[News] Judging the Intifada

News at freedomarchives.org News at freedomarchives.org
Wed Oct 6 08:59:04 EDT 2004

Judging the Intifada
Hasan Abu Nimah & Ali Abunimah, The Electronic Intifada, 6 October 2004


Fruit of the Loom: A young Palestinian, who has only known a life under 
military occupation, strides with rocks to confront Israeli rifles on the 
edge of Bethlehem. (Photo: Nigel Parry)

The fourth anniversary of Israel's violent crackdown on the Palestinian 
uprising, which coincided with its latest massacre of Palestinians in the 
Gaza Strip, occasioned a number of analyses, many concluding ­ wishfully ­ 
that the Intifada has been "counterproductive" for the Palestinians, or 
even a "failure."

Ha'aretz analyst Bradley Burston wrote an article headlined, "The war that 
Palestine couldn't lose - and did." US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, 
asked on Al-Jazeera, "What has [the Intifada] accomplished for the 
Palestinian people? Has it produced progress toward a Palestinian state? 
Has it defeated Israel on the battlefield?" Concluding it had not, he 
declared, "it is time to end this process. It is time to end the Intifada."

The standard that Mr. Powell set for assessing Palestinian success or 
failure is disengenuous and absurd. No one expected that Palestinians could 
defeat Israel's astronomically superior, US-backed armed forces. But as the 
ongoing resistance, both nonviolent and armed, demonstrates every day, the 
Palestinians are not close to defeat, nor are the Israelis close to 
victory. Despite all of Israel's killing and cruelty for decades, the 
Palestinians are unbroken; they have neither abandoned their rights, nor 
resigned themselves to living permanently under Israeli dictatorship.

Palestinians have indeed paid a heartbreaking price during the past four 
years in death and destruction inflicted by Israel. But that is not the 
only way they measure the Intifada. Mr. Powell failed to ask how much the 
Palestinians had gained from more than a decade of the American-sponsored 
"peace process" and the "roadmap." He knows the answer: throughout the 
period, Israel continued, with American connivance, to steal and colonize 
the little left of their land at an accelerating pace, extinguishing the 
prospects for a truly independent Palestinian state even as the US claimed 
to be supporting it. The Intifada did not interrupt and "derail" the peace 
process as revisionists argue; it came long after the peace process failed, 
and as a direct result of this failure. As long as Palestinians see that no 
outside powers will fairly uphold their rights, or international law, some 
will always conclude that their only course is to impose as a high cost as 
possible on Israel, no matter the cost to themselves. This is what fuels 
support for counterattacks on Israeli civilians, and indeed the willingness 
to die carrying them out. In a context where Israel has left them nothing 
to lose, some Palestinians feel such attacks are the only means they have 
to even the killing field.

Powell also did not ask Israel how much its unrelenting brutality and 
colonization has allowed Israelis to relax and enjoy the fruits of 
dispossessing the Palestinians and depriving them of their basic rights. In 
addition to losing more than one thousand people, Israel is wracked with 
corruption, unemployment, poverty and mass emigration as a direct result of 
its war to keep the Palestinians under occupation.

It is nevertheless fashionable to point to the precipitous drop in 
Palestinian living standards as further evidence of the failure of the 
Intifada, as New York Times reporter Steven Erlanger did in an October 3 
column. This economic collapse, as numerous UN, EU and other bodies have 
reported over many years, is the direct result of Israel's collective 
punishment of the population. But rather than condemning the illegal 
measures of the occupier, some seek to blame the victims for bringing it on 
themselves. Erlanger quoted a recent report by the International Crisis 
Group (ICG) that "although the occupation and the confrontation with Israel 
that is entering its fifth year provide the context, today's Palestinian 
predicament is decidedly domestic." The ICG, which seems to exist solely to 
lend false credibility to the most shallow, power-serving clichés, has once 
again issued a report in which the hypothetical ideal is offered as the 
alternative to grim reality, but without a single plausible suggestion for 
how to get there, and with virtually all responsibility for action lying at 
the door of the weakest party.

Such transparent apologia for Israel is nothing new. From the first days of 
what began as a peaceful uprising, to which Israel responded with one 
million bullets in the first month of protests, Israeli and American 
analysts have been declaring that the efforts to stop all resistance would 
soon succeed. A few more assassinations, a few more missiles, a few 
thousand more arrests, a bit more torture, a few hundred more demolitions, 
a little more hunger and darkness ­ and the Palestinians will get the 
message and realize that their best option is servitude under occupation.

By any standard, in a war between a colonial occupier and an indigenous 
people, the Palestinians are in a comparable state to those who have 
trodden this path before them. In Southeast Asia, the United States killed 
approximately fifty Vietnamese, Laotians and Cambodians for every American 
who died in that war, and still the Americans suffered a total strategic 
defeat. In Algeria, the French killed on a similar scale and were defeated. 
In South Africa, the apartheid regime killed hundreds of black South 
Africans for every white person killed, and that regime no longer exists. 
Nor did massacres and atrocities in Iraq in the 1920s, or India in the 
1940s, save British rule there. In colonial wars, the colonized always pay 
a much higher price than their foreign rulers. The Americans and British 
are learning afresh in the "New" Iraq that massive military dominance is 
not the same thing as victory.

Israel, though, stubbornly refuses to learn any lessons and thus spare 
Jewish and Arab lives. As its situation has deteriorated, it has used ever 
more brutality against the Palestinians, with increasingly meagre results 
from its perspective. Strategically, Israel remains at an absolute dead 
end. Despite all the talk of "disengagement," Israel has thrust deeper into 
Gaza. It can neither afford to stay there, nor can it afford to leave. 
Sharon's only reason for ever speaking of a withdrawal from Gaza was to 
reduce the cost of the occupation to Israel and to consolidate Israel's 
conquests in the West Bank. But the tenacity of the resistance in Gaza and 
the West Bank shows that as long as Israel is determined to colonize any 
inch of the occupied territories, it is necessarily committed to staying in 
all of them. The logic of Israeli policy demands ever deeper penetration 
and ever more savage measures.

South African law professor John Dugard, the UN special rapporteur for 
human rights in the Palestinian territories, wrote in a report to the 
General Assembly last August that Israel has created, "an apartheid regime" 
in the occupied territories "worse than the one that existed in South 
Africa." Dugard is in a good position to know, since he was a member his 
country's post-apartheid Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Contrasting with Dugard's forthrightness is the utter cowardice of those 
who talk loudest about international law and human rights in the abstract. 
The United States' pro-Israel position is the most extreme and biased, but 
has lost the power to shock or disappoint. Yet the European Union, which 
has for years posed as an even-handed force in the conflict, has long since 
abandoned all serious efforts. European states now make empty statements 
about adhering to the "roadmap" and calling for Palestinian "reform," not 
because they believe genuinely that such things are in any remote way 
related to a solution, but because they realize that exposing the real 
problem ­ Israel's intransigence ­ will lead to embarassing calls for 
sanctions against an outlaw regime that recognizes no boundaries for its 

Recently, UK prime minister Tony Blair, the champion of democracy, human 
rights and freedom in Iraq, made a personal committment to do everything 
possible to resolve the Palestine-Israel conflict. Before the Iraq 
invasion, he made the same promise on the BBC Arabic Service, responding to 
doubts about the West's past performance by saying that a skeptical Arab 
public should just wait, and judge him by his actions. More than a year has 
passed and Blair has done absolutely nothing except vigorously oppose 
Palestinian efforts to win their rights through the peaceful forum of the 
International Court of Justice at The Hague.

The result of all this is that Israel is ever emboldened, confident that it 
can do as it pleases. Other than bleats of displeasure from Arab and 
international officials, no one will act against it. Never has Ben-Gurion's 
infamous maxim been more apt: "What matters is not what the Gentiles will 
say, but what the Jews will do."

Those who wish to mark the anniversary of the Intifada with a hard look at 
reality, rather than self-delusion, might make the following predictions: 
there will be no Palestinian state alongside Israel, because such a thing 
is impossible in the reality Israel has, with the world's acquiescence, 
created. But in another four years it will become clear that Israel can no 
longer exist as a "Jewish state," superimposed on a Palestinian majority 
that refuses to accept the inferior status Israel has assigned it, and 
which Palestinians will continue to resist with whatever resources they have.

In the meantime, we can expect ever more horrifying violence that will not 
be abated by ritual condemnations. And, as Israel gets further into its 
corner, the chances increase dramatically that it will seek to resolve its 
existential problem not just at the expense of the Palestinians, but by 
spreading the conflict to its neighbors.

Ambassador Hasan Abu Nimah is former permanent representative of Jordan at 
the United Nations. Ali Abunimah is co-founder of the websites The 
Electronic Intifada and Electronic Iraq.

The Freedom Archives
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 863-9977
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://freedomarchives.org/pipermail/news_freedomarchives.org/attachments/20041006/c14efda4/attachment.html>
-------------- next part --------------
A non-text attachment was scrubbed...
Name: 23c029.jpg
Type: image/jpeg
Size: 103122 bytes
Desc: not available
URL: <http://freedomarchives.org/pipermail/news_freedomarchives.org/attachments/20041006/c14efda4/attachment.jpg>

More information about the News mailing list