The evolution of Palestinian resistance: a need to reassess

Ending the 1967 occupation is insufficient. Rather, Palestinian resistance should seek the decolonization of all of historic Palestine.

Rinad Abdulla
18 December 2014

This barrier has been labelled an 'apartheid wall' by Palestinian NGOs, It is deemed by Israeli's to be a security measure and divide between Palestinian and Israeli people. Flickr/Jacob Rask. Some rights reserved.

The debate about the legitimacy, or even legality, of resistance is frequently associated with discussion of racist regimes, colonialism and occupation. For peoples living under cruel domination, resistance becomes necessary when it becomes evident to them that there is no government or law to protect them from oppression.

Palestinian resistance takes many forms: organized weekly protests in villages; armed struggle; youth confronting raiding Israeli armored jeeps in their villages and refugee camps; and the Boycott, Sanctions and Divestment campaign. All forms of resistance should be complementary to each other and not be considered mutually exclusive in terms of legitimacy. It is necessary to clarify who and what the resistance should be directed against, along with its ultimate goals.

The most effective resistance should aim for a comprehensive solution towards remedying the wrongs of Zionism, which sought the removal of the indigenous Palestinian population and aimed to replace them with Jewish immigrants from all over the world. The best remedy to restore the rights of all Palestinians is to eradicate the resulting Zionist institutions and to grant citizenship and equal rights for all inhabitants living in historic Palestine.

This means that ending the 1967 occupation is insufficient. Rather, Palestinian resistance should seek the decolonization of all of historic Palestine. There are over 6 million Palestinian in the diaspora waiting to exercise their legal Right of Return. There are roughly 1.4 million Palestinians living in the State of Israel under discriminatory laws. There are 4.5 million Palestinians living under a brutal occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Many are stateless and stripped of their nationality and property rights, while others suffer daily violations of their civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.

All Palestinians deserve a remedial solution: legally, morally and ethically. Natural rights of equality, justice and freedom are incontestable and should form the basis of the Palestinian resistance movement.

The demand for equal rights as a remedy for past injustices is inclusive and fair. To focus only on Palestinian resistance from the historical point of the 1967 occupation ignores the demands and rights of over half of the Palestinian people who live outside the borders of what is now being acknowledged as the “State of Palestine.” This obfuscates the root of the oppression because it is a fragmented, disconnected and unviable remnant of historic Palestine.

Indeed, Palestinian resistance predates 1948, when Zionist militias forcibly displaced nearly 80% of the indigenous Palestinian population and established the State of Israel, known to Palestinians as the Nakba. Palestinian resistance began with a series of revolts against the British Mandate, when it became clear to the Palestinians what the British Mandate was implementing—the removal and replacement of the indigenous Palestinian population. Despite assurances that the 1917 Balfour Declaration—Britain’s written promise to the Jews to create a home for them in Palestine—did not intend to displace the indigenous Palestinian Arabs, considerable tensions arose between the Palestinian Arabs and the mass influx of European Jews. After all, these new immigrants were vying to establish a new State in the midst of the Palestinians, and the British plan intended to change the demographics of the population of Palestine. In 1917, at the time of the Balfour Declaration, the Palestinian Arab population was 92% and the Jewish population was 6%. The British established and implemented an unlimited immigration policy for Jews from European countries in order to ensure that the Arab Palestinians became a minority over the next few decades.

Settler colonialism is never a peaceful venture. Naturally, the colonizer uses violence and the colonized responds in kind. During the British Mandate, it was clear that resistance should be directed against both the Zionists who were planning to take their place and the British who were implementing the plan. With the 1947 United Nations Partition Plan, and the creation of the State of Israel, the Zionists ensured the transformation of Palestinian lands into a Jewish majority through massacres, forced transfer of entire villages and military rule. In order to guarantee that the Palestinians transferred out of the new State did not return to their homes and villages, it defended the newly acquired territories with military might and enacted numerous new “laws” such as the infiltration law, which criminalized attempts by Palestinians to return to their villages. The new Zionist State set up courts, enacted legislation and continued violently enforcing the settler-colonialist project despite promising the world that it was a peace-loving country. In reality, the Israeli government has continued a series of systematic discriminatory policies against its own citizens based on ethnic origin and religion and continues to annex territory through violence and apartheid-like practices of herding and confining Palestinians into tiny fragmented enclaves.

After the 1967 war and the capture of the remaining parts of Palestine from Jordan and Egypt, this Zionist movement took an advanced leap towards transforming Palestine into Eretz-Israel from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. The international community and the United Nations immediately cried foul to the capture of additional territory by force. Colonization of Palestinian lands was acceptable in 1948, but not in 1967. The United Nations Security Council issued Resolution 242, demanding a withdrawal from “territories occupied in the recent conflict.” This narrowed the struggle from return to demanding withdrawal of Israeli forces from the additional lands Israel captured in 1967.

The Zionist settler-colonial project upped the ante with the newly captured territories and the Palestinians resisted en masse with two Intifadas in 1987 and 2000. However, the resistance focused on ending the occupation rather than return and liberation.

Today, Israel has involved another actor to assist in its colonization of the remaining Palestinian lands: the Palestinian Authority (PA). With the creation of the Israeli-approved, EU-US and Arab States-funded PA in 1994, the settler colonial project took a new approach, offering limited self-rule on a portion of Palestine while settling as much land as they can. Like the Bantusans of the South African Apartheid government, Israel offered an elite group political power and legitimized its program of remove-and-replace. Only this time, the PA provided security and legitimacy in its own Bantustan. Israel retained ultimate control of the arrangement. Israel and the United States control the Palestinian security forces. This includes approving police officers and intelligence agents, and limiting their weapons. Even the estimated 27% of the PA budget spent on security is funded mostly by the United States, which also trains the security forces in the suppression of Palestinian resistance.

Seen by Palestinians as corrupt and collaborating with Israel in their oppression, the PA is leading the Palestinians down a dangerous path. Claiming to represent Palestinian interests, over 6 million Palestinians are excluded in the struggle against settler-colonialism because they live as displaced refugees outside the borders of the proposed Palestinian State. Meanwhile, those who live under PA rule are subject to violence and intimidation if they try to resist the continuing colonization of what remains of Palestine. Palestinian police are dispatched to protect the illegal Israeli settlements when protests take place. Palestinian prisoners rotate between Palestinian and Israeli prisons.

To be effective, it is important to reflect upon the history of the resistance, to understand the shift that the settler-colonialism project has taken, and to identify the actors it has employed to continue its activities, even if that involves Palestinians themselves. Collaborators are nothing new to resistance movements. Yet when it takes place under what appears to be a legitimate government, it is time to reassess and regroup before the resistance is even further reduced to defending an even smaller remnant of the land and peoples.

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