Adam Shatz has a great piece now up in the London Review of Books about the potential for the Arab Spring to finally reach Palestine. Shatz covers a lot in his piece, ranging from the superficiality of the Hamas-Fatah reconciliation to view that the Fatah ruled PA is little more than a pawn in the Israeli occupation. While the whole article is worth reading – as it does a wondrous job of documenting the evolution of the resistance towards nonviolence that greatly threatens the occupation – I found the discussion of the differences between the first and second Intifadas to be very intriguing. The boycotts, strikes and general civil disobedience symbolized by Palestinian youth with stones during the first Intifada was traded in for guns, militias and violence of the disastrous second Intifada – perhaps best symbolized by suicide bombers and Israeli airstrikes. Bringing the weekly nonviolent protests in the towns of Bil’in, Budrus, Nil’in and Nabi Saleh, Shatz documents a shift back to the more effective tactics of the first Intifada:
The First Intifada, between 1987 and 1993, was a popular insurrection that took the form largely of demonstrations, strikes and the non-payment of taxes; the most lethal – and most symbolic – weapon was the stone. When the Second Intifada began in late September 2000 following Ariel Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount, it looked much like the first, but Israel’s response did not: the IDF, by its own account, fired more than a million bullets during the first few weeks. Before long, the intifada had turned into an armed struggle; there was much talk of emulating Hizbullah’s campaign of guerrilla warfare, which only a few months earlier had driven the IDF from Southern Lebanon. The stone was exchanged for the gun and eventually the suicide bomb; the theatre of conflict was extended deep inside the Green Line, as ‘martyrdom operations’ were carried out in Israeli cities. The IDF responded with tanks and helicopters, but what was asymmetric warfare in Lebanon was a losing battle in Palestine. As militias with competing agendas clashed, young men with guns turned from resistance to brigandage and extortion, and people began referring to the intifada as an intifawda (fawda is Arabic for ‘chaos’). It was Fayyad who restored law and order. And, as Palestinians began to breathe more easily in the rubble of their cities, many came to see the intifada – or intifawda – as a perversion of West Bank political tradition. ‘Our way of resisting,’ Souad said, ‘is to throw stones or burn tyres, not the armed struggle – that’s the tradition of the Palestinians in Lebanon. The Second Intifada wasn’t a Palestinian intifada. Israel lured us into a fight we couldn’t win, and we took the bait.’
Shatz goes on to explain how the Palestinian David could beat the Israeli Goliath:
‘If you want to beat Mike Tyson, you don’t invite him into the ring, you invite him to the chessboard,’ Husam Zomlot, the brash young deputy of Fatah’s Department of Foreign Relations, explained to me. ‘On Nakba Day a thousand people marched to Qalandia. Once we manage to get 100,000 people marching there, let’s see what Tyson will do. Will they use a nuclear bomb? Will they use their F-16s?’ Zomlot, who grew up in the Rafah refugee camp in Gaza before studying at Birzeit University and the LSE, talks about strategy as if he were a sports coach.
Photo from Palestine Note