I will be honest, as a Marxist who believes in revolution (not by violent means) my leftist antenna goes up every time I hear the word Intifada not used in a context of ways to achieve some form of parity with the Israelis. Within Hebrew University, and it seems Israel at large, the two Intifadas are treated as one and the same, essentially the follow through of violence perpetuated by Palestinians to get Israel to give concessions (or in the more right-wing arguments, when they do not get things they resort to violence).
There has been a growing movement, fueled by neighborly protest movements, continuing settlement expansion, etc for a Third Intifada to be based on the principles of the First Intifada but to incorporate the lessons learned from each. The main lesson from the first being do not give your movement to a foreign leadership, and the main lesson of the second that even when reacting to massive violence perpetuated on you that hitting back will not get you support from the outside world, especially if it involves Islam (or a takeover of the popular resistance by Islamists). Haneen Zoabi, the infamous Israeli-Palestinian MK, reiterated recently her support for a third Intifada by stating that Arabs need to “initiate a popular struggle against the occupiers.” She continued by saying “the second Intifada was more violent, while the first was good. Tahrir Square in Egypt must be the new model for Arab youth – I would like them to initiate a popular struggle against the siege, because occupiers cannot expect to live normal lives.”
Unfortunately for her and others interested in a Third Intifada I think Palestinians are too tired from the last one and that 5 1/2 years after the second one finished is simply not enough time to demand Palestinians to sacrifice everything again. The odds are very much against them, the PA is stronger and more tied with Israel as ever. Palestinians within Ramallah are removed from the Occupation as compared to their “brothers” in Nablus, Hebron, Tulkarem, and Qalqiliya. They are experiencing an economic “boom” of sorts, which means they are making just enough where they are not willing to sacrifice losing it and especially when the odds are strongly against them.
If Palestinians wish to engage in a new Intifada I would recommend considering a few things first. First the occupation is not just with Israel, but with the Palestinian Authority which is an extension of Israel. Although Arafat had many problems people believed in his abilities and trusted him enough to do something. Abbas and Fayyad do not have that respect or ability and further exasperate the problems of occupation with their dealings with Israel and their flawed economics/political programs. Second Israel is looking for an excuse to initiate a military confrontation. Rarely does Israel go an extended period of time (5 years, which is a lot in the Middle East) without a war in the region, air strikes, violent crackdown in the West Bank and Gaza. At a time of regional instability Israel may wish to use the opportunity to flex its muscles in a region where the public is showing its discontent with their governments in many issues, including Israel. With the recent escalation of bombings in Gaza and the stalemate of the facade of negotiations Israel may believe its only way to crush Hamas and “put the PA in line” is through violence.
This is not to say I personally am not for a Third Intifada, I am. I wish it to be a popular struggle in line with regional popular movements, but not hitting back. I travel everyday from Ramallah and Jerusalem to go to University and even when there is a “calm” period checkpoints make my day tiresome and wasteful. I do this and I know that a popular struggle here will only make things worse for myself and others like me who go through checkpoints. But if you consider the potential of what can be gained, isn’t it worth it for the better-ment of 4.5 million people who have and still do experience ethnic cleansing, apartheid, racism, economic deprivation, an uncaring world, and the occupation/exploitation of their homeland by a settler colonial movement.
Internationals will have to give up their privileged status within Israel and the West Bank. Israelis will have to sacrifice their privileged economic, political, and institutional status if they ever wish to be respected and live in what they perceive as “security.” Lastly well-off Palestinians, like their Israeli counterparts, usually do not bear the brunt of the consequences of Intifadas. They will have to be willing to sacrifice just as much if not more if they will be see any of the above mentioned atrocities overturned. I for one am all for it and wish Palestinians to unite to achieve their goals to overcome these issues in a peaceful, united, and just way.
Chris will be traveling for the next few weeks. Chrisw11 is a masters student at Hebrew University in Jerusalem and will be providing his opinions in the meantime.