West Bank: Omens of a Third Intifada

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Palestinian stone throwers confront Israeli soldiers in the southern West Bank city of Hebron on 23 September 2013, as tensions run high following the death of an Israeli soldier who was shot by a suspected Palestinian gunman. (Photo: AFP - Marco Longari)

By: Malik Samara

Published Thursday, September 26, 2013

The reigning state of despair among Palestinians has been growing steadily since the end of the Second Intifada. Day after day, the Israeli occupation expands as the options for Palestinians, ostensibly represented by a new generation of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) eager to seek a "settlement,” grow narrower. The killing has not abated, nor the settlement movement and the Judaization of Jerusalem. The "peace process" track continues as a "strategic option." But the streets have not come to a rest since the Second Intifada, as they didn’t after the First Intifada and during the period of the Oslo Agreement.

Although, the frequency of clashes and confrontations might have decreased, the revolution continues to simmer, awaiting a spark to ignite. Today the situation in the West Bank evokes the period leading up to the First Intifada. The pace of clashes is rising and military operations are intensifying, despite the project for peace.

Ramallah – In a matter of hours, attention shifted from the far north of the West Bank to the south. In Qalqilya in the north, a Palestinian citizen named Nidal Emer led Israeli air force pilot Tomer Khazan to an empty spot. He killed him, in order to swap his body with that of his detained brother. Nidal took the initiative, but ended up like his brother: in an occupation cell.

In Hebron in the south, amid daily clashes between occupation forces and residents, a Palestinian sniper shot at stationed soldiers, killing one and injuring another. The occupation forces retaliated, closing the city and waging a sweeping campaign of arrests, but were unable to find the "unidentified shooter."

Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades - Knights of the Galilee, part of Fatah, claimed the operation in Qalqilya. Some people were optimistic about the movement's return to special operations and the escape of the Fatah genie from the PNA's bottle. However, its credibility was soon called into doubt the next day, when it issued another statement also claiming the Hebron operation, which had already been claimed by al-Asifa, part of Fatah-Intifada, which had split from the Fatah Movement in 1983.

On Israeli Radio 2, an Israeli security official spoke about the continuing security coordination between the PNA and Israel to capture the "killer" in Hebron. The father of the man from Qalqilya denounced his son to the station. "My son is a killer and deserves to be killed," he said.

But it does not matter anymore. What matters is that Palestinian youth can take the initiative from outside of the quarreling factions and narrow interests of the political parties. Two soldiers were killed in less than 24 hours, something that has not happened since the Second Intifada, whose anniversary falls next Friday.

The details of the Hebron operation remain unclear, despite the maniacal security operation, which led to the arrest of a man close to 100 years of age for owning an Ottoman era rifle. The identity of the Hebron sniper is not yet clear, however, and the statements by the factions claiming the operation have not been verified.

Meanwhile, military experts in the occupation army have maintained that the sniper was professional and successfully carried out the operation in its three stages: locating the perfect spot, selecting a target, and the withdrawal of security. The sniper picked a soldier standing on open ground, so that the bullet would not ricochet behind him. However, the downside of the operation were the ensuing squabbles between the parties and their lack of credibility, exposed after contradictory statements were issued within less than an hour by two factions with a long history of political disagreements.

This negative fallout also plagued the Second Intifada and was one of the most important factors in its collapse. However, the breadth and size of the clashes of last month, especially in the West Bank and Jerusalem camps, could herald a new uprising.

Amidst all the fury, a young group calling itself the Intifada Youth Coalition is calling for mobilization and protests to protect sacred sites next Friday, which coincides with the anniversary of the Second Intifada. A video made by the coalition is being widely shared on social media sites. In it, a young man calls for confronting the occupation on all fronts set to a song by Julia Boutros, Ya Thuwar al-Ard, which brings to mind the Second Intifada.

Despite differences between the factions, there is a general consensus rejecting negotiations. Several factions launched a popular campaign against the negotiations at a press conference in Ramallah, attended by all PLO factions.

Senior Fatah officials have also expressed their rejection of the negotiations process, including central committee member Abbas Zaki, who declared that negotiations were futile and called for "struggle and insisting on Palestinian constants."

Even figures who had participated in the Oslo process have expressed, albeit timidly, their regret at signing the agreement, including Yasser Abed Rabbu and Ahmed Qorei. The head Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat went as far as complaining that "Israel is not fulfilling its obligations."

However, this was not enough to inspire the Palestinian leadership to halt or even postpone negotiations for one day, despite the fact that three young men were martyred in Qalandiya. It did not even review the "legitimacy" of its choice, which contradicts the consensus of PLO factions, nor did it change its policies or strategies, which seem to be wholly focused on turning "Palestinian life into negotiations."

Seven martyrs have fallen since the beginning of the latest round of negotiations two months ago. They were all from the camps where the First Intifada erupted and caused the most trouble during the Second.

It is enough to see the sacrifices of Jenin camp, which was back in the headlines following the martyrdom of Islam al-Toubassi at the beginning of this week. The incident led to a limited military operation at the nearby Jalama checkpoint, before the PNA's security forces managed to suppress the camp's anger, prohibiting its residents from reaching the frontline areas.

But Jenin is the not the only camp where the revolution is still simmering. In Qalandiya, three Palestinians were recently martyred and clashes continue near the Qalandiya occupation checkpoint nearby. In al-Oroub and al-Fawwar camps in Hebron, clashes have been occurring on a daily basis with the occupation forces stationed nearby, far from the eyes of the media and the PNA's forces.

Current conditions and factors do not provide Palestinians with any other option. Al-Aqsa mosque faces daily raids and there have been calls by Israelis for a million person march on the holy site to coincide with the anniversary of its storming by Ariel Sharon, which laid the ground for the Second Intifada.

Popular mobilization against Israel is also on the rise inside the 1948 territories, particularly in the Negev and the Triangle, which also coincides with the October 1 revolt that led to the martyrdom of 13 Palestinians from the occupied territories.

It seems the break out of a third intifada is only a matter of time. Friday could be the day the phoenix rises from the ashes.

The PNA Impedes the Intifada

The PNA has cloaked all options following Oslo under the guise of the "national project." Anyone who objects or dissents falls outside this project. Under this slogan, the Palestinian resistance was liquidated in the West Bank, including the al-Aqsa Brigades, where the PNA's forces are the only power on the ground. Any weapons not in its hands have become outlawed.

The PNA suppressed all action against negotiations, supported by its wide popular base which follows the Fatah movement and the regional winds that put wind in its sails. The PNA has the money and media and is capable of manipulating the discourse. Sometimes it dons the robe of piety, accusing its detractors of debauchery and blasphemy, as it does with the PFLP, for example.

With Hamas, accusations of bartering with religion and extremism are mounted. Fatah’s minister of awqaf (endowments) unabashedly declared a fatwa for "revolution against Hamas" and forbade any opposition to the president in the West Bank.

In political differences it finds an opportunity to avoid facing reality, accusing others of instigating a crisis.

The bedlam following the killing of the two soldiers is the responsibility of Hamas, according to Fatah spokesperson Usama al-Qawasimi, who said that "Hamas' credibility in the Palestinian street suffered a serious blow after the uncovering of their real schemes and their use of religion and resistance as a cover. If Hamas wanted to change the situation and aim for resistance, it has to start resisting in Gaza and to maintain the truce with Israel at gunpoint."

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