Resistance in Gaza, Shoufat, Naqab and Haifa. Courtesy of the Qawim (Resist) movement. All rights reserved.
“When people saw what had happened to my son, men stood up who had never stood up before.”
This famous quote belongs to Mamie Till-Mobley, after her 14 year old son Emmett was brutally murdered in 1955 Mississippi. An all-white jury acquitted his murderers. Nearly 60 years later, the lynching of a 16 year old Palestinian boy by Israeli settlers took place in Jerusalem. Mohammed Abu Khdeir was kidnapped, forced to drink gasoline, and was burned alive.
Mainstream media similarly acquitted the state of Israel, conveniently ignoring the racist, ethnocentric, and colonial ideology the state is premised upon. Reports circulated that Abu Khdeir’s murder was a ‘revenge killing’ after three settlers, reported missing for three weeks, were found dead on June 30. Palestinians took to the streets in outrage, yet the reaction of the de facto president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas was at the very least insipid. His response came almost a week after the lynching, when he announced he had sought help to form an international committee to investigate Israeli crimes against Palestinians. Such a dry proposition is in stark contrast to his words when it came to the three missing settlers. Then, he stressed their humanity and openly defended the security coordination with Israel, during the latter's biggest incursion into the West Bank in over a decade.
With the mainstream media labelling Abu Khdeir’s killers as ‘extremist,’ this has sought only to absolve the Israeli public and the state from the crime of what they represent: a colonizing, occupying, bigoted entity. As Palestinian writer Khaled Odetallah pointed out, using the word 'extremist' to describe an unruly pack of settlers is nothing but a mechanism for regarding the other Israeli population as natural, and discounting the blatant racism that is inherent in all colonizing entities.
Jerusalem and '48
Mohammed Abu Khdeir’s lynching released an unprecedented wave of angry protests that has quickly spread from his hometown of Shuafat to other neighbourhoods in Jerusalem, and to Palestinian towns and villages in modern day ‘Israel.’ Since July 3, thousands protested across the Galilee, as initial confrontations took place between Palestinians and Israeli police in Nazareth, Arara, Umm al-Fahem, Taybeh, and Qalanswa. Tires were burned, tear gas and rubber bullets were fired, and chants resonated with the cry “The people demand the demise of Israel.”
As the days stretched out to complete one week since Abu Khdeir’s death, protests sprung up in other villages in the Galilee, referred to as the Triangle, such as Tamra, Deir Hanna, Kufr Manda, Baqa al-Gharbiyeh, Shifa Amro, Iblein, Sakhnin, Arraba al-Batouf, and Jadeeda al-Makr. The cities of Haifa and Akka also held protests, as well as Bi’r Sabe’ and Rahat in the southern Naqab desert. On Saturday, hundreds of Palestinians took to the streets in Yafa after Israeli settlers attacked a few Palestinian homes in the old city. Palestinians are in the throes of direct protests against the state that has allocated Israeli citizenship to the 1.6 million Palestinians, but which systematically discriminates against them and regards them with a mixture of fear and suspicion. Hundreds have been arrested, including dozens of minors, and more than one hundred remain in detention.
On Monday night, July 7, Israel announced its incursion into Gaza, the most densely populated territory in the world. This came after it had already killed ten people the day before. In the first 24 hours of the bombing campaign, called Protective Edge by the Israeli army, 24 Palestinians were killed, including eight children. Civilian homes such as the Hamad family home in Beit Hanoun and the Kaware’ and Abadleh family homes in Khan Yunis were targeted by air strikes and destroyed with “surgical precision”, a phrase popular with warmongers and military officials.
The resistance in Gaza, comprised of the military wings of the various political factions, responded with a barrage of rockets that for the first time proved their long-range capabilities, hitting Khadera, which is 113 kilometers away from Gaza. Gaza's resistance tactics have surpassed the imagination of Israel, with a navy commando unit storming the Zikim military base after swimming there from Gaza. The Israeli government ordered the bomb shelters for its citizens to open, as air sirens went off from Sderot to Isdoud to Jerusalem to Tel Aviv and further north, near the city of Haifa.
Abu Obeida, the spokesperson for the Hamas resistance al-Qassam brigades, listed in a brief press conference last Friday the conditions Israel must fulfil in order to stop the rockets. The first is for Israel to cease its aggression in the West Bank, Jerusalem, and the ’48 occupied territories. The second demands that Israel release the former prisoners who were released in the 2011 prisoner swap deal but who were re-arrested in droves during the recent massive military raid on the West Bank last month. The Israeli government is already pushing for a bill to approve that these prisoners should serve out the remainder of their original sentences once they get re-arrested. Hamas will decide when to start and when to stop, not anyone else, despite Israeli prime minister Netanyahu declaring that he will “intensify attacks” in Gaza, and despite the support of western governments such as that of David Cameron, who promptly reiterated the UK’s staunch support for Israel.
Israel has boasted that it has launched air strikes on more than 400 sites in Gaza, where 1.7 million people, 75 percent of whom are women and children, reside in an area that is 365 kilometers squared. The strip has been targeted with 4000 tons of explosives, with an Israeli air strike occurring on average every four and a half minutes. The death toll has already surpassed 120. The last large scale attack on Gaza was in November 2012, where 173 Palestinians were killed, including 38 children.
Outsourcing the West Bank
In the middle of all of this, the West Bank remains conspicuously quiet. The protests by the shabab last month against the Israeli army as the latter swept through towns and villages, wreaking havoc, arresting hundreds, and killing six have subsided since the army nominally withdrew. It is well known that the resistance rockets from Gaza are no match for a heavily subsidized, professionalised, and technologically developed military, which forms the standing pillar of the state of Israel.
Rockets are part of the resistance, as are the protests in the ’48 territories. Yet without depriving Israel of its number one ally, the Palestinian Authority, what we are witnessing today will be merely another flare-up as opposed to a turning point for decolonization and the beginning of an end to the occupation. Mahmoud Abbas’ conduct and reaction has done him no favours as regards the recent events, and his speech at the normalizing Herzliyya “peace conference” where he begged Israelis to not miss his outstretched hand for peace is nothing but grovelling to the enemy, in the very same moment that homes in Gaza were being destroyed with their families still inside them. On Friday, Abbas' interview with PA-run Palestine TV insinuated that the resistance rockets from Gaza were pointless, and that he prefers to fight with politics and wisdom.
These events represent a period of escalated action, yet for the status quo to be truly smashed, the West Bank must rise up against the Palestinian Authority, effectively getting rid of the infamous security coordination with Israel, and replacing neoliberalism with a representative anti-occupation programme that is intolerant of oppression and colonization.
Otherwise, Hamas and Israel will sign another empty truce after the former incurs heavy losses on its side with no formal guarantee that Israel will not immediately violate it as it has in 2008 and again in 2012, and the demonstrations within the ’48 occupied territories will be hijacked or co-opted by the older generation of “Israeli-fied” Palestinians such as Ali Sallam (member of the Nazareth municipality who described the protesters as hooligans and thugs) and will fizzle out.
What cannot be ignored is that the PA has created an entire sector of society that benefits from its relations with Israel, and the fear barrier regarding its notorious intelligence and security services has not been broken. The West Bank has been reduced to a shadow of its self as the Palestinian cause was transformed into coffeehouse conversations, rather than actions targeted at the oppressive force of Israel and its collaborators. Yet as the resistance rockets are met with gleeful support by Palestinians across the country, the PA are already caught up in irrelevancy. The PLO as the sole and legitimate representative of Palestinians has been exposed as toothless, since the Palestinians in “Israel” resisting against the occupation serve as a reminder that their identity first and foremost, despite the passport imposed on them, will be Arab Palestinians. Widespread support among Palestinians across the country for the resistance is mounting, leaving the PA's fallacious and empty rhetoric of peaceful negotiations and security collaboration in a very tight space indeed, not to mention a strong sense of the inappropriate.
The Palestinian Authority has once again shown that it exists solely to maintain Israel’s security over and over again. This physical domination is coupled with a disastrous neoliberal order used to pacify and oppress Palestinians who demand to live with dignity. This is not the place to discuss strategies and plans on how to resist the PA; it is primarily crucial to acknowledge that precisely because of its deep entrenchment in Palestinian society in the West Bank, any movement aimed at dismantling it will constitute a social, economic, and political revolution in itself.
Already recent protests in Hebron, Jenin, Nablus and the outskirts of Ramallah have been suppressed by the Palestinian Authority security forces, an extension of the Israeli army. Protesters in an apparently planned attack on Friday night descended upon Qalandiya checkpoint with molotovs and fireworks, catching the Israeli soldiers there by surprise. Yet the PA apparatus must also be simultaneously targeted in order to achieve and affect real change.
As the popular quote goes, “If I had ten bullets I’d fire one at my enemy, and nine for the traitors.”