Palestinians have launched a new wave of resistance in response to decades of dispossession, discrimination and humiliation.
In Gaza, Palestinian youths from the eastern Bureij refugee camp managed—for the first time in years—to cross the border into Israel and hang the Palestinian flag.
But unlike the first two intifadas or uprisings in 1987-1993 and 2000-2006, the fightback is not being led by Palestinian resistance organisations, but by individuals.
This has led the media to talk about “lone wolf” attacks and to paint a lurid picture of fatal stabbings of Israelis. Almost a dozen have been killed.
However, the Palestinian Ministry of Health reported on October 26 that 59 Palestinians including 14 children and a pregnant woman had been killed so far in Israeli counter-attacks.
The latest round of conflict began over Palestinian fears that Israel was reducing access to the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City.
Yonathan Mizrachi, head of Emek Shaveh, an organisation of Israeli archaeologists opposed to the use of archaeology for political ends, told Middle East Eye: “Israel is weakening the Muslim and Palestinian presence there so that Israeli Jews can believe they are the true owners of the site.”
Israeli archaeological activities, he said, had almost completed Israel’s encirclement of the al-Aqsa compound, isolating it from Palestinian neighbourhoods of East Jerusalem.
But the roots of the resistance go much deeper. As Israeli Major General Nitzan Alon said: “Some of the motivation of the Palestinians to carry out terror attacks is due to the violence of right-wing elements in the West Bank…
“The Palestinians, for them IDF (Israel Defense Forces) activities in which Palestinians are hurt serve as another issue encouraging and causing terror activities. They differentiate between the activities of soldiers and those of settlers, but for them both are occupation.”
Israel has long used the expansion of settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank to create practical control of Palestinian land and to lay the basis for further annexation and dispossession.
Under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in office since 2009, the number of settlers has increased by 120,000.
According to an opinion piece in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Netanyahu has overseen a dramatic expansion of settlement activity in the heart of East Jerusalem’s Palestinian neighbourhoods.
“Virtually from the moment he took office, with the 2009 approval of a new settlement in Sheikh Jarrah, through last week’s settler takeover in Silwan, under Netanyahu the settler enterprise in these volatile areas has boomed.”
The settlers—like the 200 responsible for recently attacking a Palestinian neighbourhood with stones and firebombs in Hebron—have been given the green light on the West Bank, too.
“Netanyahu approved a new settlement in Hebron, in a large Palestinian structure taken over by settlers. Netanyahu has confiscated large swathes of the West Bank, including 490 acres to facilitate the legalization of outposts and 990 acres to benefit the Etzion settlement bloc, a confiscation unprecedented in scope since the 1980s,” according to Haaretz.
“Netanyahu has also built major new infrastructure to serve settlements, including a highway to give settlers living south of Jerusalem direct access to the city’s center, routed through the middle of a Palestinian neighborhood of Jerusalem …
“And Netanyahu is actively working to push Palestinians out of Area C—the area of the West Bank under full Israeli control and home to most settlements—via home demolitions, actual and threatened, and coercive displacement targeting.”
It is little wonder that many Palestinians can take no more. A mass strike shut Palestinian towns on 13 October, with 40,000 Palestinians taking to the streets in the town of Sakhnin.
But for the most part, what has characterised the resistance is that it is led by the young and is taking place without the coordination of traditional Palestinian leaders, who are widely seen as ineffectual and corrupt.
As Al-Monitor reported: “All of [the attackers] … had no security records, never spent time in an Israeli jail and were not affiliated with any armed Palestinian organization…
“For many young people, those who were born into the second intifada, none of these organizations—Fatah, Hamas or Islamic Jihad—is worthy of joining. This generation of young people is defying the old guard that promised statehood but failed to deliver.
“This young generation sees the previous one—even their own parents who caved in under the plight—as the one that did not have the courage to take destiny into its own hands and work for the future.”
Whatever the outcome of the struggle in coming months, the new resistance proves that almost 70 years of Israeli dispossession and apartheid has failed to crush the Palestinians.
By David Glanz