Revolution #213, October 10, 2010
The Palestinian Resistance
From the inception of the Zionist project, there has been courageous Palestinian resistance. In 1936, Palestinians launched an armed uprising against the British authorities and the Zionist settlers. The British brutally crushed the uprising in 1939 and passed emergency laws condemning to death any Palestinian found with a gun.1 Throughout the Nakba, outgunned Palestinians in cities and towns waged courageous resistance to ethnic cleansing.
Each time the resistance of the Palestinian people has been violently suppressed, new waves and forms of struggle have come forward. In the context of the global upsurge of the 1960s, Palestinian guerrilla organizations launched armed struggle against Israel with the aim of creating a democratic, secular (non-religious) state throughout Palestine. In March 1968 Palestinian fighters held off a major Israeli attack at Karameh, Jordan.2 Yasser Arafat and the Fatah organization and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) emerged as a respected leadership within this armed struggle.
The high tide of mass resistance in the late ’60s, however, ran into obstacles that Fatah and the PLO were unable to surmount. The leadership increasingly turned to reliance on Arab regimes and the Soviet Union, and, in actual fact, to fighting in order to get Israel to negotiate a so-called mini-state—rather than fighting for a liberated Palestine. All this occurred in a context in which the wave of post-World War 2 national liberation struggles around the world was ebbing and the contention between the U.S. and the now-imperialist Soviet Union was intensifying.
Here, it must be noted that one way Israel (and the U.S.) worked to undermine the resistance of the Palestinian people was to promote Islamic fundamentalist forces like Hamas, in opposition to more progressive, secular nationalist opposition to Zionism. The Washington Post acknowledged, for example, “In the 1980s, for instance, the Israeli government decided to weaken the secular Fatah movement headed by Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat by promoting the rise of Islamic parties as a counterweight, on the theory that Islamic groups would not have the same nationalistic impulses. So Fatah’s social networks were dismantled by the Israeli government, but it went easy on Islamic charitable networks. This decision fueled the rise of Hamas as a political force....”3
Despite unending repression, the Palestinian people continued to find ways to protest and rebel. The first Intifada(an Arabic word meaning “to shake”)began in December of 1987 with uprisings in Gaza. It pitted stone-throwing youth, with wide support throughout Palestine and around the world, against occupying Israeli soldiers. In 2000, a second Intifada was sparked by Israeli leader Ariel Sharon’s consciously provocative visit to the Al-Haram Ash-Sharif Muslim holy site in Jerusalem guarded by 1,000 armed Israeli soldiers. It unleashed mounting Palestinian frustration, rage and despair over the failure of the “peace process” to address their basic rights.
Most recently, new waves and forms of protest have emerged in Palestine not tied to either the Palestinian Authority or Hamas. In some ways, openings for that resistance have been facilitated by international activists who have stood with Palestinians in courageous protest against mass Israeli demolition of Palestinian homes in Gaza and opposing the Apartheid Wall in the West Bank. This has not substituted for, but instead brought attention to, the continuing refusal of the Palestinian masses to kneel down. Ongoing attempts by international and Palestinian activists to break the siege of Gaza are shining a spotlight on conditions there.
1. Our Roots Are Still Alive by Joy Bonds, Jimmy Emerman, Linda John, Penny Johnson, and Paul Rupert, 1977, Peoples Press, page 68. [back]
2. See “Fact Sheet—Palestine: A History of Occupation and Resistance,” Revolution #52, June 25, 2006. [back]
3. “Unintended Consequences Pose Risks for Mideast Policy” by Glenn Kessler,January 7, 2009, Washington Post. Also see documentation of Israeli support, including funding for the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas in the article “Hamas history tied to Israel” by Richard Sale, June 18, 2002, United Press International. [back]
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