The evolution of Palestinian resistance

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There is a popular graphic doing the rounds on Arab social media these days; it shows the evolution of weapons used by the Palestinian Resistance, from rocks and pebbles all the way to missiles and drones. This captures the story of the evolution of resistance methods against Israeli occupation.

Resistance to Israeli occupation was never that organized at first; that was a flaw in the leadership of Hajj Amin (al Husseini) who — contrary to his image in Western writings — was never really a radical and only took decisions that were decisive under pressure from his constituency. People forget that he was a tool of the British at first and always catered to the wishes of corrupt Arab regimes. Palestinians had to rely on antiquated hunting rifles while their Zionist enemies were relying on advanced weapons imported from Europe.

Arab regimes, in the name of monopolizing any military action toward Israel in order to avoid threats to their power, always fought against the independent militarization of the Palestinians. In Lebanon, the Palestinians in the 1950s and 1960s were not even allowed to carry a gun for personal protection in a country rife with machine guns. It was only after 1967 that the Palestinians began a heavy program of militarization. The program was funded and armed by socialist countries that, while supportive of the Palestinians, never believed in the goal of liberating Palestine and never gave them any weapons that could tip the scale in the struggle against Israel (even in its military supply of Arab regimes, the Soviets did deprived their Arab allies of certain weapons systems).

Palestinian Liberation Organisation leader Yasser Arafat had tremendous financial resources at his disposal and he basically built up an army (Yezid Sayigh’s Armed Struggle and the Search for State remains a classic) but did not develop a strategy for armed resistance. In fact, he resisted all plans submitted to him by various Palestinian armed groups for the development of an effective Palestinian strategy for armed resistance to Israeli aggression and occupation. The Military Council of the PLO was put under the control of one of the most corrupt leaders of PLO organizations, Zuhayr Muhsin (the leader of a thuggish gang, As-Sa`iqah, that was a mere tool for the Syrian regime), who never took the task of liberation, or even resistance, seriously. And while Abu Jihad had contacts with the Chinese, Vietnamese, and Algerian resistance commanders, he never really implemented the lessons from those glorious revolutions. Abu Jihad (top aide to Arafat in the PLO and commander of Fatah’s armed wing) never took the PLO’s mission in Lebanon seriously and focused on fomenting an uprising in the West Bank and Gaza.

Of all PLO organizations, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (a small PLO organization loyal to the Syrian regime and known for spectacular operations against Israel, including the famous hang glider operation) was the only organization that stressed the need for a tunnel system in all areas where the PLO was operating in Lebanon. PFLP-GC leader, Ahmed Jibril, went to Arafat several times requesting assistance for the importation of machinery to dig tunnels in south Lebanon to prepare for an impending Israeli invasion, and Arafat would typically make promises that he never kept. When Jibril gave up on Arafat, he gave orders to the men in his organization to dig tunnels in all military bases of his own organization and they proved to be so effective that the Israeli enemy bombed them from the air repeatedly over the years.

The ill-preparedness and the incompetence of Arafat’s military leadership was exposed in 1982 in the face of the Israeli invasion. He put one of the most incompetent military commander, Hajj Ismail, in the top position (and he never ever punished him for his shortcoming and would later reward him with a lucrative post in the Ramallah mini-non-state, purely for his loyalty).

Hezbollah was the first Arab organization to take the task of resistance to a higher — much higher — level. Resistance is an exact science for Hezbollah. Anyone who wants to find out more should visit the Resistance Museum in Mleeta. There you find out how the party meticulously and rigorously studies the enemy and meticulously and rigorously studies the resistance preparation. Hezbollah established a special (internal) school to teach Hebrew, and hundreds of fighters graduate from the school of every year (in the PLO era, they would rely on Hebrew translators from the Institute of Palestine Studies in Beirut).

But Hezbollah’s practices also evolved. Learning from their own mistakes, they began to pay extra attention to the lives of civilians (even civilians in the enemy camp — Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah told me that they had a plan to assassinate a key South Lebanon Army commander, `Aql Hashim, but the plan had to be postponed several times because his family members were around him. Only when he was away from his family, did Hezbollah target him). Nasrallah changed the party from the horrific phase under the leadership of Subhi Tufayli, who oversaw the perpetration of acts of kidnappings, hijackings, and car bombings, etc. In 2006, Hezbollah had a chance to put to practice a whole strategy of resistance that they had adopted.

The performance of Hamas in Gaza in 2014 (where the Israeli military toll is exactly ten times that of the year of 2008 — six soldiers were killed, of which four soldiers died from “friendly fire”), owes much to Hezbollah’s school of resistance. In 2009, the Mubarak regime arrested “Sami Shihab” who was in charge of establishing cells to support, equip, and train the resistance in Gaza (he would later flee from Egypt after the first Egyptian uprising in 2011. “Shihab” belonged to Hezbollah’s Unit 1800 which specializes in assisting the Palestinian resistance movement).

There are many lessons that Hamas and its allies in Gaza have learned; the practice of suicide attacks on civilians (which was pioneered and perfected by Zionist terrorist gangs in Palestine as early as the 1930s but the West liked to pretend that Hamas first introduced them in the region in the 1990s) generated negative publicity even among Arabs. Attacks on civilians are not popular among Arabs, all racist generalizations in the US to the contrary notwithstanding. The culture that cheers civilian deaths among the enemy society is the Israeli culture. Hamas and al-Qassam Brigades specifically made statements insisting that they only target military sites on the other side (and the casualty breakdown in Israel substantiate their claims) but all those statements were ignored in the Western press.

Furthermore, in this round of conflict in Gaza - and against a most savage series of war crimes committed by Israel - Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the PFLP (plus other groups including independent units of the Fatah movement in Gaza) have developed and demonstrated an effective strategy of facing off Israel and preventing it from advancing quickly into Gaza, as it used to do in the past. Clearly there is a new resistance movement in Gaza and it has built on the achievements of its predecessors.

Without the useful climate of the Cold War, and amid a state of siege by Israel and Arab regimes, the Palestinian and Lebanese resistance groups are advancing quickly in their strategies against Israel. We all know what Israel has: advanced weapons and ability to violate all the known laws and norms of war, in addition to complete disregard for the lives of civilians on the other side. But the other side has surprises up its sleeves, and the intelligence of Hamas and the other groups, have also learned from the experience of the formidable intelligence apparatus of Hezbollah. This is not the same intelligence apparatus of Fatah where one out of five is a collaborator with Israel. Israel in this war failed to kill one key commander of the resistance groups and instead killed a media official of Islamic Jihad.

The trend is clear; the resistance movement is getting better and better, and the performance of the Israeli military and intelligence apparatus is only getting worse. This is only one of many problems Israel faces that point in the direction of its inevitable demise.

Dr. As’ad AbuKhalil is a Professor of Political Science at California State University, Stanislaus, a lecturer and the author of The Angry Arab News Service. He tweets @asadabukhalil.


Interesting analysis as always, but it ends with a bit of wishful thinking. 67 dead Israeli soldiers are not going to destroy Israël.
The gap between the rational analysis of the article and the outlandish conclusion is troubling.

67 dead Zionists soldiers in 2014 is 10 times more than 2 years ago. It could be a sign of changing.

Hanan Ashrawi:- This poor woman wore the look of helpless, desperation bordering on depression for year, regarding the Palestinian situation.
In one of may interviews, she told the story of her father who was suffering dementia. One day he vanished, they frantically looked high & low for him. Three days later they found him sitting under a tree, on his land, the land that they had been banished from. He went home to die.

In an interview, the actor, Omar Sharif said, in response to being asked weather peace could be obtained in the Middle East, said "these are a tribal people, peace will not come easily"
In other words they like to fight & kill...they are ruled by primitive instincts - no education - & fed on bravado fairy stories of days gone by - the days of yore to be exact.
I would call it - being kept in the dark & fed on bullshit like

R Daivs assumes that we do not know the brutal fact that the jews in general and the Zionists in particle are the most tribal and the most primitive in their sticks. Read what the jewish intellectuals say about this. Read what Israel Shahak, the distinguished chemistry professor at the Hebrew University has to say about this. Stop telling the world that you are the chosen people of th egod whom your creatred to justify your crimes against humanity. Stop aping the Nazis. Read the solidly academic literature that establishers similarities of your crimes to the crimes those who commited crimes against you in Earope.

The Nazi's killed people who had life insurance policies, then with death certificates in hand, they set about collecting on those insurances policies.
Because the insurance companies & the banks provided them with lists.
We are talking about people with money here.
Generations of wealthy families were totally wiped out & their identity / lands / businesses / factories taken over by imposters.
These were the first people to make it to the gas chambers = getting rid of the witnesses.

But what happened to them in Europe has nothing to do with the Palestinians. Why should the Palestinians pay for the crimes committed against the Jews in Europe? And are they not using essentially the same methods in Palestine as the Nazis used against them in Europe?

Wasn't it agreed, across the board that Israel would remain.
Hence, Palestine was never going to topple them.
Of course, it would have been nice if they had told the victims of this nice little in house plan, the Middle Eastern people at large.
Perhaps Yasser Arafat built up an army, having been "convinced as opposed to conned" into believing that he had real enemies to defend himself from, or maybe it was a testosterone thing or both.
Men with their guns......./ toys, type stuff. An idiot is an idiot either way.
And, where did these tremendous financial resources come from ? "we give you access to these monies so as to purchase guns & from us - only - have you got that stupid"
Abu Jihad was most likely taking moment by moment instruction from his Western masters, via the telephone.
Hajj Ismail was rewarded for a job well done & according to instruction.

"the horrific phase under Sabhi Tufayli"
"Nasrallah changed it all" to resistance - & what, it became more humane.....PROLONGED is what it became.
& you, professor, are apologizing for the atrocities committed .../?
The atrocities were perpetrated on both sides - each succession of the Israeli leadership were BUTCHERS & nothing less. [ end of paragraph 9 ]

Professor As'ad, you are there, front line, living it - I am in Australia, what would I know - only that I have been around the block a few times & I am a suspicious & cynical woman.
I am not violent & don't even believe that we should smack our children.
If I were in charge Israel would not exist today - come what may.
I'll be back.........

In 2006 the Resistance in Lebanon killed 121 Zionist terrorists in a bit more than a month. Now in Gaza the Resistance killed at least 64 Zionist terrorists in less then month, and in much more difficult conditions.

Excellent analysis. I did notice, however, the lack of any mention of Iran and its role in the development of the resistance. This strikes me as surprising given that Iranian support is a key edge that the Lebanese resistance had over previous/other groups, and that seems to have made all the difference.

Hi professor As'ad,
There is a lot to read here, man !

Q:- "Palestinians had to rely on antiquated hunting rifles"
Why did they not smuggle in weapons, via the black market chains ?

[ the Balkans - Croatia smuggled in weapons so as to defend itself, they had none ]

Q:- Arab regimes ...................oligarchy alliances - global - against the best interests of the nation & it's people ?
Which is still in play, today.
e.g. Middle East lobbying -The influence game.....Egypt gives $3 million a year -- BRIBERY / MEMBERSHIP / PROTECTION, or is it all 3.../?

Hence the Middle East is a Disneyland of War Games !/?

Re: The statement " hence the Middle East is a Disneyland of War Games!/?".

Notice that Mr Davis regards the destruction and the war crimes committed by Israel in Gaza as exciting for him as going to Disneyland. How inhuman! But one would expect this from the Zionist who are playing a central role in creating this Disneyland for Mr Davis.

As'ad seems Pleased As Punch with the new,improved " Resistance ",
But thr current reality doesn't offer much hope for Israel's. " demise "
The Jews get to sit on the sidelines while Hezbollah,& IRI bleed themselves white in a seemingly endless sectarian bloodbath.
Do you think the Jews tricked them into it, or is it just a local tradition?

the fan of the most stupid prez in USA history (no mean feat) is not much smarter then his favorite. He is happy that his beloved Zionists (not all Jews are Zionists) are going to leave very near the civil war - as if it is a comfortable position. LOL
Not mentioning that USA money is going to the rathole of so-called "moderate" rebels", while USA imperialism's plans for the ME are in not the best condition. Never mind, the fan of the most stupid prez in USA history (no mean feat) is sure could manage without firefighters in his neighborhood and without school too - after all, what good school did to the fan of the most stupid prez in USA history (no mean feat) ?

This article is so pathetic.
The Hamas does not target civilians deliberately?
Come on...

I will accept your invitation to challenge your absurd comment despite the fact that you said nothing. How ever I will reply to the message you are communicating by the tone of your voice. Tell me: why do your not make an argument? Is it not because you cannot possible make any argument agains the facts presented for you in this excellent article? I challenge you to advance any argument that could diminish the potency of what is argued in this article.

This is so retarded. Can you imagine if we instead focused on something like building high tech companies? We might have a country instead of a pile of islamic rubble.

This is so retarded. Can you imagine if anon stop repeating Zionist propaganda and asks Zionists (in USA too) to end their colonization of Palestine? So Palestinians could have a life instead of sitting in Zionist death camp.

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