Is the Third Palestinian Intifada Here? Some Thoughts on Israel-Palestine
I’ve received some Facebook messages in recent days asking what I think about what’s happening right now in Israel and Palestine. I thought I’d offer a short response as I sit here in a cafe in Cape Town. I do want to note, however, that while my thoughts are informed, they are not those of an expert. If you really want to understand what is happening, read lots of different articles. I’ll list some at the end of the post.
Recently, PA President Mahmoud Abbas announced the official end of the Oslo Peace Process, a move that essentially just named the reality on the ground since not long after the Oslo Accords were signed in 1993: Israel soon built more settlements and deepened the foundations of the occupation. Its policies of occupation and apartheid killed Oslo long ago; Abbas just finally acknowledged it out loud to the world.
However, what this might mean is that the PA is even more useless now than it has been over the last decade. Palestinians don’t trust the PA as the PA has, to an uncomfortable though not unexpected degree, functioned as the puppet of Israel’s bidding. Palestinians want freedom, not a “leadership” that plays by the rules of the government oppressing them. The PA was set up to navigate the transition through Oslo toward a two state solution by focusing much of their energy on controlling attacks by their own people against Israel. In their collaboration with Israel to this end, they’ve actually been quite successful (Hamas, of course, is a different story). But now the PA has announced the end of Oslo, thus perhaps the end of their involvement in violence deescalation, and even more so the end to any political legitimacy in the minds of the Palestinian people.
It looks quite possible that the Third Intifada is beginning. I fear this one, perhaps more than the other two. The First Intifada was a massive, unified call from respected leaders among Palestinian civil society for civil disobedience: boycotts, strikes, refusal to pay taxes, etc. Though not entirely nonviolent, it was primarily unarmed; they sought to collapse the foundations of occupation by attacking Israel’s economy. And it worked: it brought Israel to the table and produced an historic, though ultimately unsuccessful, peace accord. The Second Intifada, though, did not have nearly as much national organization and thus did not offer a unifying force for Israel to contend with, largely due to the dissection of the West Bank during Oslo II. The violence was far more extreme from Palestinians as the anger at Oslo’s failure reached a boiling point. Suicide bombing campaigns drastically increased, and Israel started building the Wall.
This new Intifada, if in fact that is what’s happening, will far more resemble the Second than the First, I believe. There is no sense of unification among Palestinians in the West Bank, much less Gaza. This is not due to the inability of Palestinians to get along and organize (again, look at the First Intifada); rather it is primarily due to the success of Israel’s system of apartheid and occupation that has disrupted and disunited the geography and people. I anticipate clashes to escalate, as with each killing more and more people become bereaved and may then desire and pursue vengeance. I see the situation getting far bloodier before it gets better. Palestinians have lived under a violent, oppressive occupation system for at least 48 years now. As seen in Northern Ireland and South Africa, as well as countless other countries, people living under the boot of oppression tend to revolt, often violently. Until Israel’s system of occupation and apartheid end and safety/security becomes priority for both sides (not just Israel), Palestinians will continue to try to shake off their oppression.
And why shouldn’t they?
If you want to read more, I suggest these news sources:
Here are two articles to start with. Just follow internal links to read more: