The West Bank falls short in its confrontation of the occupation

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Supporters of the Palestinian Islamist Hamas movement gather during a demonstration in the West Bank city of Nablus to support people in the Gaza Strip on August 22, 2014. (Photo: AFP-Jaafer Ashtiyeh)

By: Amon al-Sheikh

Published Friday, September 5, 2014

As the war on Gaza winded down, Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti sent a letter from his Israeli jail cell urging the members of the movement to confront the occupation in the West Bank. He did not speak explicitly about armed confrontation. However, operations involving firing at settlements and checkpoints were revived.

Tulkarem – Over the 51-day war on the Gaza Strip, the towns and camps of the occupied West Bank witnessed several protests, which turned into confrontations with the Israeli occupation forces on some occasions and led to the martyrdom of dozens of people and injury of several hundred. The protests were not merely a response to the situation in Gaza. To a large extent, they were also an extension of the continuous confrontations with occupation soldiers and settlers which were intensified by the war.

Midway through the aggression, sporadic shooting incidents took place at military checkpoints and in the direction of Israeli settlements, without any side claiming official responsibility. A few days ago, a bomb exploded in a bus station used by settlers near Nablus. But it remains unclear if it was a criminal act or a reaction to the war on Gaza. However, the question remains, could the above be construed as the beginning of a real confrontation?

Political analyst Jihad Harb does not see any serious signs of armed resistance in the West Bank, which is completely under the control of the occupation. In addition, the Palestinian Authority has worked in the past few years to guarantee that no armed factions are present on the ground. He told Al-Akhbar that a return to the situation in 2002 is almost impossible. "All what is happening is popular demonstrations and throwing rocks, what could be termed as popular resistance. However, it needs development and a political leadership to be maintained," he indicated. Harb explained that the orientation towards an armed clash between Palestinians and the occupation still does not exist; but, "it cannot be completely dismissed, especially in the advent of unexpected developments."

However, the occupation's hostile campaign against the West Bank continued throughout the aggression on Gaza and until today. People are still being detained and humiliated at checkpoints. Land confiscation orders were expanded to subdue the community even further, a policy the occupation has maintained since 1967. On this point, Harb stressed that the policy of the enemy's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is one of two options, "either fight the Palestinians in Gaza or expand the settlements in the West Bank and impair the [Palestinian National] Authority (PNA) by reducing its powers, especially in Area A."

Marwan Barghouti, former Fatah secretary serving five life sentences plus 40 years in Hadarim Israeli prison, became the first official from the movement to explicitly call his comrades to "roll up your sleeves and pursue the widest possible comprehensive resistance," on day 45 of the aggression on Gaza. In his letter, he criticized "the absence of an effective resistance in the past 10 years, which benefited the occupation."

His wife, Fadwa Barghouti, told Al-Akhbar that the letter addressed to Fatah members was authentic. "A copy was sent to the movement, the mobilization office, and the organization officially."

In this context, Fatah official Qaddura Fares believed Barghouti's letter was an explicit call for announcing a state of resistance against the occupation, "but without specifying a particular method of struggle." Fares maintained to Al-Akhbar that the situation in Gaza warrants wide confrontation, since Israel has destroyed the political process. "Fatah's cadre knows that their movement was established for struggle and resistance for freedom and independence," he said. However, he did not see a call for armed struggle in Barghouti's letter, "although the movement will not be very late and will enter a state of resistance. But the type of resistance will be set by the circumstances."

Political analyst Abdel-Sattar Qassem, however, was of a different opinion and understood it as a call for armed struggle. "Fatah members, even if they try to monopolize Palestinian history, are today standing on the sides. They are not on the terrain. Those who are making history at this stage are Hamas and Islamic Jihad," he explained. "Fatah was coordinating security matters with Israel, while the fighting went on in Gaza."

Barghouti had praised the resistance in Gaza and said it was fighting a "great battle." In his letter, he subjected the PNA to scathing criticism, saying, "Fatah's higher aspirations will never be a powerless authority."

Qassem, on the other hand, believed the PNA will not be happy with these words. "Along with several Arab countries, its rationale is hostile to the Resistance and they all do not want to see a Resistance in the Arab arena, whether in Palestine or Lebanon," he maintained. Based on this, he said it was unlikely for Barghouti's call to be heeded by Fatah, after it was "destroyed and disarmed by the PNA."

The frequency of demonstrations in the West Bank started to ebb following the end of the aggression on Gaza. The largest and most violent confrontation had taken place in the 48 Thousand People March, mentioned by Barghouti as an example of a "popular movement" and the "unity and cohesion of Palestinians." On July 24, thousands of young people formed the largest mobilization against the war and headed from Ramallah towards Qalandia checkpoint. One young man was martyred and hundreds were wounded, including serious injuries to the head and eyes.

Consequently, the West Bank witnessed several incidents of sporadic gunfire at Israeli military checkpoints, including Qalandia, and several settlements, such as Shavei Shomron built on land belonging to Nablus and Ariel in Ramallah. A locally made explosive device was also used against al-Jalama checkpoint near Jenin.

Early last August, Resistance fighter and fugitive Zakaria al-Aqra was martyred in an armed confrontation with occupation soldiers, who had raided one of the Nablus villages to neutralize him. They clashed with him and then blew up the house where he was hiding with artillery.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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