resistance.  This article is currently only available in the hard copy of Red Flag (however, an earlier, much shorter version called "Why we support the Palestinian rebellion" is available online, click here ).

You can check out Redflag for my other online articles on Palestine, Aboriginal Rights and South Korea (and the occasional other subject/issue) by clicking here

RedFlag is a strong supporter of the Palestinian people and the Palestinian struggle for justice and self-determination, as well as other struggles for justice in Australia and around the world. 

Redflag is available by digital subscription if you would like to support the independent press and get news and analysis that you would not read in the mainstream commercial press.

in solidarity, Kim

Palestine’s history of resistance

Kim Bullimore, 27 October 2015 / RedFlag

Fifty-three Palestinians are now dead, including 11 children, as young Palestinians across the Occupied Territories have risen up against Israeli occupation, apartheid and colonialism.

Thirty-eight have been killed in Occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank and 14 in Gaza. More than two-thirds of the dead have been younger than 20 years old. At least 1,900 have been injured by Israeli gunfire and thousands others have suffered from the effects of teargas, while nearly 900 have been detained by the Israeli state in mass arrests.

A history of resistance
According to Palestinian historian Mazin Qumsiyeh, this is not the third intifada; it is the fourteenth. The young Palestinians, both male and female, currently on the streets resisting Israel’s occupation and apartheid regime are marching in the footsteps of previous generations who struggled against not only the Israeli state but also British imperialism and Zionist settler-colonialism during the British occupation of Palestine (1917-1948).

Palestinian opposition to Zionist settler-colonialism resulted in bloody riots in 1920, 1921 and 1929, leaving hundreds of Palestinians and Zionists dead. In 1936, one of the longest strikes in modern history was launched as part of a three year anti-colonial uprising. The 1936-1939 revolt involved the entire population, with popular committees set up in every city and village.

As repression of the non-violent struggle escalated, thousands of young Palestinian men and women took up arms against the British military and police. In the end it took more than 35,000 British and Zionist troops to put down the revolt, at the cost of approximately 5,000 Palestinian lives.

Almost a decade later, more than 1 million Palestinians were forced to flee their homes during the 1948 Nakba (“catastrophe”), ethnically cleansed from their homeland by Zionist militias. More than 750,000 fled to neighbouring Arab states and 100-150,000 became internally displaced refugees in the newly formed Israeli state.

Between 1949 and 1966, Palestinians inside the Zionist state were placed under martial law. Despite being subject to regular curfew and restrictions being placed on their education, employment and political activity, Palestinians continued to resist, organising political parties and protests despite threats and intimidation.

Palestinian refugees in exile also resisted Israel’s ethnic cleansing by organising rallies and protests demanding the right of return to their homes. In 1957, exiled Palestinian students formed Fatah, which eight years later launched an armed struggle to try and win back their homeland.

In the wake of Israel’s seizure and occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza and the Golan Heights in June 1967, Palestinians once again suffered ethnic cleansing and dispossession. Yet they kept resisting despite violent Israeli military repression.

On 8 December 1987, an Israeli truck ploughed into a car killing four Palestinians in Gaza. Angry demonstrations erupted, marking the beginning of what popularly became known as the First Intifada. A grassroots mass uprising, similar in many ways to the 1936 strike and revolt, the Intifada represented a “shaking off” of Israel’s occupation and involved the vast majority of Palestinians. The uprising was led politically by the Unified Leadership of the Uprising (UNLU), which comprised all the major Palestinian factions.

The UNLU called for the formation of popular committees in each village and town to oppose Israel’s occupation through a coordinated boycott of Israeli goods, a refusal to pay Israeli taxes, a boycott of working in Zionist settlements and a general strike and closure of all businesses for designated periods both in the Occupied Territories and inside Israel.
In response to the uprising, Israel placed the Occupied Territories under curfew and instituted a policy of mass arrests, accompanied by the beating and shooting of unarmed Palestinian demonstrators and mass exile of Palestinians. Unable to stop the Intifada by force, the Israeli ruling class reluctantly entered into “peace negotiations” with the Palestine Liberation Organisation.

In late 1993, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli prime minister Yitzak Rabin sign the Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements, also known as the Oslo Accords, which formally brought the intifada to an end. While the Accords were heralded as laying a foundation for interim self-rule in the Occupied Territories, which would eventually lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state, they only led to a deepening of Israel’s occupation and oppression of the Palestinian people.

The Second Intifada erupted on 29 September 2000 in response to Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon’s provocative visit to the Al-Aqsa mosque compound. By the end of the first day, seven Palestinians were dead and 300 wounded. In response, demonstrations spread like wildfire across the Occupied Territories and within Israel.

Israel’s repression of the protests was brutal. More than 1.3 million live rounds of ammunition were fired in just a few days. In the first five days Israeli occupation forces killed 47 Palestinians, including several Palestinian citizens of Israel, and injured almost 2,000. By the end of four weeks, 141 Palestinians were dead and nearly 6,000 injured.

While the Second Intifada had begun, like previous uprisings, as a grassroots rebellion, it became increasingly militarised as a result of Israel’s brutal repression, which made popular protest almost impossible. The asymmetrical conflict led to the use of suicide bombings, resulting in the deaths of approximately 500 Israelis.

Israel’s campaign to repress the militarised intifada resulted in 2,859 Palestinians killed and tens of thousands injured over four years. Israel also demolished more than 3,700 Palestinian homes and jailed more than 7,000 Palestinians.

A new uprising
The decades of ethnic cleansing, the growth of illegal colonies, the lawlessness of the illegal settlers, the theft of land, the suffocation of commercial life, and the collaboration of the Palestinian leadership mean that the character of this latest round of resistance is significantly different to those of the past.

As Omar Barghouti, writing at US news site, explained:

This phase of popular Palestinian resistance has broken out spontaneously, in reaction to exceptionally repressive policies of the most racist, settler-dominated and far-right government in Israel’s history.

Since Benjamin Netanyahu’s return to power in 2009, Israel’s descent into unmasked, right wing extremism has accelerated alarmingly … [A] steady stream of discriminatory, anti-democratic laws targeting Palestinian citizens of Israel, and to a lesser extent Jewish-Israeli critics of Israel’s apartheid regime, have been passed by the Israeli parliament …Following a recent visit to occupied Palestine, South African Parliamentary Speaker Baleka Mbete wrote, ‘Apartheid in South Africa was a picnic compared to what we have seen in the occupied territories’.”

Israel’s occupation is marked by both its extensive military control of Palestinian territory but also its settlement expansion. According to Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, by 2010, Israeli settlers and their organisations were in control of 42 percent of the West Bank. In the 20 years since the Oslo Accords, the number of Israeli settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem has increased from 260,000 to 650,000.

The lawlessness of these illegal colonists has been a major factor in sparking the current rebellion.

Since Israel’s evacuation of settlers from Gaza in 2005, Zionist settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem have carried out a campaign of violent “price tag” (revenge) attacks against Palestinians. As Isabel Kershner noted on 3 October in the New York Times, these attacks are designed to “exact a price from local Palestinians or from the Israeli security forces for any action taken against their settlement enterprise”.

On 31 July, colonists fire bombed the home of a Palestinian family in the village of Duma. The attack resulted in an 18-month-old baby, Ali Dawabsheh, being burnt to death. The rest of his family sustained horrific burns. Ali’s parents, Saad and Reham, died a week later as a result of their injuries. On 10 September, Israel’s defence minister Moshe Ya’alon told the Israeli media: “We know who is responsible, but we will not expose those findings in order to protect our intelligence sources”.

While the previous intifadas were dominated by the Palestinian factions, Palestinian youth today are organising through their own networks, largely via social media, to coordinate their rebellion. As one Palestinian youth told the Middle East Eye on 12 October: 

Almost everyone is part of a party, or at least they support a party in Palestine, but that is something separate from what’s happening right now … Right now we are going to the streets against the Israeli occupation in demand of our rights, we don’t need our parties for that, no one is talking about parties, this is an intifada from the people alone”.

Why we support the Palestinians
The Palestinian youth, who are on the front lines throwing stones, are there because they have never known one single day when they could move freely.

They have never known one single day of being able to attend school without fear that the Israeli military might fire tear-gas into their classrooms or invade their school yard.
They have never known one single day when they did not experience the terror of night raids or the Israeli military invading their villages and their homes or the homes of their family, friends and loved ones.

The young men and women on the front lines have witnessed three major attacks on Gaza in six years. They watched as more than 4,100 of their people were massacred in these attacks, trapped in the largest open-air prison in the world.

As veteran Israeli journalist Amira Hass so eloquently wrote in a 7 October article for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz:

The Palestinians are fighting for their life, in the full sense of the word. We Israeli Jews are fighting for our privilege as a nation of masters, in the full ugliness of the term.

That we notice there’s a war on only when Jews are murdered does not cancel out the fact that Palestinians are being killed all the time, and that all the time we are doing everything in our power to make their lives unbearable. Most of the time it is a unilateral war, waged by us, to get them to say ‘yes’ to the master, thank you very much for keeping us alive in our reservations. When something in the war’s one-sidedness is disturbed, and Jews are murdered, then we pay attention.

Young Palestinians do not go out to murder Jews because they are Jews, but because we are their occupiers, their torturers, their jailers, the thieves of their land and water, their exilers, the demolishers of their homes, the blockers of their horizon.”

As Hass notes, the goal of Israel’s unilateral war is to force Palestinians to give up all of their national demands.

But for more than 100 years, Palestinians have remained sumoud (steadfast); they have never given up their dream of independence, nor have they given up on their homeland. They have shown time and time again that they will not buckle, no matter how strong their occupier or how weak their own leadership. They will always find the strength to resist.
It is our job to stand in solidarity with them.

[Kim Bullimore co-organised the first Australian national Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Conference in support of Palestine in 2010 and is the author of ”BDS and the struggle for a free Palestine”, which appears in the book, Left turn: political essays for the new left. Kim blogs at Live from occupied Palestine.]

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