Palestine Update 317
First intifada: 30 years on, Palestinians resist Israeli occupation
Tessa Fox reports from the West Bank.
Palestinians marked the 30th anniversary of the First Intifada as popular uprisings against corrupt leaders grip Iraq, Lebanon, Iran and Algeria roil the region from east to west grip the region.
Palestinians remain bitter, frustrated and weary of the never-ending Israeli occupation. The increasingly brutal and sophisticated repression of all forms of resistance since December 9, 1987, when the First Intifada erupted spontaneously has sometimes crushed the spirit of Palestinians. And yet, the struggle goes on. It is Israel that gets weaker. After all when a country loses its moral standards in politics, it is at the abyss. It has nowhere to go but fall or retreat. In one year, Israel has struggled to elect a government. It cannot find a tangible set of rulers. Those who rule are corrupt, greedy, and cruel.
The Intifada began in Gaza on the day after an Israeli army lorry struck a Palestinian car, killing four, near the Jabalia refugee camp. When 10,000 assembled for funeral of the victims, the Israelis fired randomly into the throng, killing teenager Hatem Abu Sisi and wounding 16 and eliciting protests that escalated into an uprising. While leading Palestinian figures met to discuss, clashes erupted in Palestinian refugee camps in the West Bank as well as Gaza. Palestinians, armed with sticks and stones, erected barricades across roads in their neighbourhoods to prevent Israeli army from entering. A general strike closed shops and kept Palestinians from going to jobs in Israel and the Israeli settlements.
Mohammed Othman was nine years old when the first intifada (uprising) broke out in Palestine on December 8, 1987. He remembers moving rocks onto the roads to block Israel Defense Forces (IDF) from entering his home village of Jayyous in the West Bank. He and others would keep watch of the roads leading into the village and shout out to the older kids if they saw soldiers approaching. Othman remembers being given fabric to sew the Palestinian flag, an act that could carry a five-year jail sentence, as well as masks to cover their faces. Like thousands of Palestinian youths, Othman’s young age didn’t stop him from doing his part in the Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation and aggression. What first started in the Gaza Strip’s Jabalia refugee camp, as a reaction to an IDF truck hitting a civilian car killing four Palestinians, quickly spread to an uprising across the whole of Gaza and the West Bank lasting nearly six years. The uprising finally brought the Palestinian struggle into view for the world and created a lasting image of Palestinian youth throwing stones at Israeli forces wielding guns.
The internet as a tool to support traditional strategies
Khalil Yousef, arrested seven times even before the first intifada, vows to continue his resistance
It is widely believed that young people led the First Intifada. Balata Refugee camp resident, Khalil Yousef was 18 in the First Intifada. “The 80s generation, was the base generation for the intifada,” Yousef told DW. Yousef also remembers the main form of resistance used was blocking streets and throwing stones. Thirty years and one generation on, this symbol and strategy of resistance can still be seen throughout Palestine. Fifteen-year-old Mohammed Abu Ja’sa of Balata Refugee camp near Nablus, West Bank said he will always throw stones and Molotov cocktails at Israeli soldiers if they enter the camp. Though now, he adds, there are more peaceful ways of resisting the occupation. “Using social websites like Facebook, we can publish movies, images, poetry and essays,” Abu Ja’sa said.
Manal Tamimi is proud of her resistance to Israel
Life experience fuels resistance
Janna Ayyad of Nabi Saleh was four-years old when she saw her friend Mustafa shot and killed by the IDF. Now 11, this loss, as well as the death of her uncle and arrest of many family members are her personal motivations for resisting the occupation. “I can’t just stay calm as if nothing is happening, I have to do something to make the whole thing change, turn it upside down and live like any child in the world,” Ayyad told DW. This extremely vibrant young girl is now reportedly the “world’s youngest journalist,” going under the name of Janna Jihad. Ayyad documents everything in her world affected by the occupation and uploads it to her social media sites, including her Facebook account which boasts a quarter of a million likes.
Experiences like Ayyad’s resonate through all Palestinian youth and push them to resist. Othman remembers how the first intifada formed his impressions of Palestine and the occupation. “There were evening meetings, where everyone in the neighborhood came and spoke in the streets … and Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) activists would hand out leaflets, teaching us,” Othman said, as the midday call to prayer drifted through his living room. Abu Ja’sa believes nowadays that families provide the main source of education. “Every family has someone who is a prisoner or martyr,” Abu Ja’sa said.
Ayyad watched her friend killed by Israeli forces and also witnessed the death of her uncle
Political affiliation vs. independent uprising
Othman believes the division of political parties is detrimental to Palestinian solidarity and therefore the resistance. In 2007, Hamas took control of Gaza and split from the Palestinian Authority led by Fatah in the West Bank. “Now the kids are [more concerned] about supporting Hamas and Fatah, not about Palestine,” Othman lamented. Fatah Youth Movement Secretary General and Revolutionary Council Member Hasan Faraj believes political work is very important for diplomacy. “[Through politics] we can work with parties around the world to support us and also strengthen our people within Palestine,” he told DW. While thousands of Palestinian youth still organize themselves under political parties and popular resistance committees, many also believe this takes away from the personal aim of resistance. “I want everyone to just be united as Palestinians, not in the name of Fatah or Hamas,” Ayyad said. “Resistance itself is a personal issue. I’m not waiting for someone to tell me what to do, I will resist by myself,” concurs Abu Ja’sa.
The time has come
Even so, if there was to be a third intifada today sparked by US President Donald Trump’s decision on Jerusalem, Abu Ja’sa sees the first step as being a spontaneous uprising among Palestinians, but after that it should be organized by political committees. Pushra Tamimi of Nabi Saleh was 16 years old in the first intifada. “It should be time for a third intifada,” she told DW. Pushra said it comes in waves. “They rise, they calm down, and then they rise up. We’re just waiting for the motive,” she explained. Donald Trump may very well have provided that motive.
Read more: Intifadas: What you need to know
A clarification from Palestine Updates 314
A clarification from one of our previous Palestine Updates which dealt with BDS and its impact – One of our active readers has pointed out that our write up in the section “Opinion” in Palestine Updates 314 may have given the impression that BDS is against the Jewish people as a whole. That was not the intended message: “The BDS Movement is one major factor why Jews want to flee potential economic decay”. We meant to convey that BDS is directed against the occupation policies of the Israeli government. It is not directed against individual Jews as such. At the same time, Palestine Updates reaffirms its total support to BDS as a non-violent instrument of resistance and deems it as legitimate and valid in the Palestinian methods of ‘loving resistance’.