Is The West Bank Adopting A Vietnam Style Resistance?
The number of Palestinians killed in the West Bank this year is at its highest since 2005, the last year of the Second Intifada. With armed movements emerging out of a new generation of revolutionary youths, the kind of struggle that is arising may aim to mirror elements of the Vietnamese struggle against their US invaders.
The death toll in the West Bank this year is at around 160 and counting, the bloodiest year since the Second Intifada and this is not a point that can be ignored. Resistance groups are emerging across the territory, with their greatest strength coming out of the Jenin and Nablus areas, these groups are shooting at i settlements and soldiers on a daily basis.
Some outsiders, at this point, are asking themselves where this scenario is headed, with no clear leadership apparent in this new revolt. Yet, given the current circumstances in the West Bank, it would be counterintuitive to attempt to launch a counter-leadership to the Palestinian Authority at this time. What is emerging now is a grassroots movement, which is encompassing all elements of struggle, in an attempt to revive the resistance and ignite a national uprising.
A core component of this armed struggle is the lone-wolf attacks, carried out, seemingly at random, by Palestinians committed to the struggle and to sacrifice themselves in order to kill Israeli soldiers and settlers. Alone, these attacks do not present an overarching threat to Tel Aviv’s military occupation and settler expansion, as in 2015 they managed to absorb such attacks and without any further motivation, waited for them to slowly discontinue. Yet, when such action is combined with new armed movements that use unifying language and capture the imaginations of their people, now there becomes a real threat to the Zionist regime. Both the lone-commando operations and the more organized armed exchanges help to inspire more to join in on the struggle. The Lionsط Den group, established on September 2 in the Old City of Nablus, has also taken things a step further and decided to bolster civil society calls to action, advocating for tactics that push Palestinians who do not bear arms to participate in the struggle.
Whilst the situation is growing ever more violent and is often described as a new Intifada, the contemporary predicament cannot exactly become what was the reality of the past. Hence, the only real thing in the way of calling today’s situation an Intifada, is the lack of endorsement for the uprising from the Palestinian Authority, which actively fights against the growing revolution in the West Bank.
Historical example and how today is different
The criticism of the over-inflated rhetoric regarding the potentness of the armed struggle that was expressed in the past, regarding the Fatah Party-aligned guerrillas at the time, has to be re-articulated here for the purpose of building upon, updating, and re-framing. The reason why the past examples of the framing of the resistance are important has to do with the impact that the thinking of the past has on today's armed struggle. In the 1960s there was ample criticism of the glorification of the emerging Palestinian resistance, not in a way which undermined the struggle, but instead to steer clear from spreading the belief that the resistance could alone work to liberate Palestine from the Zionists, urging the Arab leaderships to continue their involvement in the struggle.
In 1968 for example, a number of articles were written by Mohammed Hassanien Heikal, a prominent Egyptian journalist, who argued that the Palestinian armed struggle alone would not finish off the Zionist army, due in large part to the numbers on the ground. He stated that the Palestinians living inside what he called “the occupied territory” were less than a million, whilst the Zionists were 2 million with a quarter million under arms. In Vietnam and Algeria, their populations far outnumbered their enemies; in the case of Vietnam, 40 million people to half a million US invading forces. Heikal also argued that the terrain in occupied Palestine was too open to emulate the successes of the Vietnamese and Algerian resistance.
Today, the situation, in terms of numbers, is rather different if we take the occupied West Bank alone as our example. The total Palestinian population living in Gaza and the West Bank, numbers roughly 5.4 million, 3.2 million of which live in the West Bank. When we look at the numbers today, of Palestinians to Israelis, it becomes clear that even in the event that "Israel" decides to deploy large numbers of its 465,000 reservists, managing another Intifada would be a nightmare situation for them. The terrain, however, remains the same, which is largely the reason behind the armed movements again holding their greatest power in the more advantageous areas such as Nablus and Jenin, in the north of the West Bank.
Then we have the added element of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and its security apparatus, given that such a sub-contractor, of sorts, exists in the West Bank, the current model of the armed movements, such as the Lions' Den and Jenin Brigades, which have no clear leadership or command and control, seems to be an intelligent way forward. One major mistake that the Zionist regime made in handing over all the heavy lifting and a large portion of the intelligence gathering to the PA, was that in the event of its collapse they are going to have many blind spots.
Although eventually, in order to make any solid progress in terms of political gains and substantive changes in their favor, on the ground, the new era of Palestinian armed movements must present a leadership and goals, this could even be counterproductive with the PA still in existence. If such a leadership is clearly identifiable, it can be located and eliminated, given that the balance of military power is in strong favor of the Zionists and their PA security partners.
It is clear that we are now seeing a change of eras, with the younger generation of Palestinians taking it upon themselves to carry the torch of resistance, and with this there are going to be several learning experiences, even setbacks. Luckily for this generation, however, they do have a powerful armed resistance that exists inside the Gaza Strip for guidance and a huge proportion of historical examples and lessons to draw from. The most important thing for the re-emergence of a viable armed resistance, which bases itself solidly in both the West Bank and Gaza, is for the popular support of the Palestinian masses to be behind them.
The Gaza Strip’s armed resistance is not going anywhere, yet it does not have the proximity to the enemy that the groups in the West Bank do. In the West Bank, the wave of armed attacks this year from individuals that are not part of any specific armed group has proven one of the most difficult problems to handle for the Israeli military. Whilst with armed movements, there are indicators of imminent threats, this is not the case with civilians taking matters into their own hands randomly, especially when they do not tell anyone of their intentions.
One of the reasons why the US military suffered so greatly with combating the Vietnamese NLF, was that the struggle of the Vietnamese people was just that, the struggle of the Vietnamese people. Regular people by day, militants by night, was the way it was framed. In response to this, the US military decided to target civilians en masse as collective punishment, often failing to be able to tell who was and wasn’t participating in the armed struggle against the US troops. Historically, the Palestinian armed resistance has always drawn inspiration from the model of the NLF, however, in today’s context, this is rarely a point of solid discussion.
It is integral to the new revolution's success that Palestinians from all walks of life are involved in actively participating in this new growing struggle. Whilst the armed movements are able to provide the inspiration, they should not be left alone to determine the final outcomes, without the backing of the Palestinian masses, there cannot be total victory. Saying this, it does seem that the growing tensions in the occupied territory are including the masses and the armed rebellions are not simply located in any single area, although they are most prominent in the north of the West Bank.
At this moment in time, no single Palestinian political party has proven capable of calling on the masses to participate in any rebellion. Instead, it’s the Israeli provocation which proves to be the deciding factor in mobilizing people to come out in opposition to the Zionist regimes’ projects. Its noteworthy that the battle of Saif al-Quds (Sword of Jerusalem), in May of 2021, did achieve its victory with the armed struggle from Gaza alone, it was the mass mobilization of the Palestinian people as part of the uprising which provided for this astounding strategic victory. Armed struggle was the key component here, but without the popular uprising in the streets, it couldn’t have been what it was. The Hamas Party saw a golden strategic opportunity in 2021, not only to defend Al-Quds, but to use the power of Palestinian masses to its advantage.
What makes this era different is the impending collapse of the PA, the strength of the armed resistance in the Gaza Strip, and now the fanatical Israeli regime that has just come to power, which will undoubtedly bring 48' Palestinians into the mix in a greater way. The end of the Second Intifada for Tel Aviv, was the end of many of the negatives that came of the Oslo agreements from their point of view. A Third Intifada will likely be the end of many of the negatives of Oslo for the Palestinians.
"Israel" is now caught in a position where it no longer wants the Palestinian Authority’s political representation, only the PA’s security forces, and the Palestinian bourgeoisie. Yet, the Zionist entity is presented with the problem as to how they make this possible, as their attempt to achieve such a scenario failed under the Trump-Netanyahu "Deal of the Century" model. In terms of political representation, the Israelis had previously attempted to allow for local municipal-type elections in the 1970s and 1980s, failing to isolate the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) with each attempt; there currently seems to be no indication that such a strategy would work again today. As hardline Israeli Knesset members, specifically from the Religious Zionism alliance, take over key positions in the Benjamin Netanyahu-led Israeli cabinet, the isolation of the PA’s political class is afoot, but with no solid plan on how to replace it.
Having both an extremist, fundamentalist, Israeli regime and a PA leadership that lacks democratic legitimacy, the environment is ripe for the emergence of a new Palestinian leadership in the West Bank. What this new leadership and movement will look like, it is currently unclear, although there seem to be signs that the youth of Palestine are doing away with factionalism and see the value of unity between groups, movements, and parties. If this new revolutionary movement is going to succeed, it must mobilize the Palestinian masses, it must be from the people, of the people, and honest to its people, with all these elements in place the Zionist regime will be incapable of defeating it.