Why Palestinians Are Again Taking Up Arms To Defeat Occupation- Westerners Listen Up
While it might be difficult for a Westerner to understand the choices of the Palestinian people are forced to make, a glimpse of the history of these people is sufficient to show the logic behind its actions and struggle.
The recent revival of the armed struggle in the occupied West Bank, as well as the renewal of violent guerrilla attacks in "Tel Aviv" have taken the world by surprise amidst the chaos unfolding as the result of the war in Ukraine. However, many in the West are unable to see why violence has returned as the principal option of resistance to the settler-colonial project in Palestine and hence many Westerners are incapable of taking the side of the Palestinian struggle in these instances.
In order to understand the present, we must look back at history to view this struggle in its proper context and also line it up against the struggles for national liberation of other peoples throughout history.
In 1974, then Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) chairman, Yasser Arafat, gave his famous ‘olive branch’ speech to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). During that speech, after stating that he arrived on the world stage grasping a freedom fighter's gun in one hand and an olive branch in the other, he warned “do not let the olive branch fall from my hand”, repeating these exact words twice for impact. It was that year, 1974, that Yasser Arafat decided that he, as leader of the PLO, would pursue the path of dialogue in order to establish a Palestinian State. Although the publicly known talks between the PLO and "Israel" would not emerge until the 1991 Madrid Conference officially, the PLO would slowly take to the path of pursuing dialogue with first the United States, its European allies, and then the Israelis later on.
At the time of the PLO’s first address to the United Nations, the Israeli delegation was nowhere to be seen, they regarded the popularly accepted representative body of the Palestinian people as a terrorist organization. The Israeli stance of not negotiating with “the terrorists”, nor entertaining the idea of a Palestinian State was then the accepted norm, this remained the case as the United States - "Tel Aviv’s" most important ally - allowed for this. Although there were attempts by former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, during the 1978 Camp David Accords, to bring the Palestinian issue into the fold, Sadat failed the Palestinian people and eventually signed a normalization deal with "Israel", leaving out the fates of the rest of the Arab countries. The PLO had lost the real backing of Egypt in 1979, but was still a power in the Arab world and commanded great diplomatic, financial and public support.
The PLO, faced with the charge of representing terrorism and tasked with putting the State of Palestine back on the map continued to wage guerrilla warfare against the Zionist regime, through the armed wings of its various member parties. The Palestinian resistance groups launched brutal wars and battles against "Israel", including countless commando operations. During this time, "Israel" adopted a policy of allowing for municipal and council elections in the Palestinian territories it occupied in the June 1967 war, but would never entertain the idea of Palestinian national elections nor sitting at the table with Palestinian representatives to pursue a so-called two-State solution. So, the Palestinians continued to wage their armed struggle for national liberation, primarily from Lebanon during the 1970’s. Even following the Israeli war on Lebanon in 1982, which formally forced the PLO to withdraw from the country and resulted in the killing of between 15,000-20,000 Lebanese and Palestinians in the process, the armed struggle continued.
With the signing of the Oslo Accords (1993-5), between the PLO and "Israel", there was then a new reality imposed on the ground for the Palestinian people living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. A Palestinian Authority (PA), was established out of the PLO, which was placed in power in small slithers of the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. The area A, B, and C, system was set up in the West Bank and Gaza, with "Israel" maintaining full control of area C, constituting roughly 60% of the West Bank today. Prior to this, the Palestinian people of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and the Eastern part of occupied Jerusalem, had risen up into mass protests, boycott movements, and general strikes from 1987, placing an enormous amount of strain on the Israeli occupation army. Yet, the Intifada was quelled with the advent of the Oslo Process, which promised to deliver a Palestinian State with the Eastern part of occupied Jerusalem as its capital on roughly 22% of historic Palestine.
For years, the violence died down significantly due to the promises of the Oslo Accords, but when "Israel" continued its settlement expansion and failed to live up to its commitments under the Oslo agreements, people began asking questions. The PA had at this point been placed in power in the most populated areas in the occupied territories, meaning that instead of Israeli soldiers policing everyday life in cities like Ramallah, Jericho, and Nablus, it was now Palestinian forces, taking a huge burden off "Israel’s" military.
By the late 1990's, the people of Palestine were becoming outraged and violent resistance turned up a notch. Then, in 2000, with the head of the Israeli opposition at the time, Ariel Sharon, storming the al-Aqsa Mosque compound, the Second Intifada erupted. The Al-Aqsa Intifada as it is popularly known, was significantly more violent that the first Intifada and for Westerns is most likely remembered for its massive surge in suicide bombings. Yasser Arafat, was forced into pursuing the option of armed struggle at that time and following in the footsteps of other Palestinian political parties which rose in popularity during the second Intifada. He was though, forced through American pressure to establish a new position in his PA, the position of Palestinian Prime Minister. Following years of fighting was Arafat’s death, which many claim was the result of poisoning, despite there being no conclusive evidence as to who or how this possibly occurred.
The end of the Intifada came, with the revival of what was known as the Arab Peace Initiative, orchestrated by Saudi Arabia, which promised in return for a two-State solution the Arab countries would accept not only opening ties but trade and other relationships with "Tel Aviv." The talks which followed the Second Intifada’s end in 2005, led nowhere. In November of that year, "Israel" was then forced to retreat its forces and evacuate its settlers from the Gaza Strip. In 2006, the following year, the Hamas Party won the Palestinian legislative elections, defeating the ruling Fatah Party. However, Mahmoud Abbas, the President of the PA, rejected the results and participated in a Western-Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip. Despite the ‘Mecca agreement’ for establishing a unity government between Hamas and Fatah in February of 2007, the United States planned a coup against Hamas in Gaza, to be led by then head of the PA’s Preventative Security Services, Mohammed Dahlan. The coup was foiled and Hamas went to war with Fatah, forcing them out of the Gaza Strip. After this fight, the Israelis, with Egyptian complicity, decided to impose an even stricter military siege on the coastal enclave.
Since then, "Israel" has conducted at least 9 large-scale military campaigns against the Gaza Strip and made the territory unlivable according to experts at the United Nations. The people of the West Bank on the other hand have only seen further settlement expansion, militarisation and land theft, with no sign of a solution. In the Eastern part of occupied Jerusalem, the Israeli occupation forces got away with driving thousands from their homes, destroying their houses or handing them to illegal settlers. There have been no meaningful discussions between the Palestinian Authority, based in Ramallah, and the Israeli regime in over a decade and the PA refuses to hold national elections. Hamas on the other hand, along with pretty much every other Palestinian political party, aside from Fatah, are designated terrorist organizations to the West and "Israel". The PA is ever becoming more authoritarian in the West Bank and its clique of elites amass great wealth for themselves, whilst collaborating on ‘security coordination’ with "Israel" and are currently the primary reason there has not yet been a new Intifada.
For long the Palestinian armed struggle was confined primarily to the Gaza Strip, whose civilian population paid dearly for its armed groups’ rocket volleys and military operations against "Israel". However, this picture is now changing, Jenin and other areas in the West Bank are becoming hotspots again for armed cadres who are united against the Israeli occupation forces, and even Palestinian citizens of "Israel" are also committing attacks.
Prior to the late 1960’s, the Palestinian armed struggle was carried out by Fidayeen fighters who attacked "Israel" from all directions and territories, inflicting whatever losses they could on their enemies and did not ever mention engaging in dialogue with "Israel". When Yasser Arafat warned not to let the olive branch fall from his hand, he was in fact telling the international community that they must pressure "Israel" in order to allow for dialogue and if it failed to do so, armed resistance was inevitable. The olive branch has now fallen.
The Palestinian Authority has now absorbed the PLO and acts as a South Lebanon army in the West Bank. "Israel" has returned to its rhetoric from the 1970’s, it will not even entertain dialogue on the issue of a Palestinian State and views the most popular Palestinian political Party, Hamas, as a terrorist organization. Tel Aviv allows for municipal elections and city council elections in the West Bank, but not national - legislative and presidential - elections and Washington endorses this position with its silence, as does Brussels and London.
We are back to square one in a sense, but this time it is in the favor of the Palestinian liberation movement. The Palestinian Authority does not have the Arab world behind it, most of the Arab regimes have normalized ties with the Zionist regime and the PA has no means of forcing "Israel" to the negotiating table. The PA has little legitimacy with the people it claims to represent in the West Bank, most of which call for the resignation of President Mahmoud Abbas, it also has little power in the international community. So now we are seeing Palestinians take it upon themselves to revive their national liberation movement, to give it legitimacy, to force the West and the rest of the world to listen and fight for their rights to a State.
The armed struggle will not be waged from outside Palestine now, it will come from inside and will only grow in its strength from here, with the Gaza Strip being the stronghold for the armed struggle instead of Lebanon, or Jordan, as it was in the past. Living under what Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and "Israel’s" own B’Tselem call Apartheid, Palestinians will continue to fight by all means necessary to get rid of this racist system.
For Westerners, some of the tactics that may be used against "Israel" will not sit easy, however, it is important for this all to be placed in its proper context. We now understand that the fight of the ANC and others in South Africa was justified, despite some of their tactics being violent, we cheer on the memory of Nelson Mandela, who was kept in prison for his refusal to condemn armed struggle. Looking back on the Haitian revolution and the Algerian revolution, we clearly see the violence of the oppressed in its historical context, so here we must see the violence of Palestinians against "Israel" too. There can be no double standards when we analyze these struggles against oppressors and if we choose to ignore why the armed struggle is undergoing a revival in Palestine, then the only other explanation is that Palestinians are inherently violent people or that they are mentally ill, both of these explanations are intrinsically racist and fit into an orientalist theme of thought.
A Palestinian born in the year 2000, which would make them 22 years of age, an adult, has seen nothing but war. They have never even felt the feeling of knowing what it was like to live through a period of dialogue between their leaders and the Israeli regime. They have lived through brutal wars, non-stop bombings, drones buzzing, military checkpoints, shootings, deprivation of water and food, arbitrary arrests, home demolitions, and the list goes on and on. What do they have to show for going through this suffering? More settlements and less hopes of peace, so is it surprising that the younger generations are now saying enough is enough? The resistance we see today, will not be quelled by false promises and the demand is no longer 22% of Palestine, it is all of historic Palestine and "Israel’s" aggressive tactics, combined with its refusal to make a compromise and the West’s endorsement of its behavior has all led to what we see today.