The Different Faces of Popular Resistance in Palestine
Apparently, popular resistance has suddenly elevated to become a clash of visions or strategies between the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah and its rivals in
Addressing a Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) meeting in Ramallah on July 2011, Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas sounded as if he had finally reached an earth shattering conclusion, supposedly inspired by the Arab Spring. “In this coming period, we want mass action, organized and coordinated in every place. This is a chance to raise our voices in front of the world and say that we want our rights.” He called on Palestinians to wage popular resistance, insisting that it must be “unarmed popular resistance so that nobody misunderstands us” (Reuters). (He made a similar call at the UN General Assembly in September.)
It was Abbas’s way of escaping forward. He needed to quell the mounting anger and resentment of his lacking leadership.
Abbas has little credibility as far as unleashing any form of resistance against
There is little, if any, evidence that the PA is leading a sincere mass action, organized and coordinated in every place. The PA-staged rhetorical revolution, however, served its purpose, at least for now, as Abbas and his men survived the regional upheaval.
The term, “popular resistance” is still being generously infused as if its mere repetition is a key to solving every political dichotomy facing Palestinians. The context in which it is used or manipulated is registering unfavorably among Palestinian factions that have long championed armed struggle and vehemently opposed
When Islamic Jihad Secretary General Ramadan Shallah addressed thousands of supporters in
Of course, he also lashed out at “peaceful non-violent resistance,” which provided very useful soundbites quoted generously by the media. Interestingly, however, Shallah’s views on non-violent popular resistance were combined with his views on negotiations, thus interpreting the strategy of popular resistance as part and parcel of the PA’s futile hunt for Israeli concessions. “Nineteen years of failed negotiations have created a crisis which cannot be resolved by insisting on more negotiations, or through non-violent resistance,” he said, according to the Palestinian Ma’an News Agency (October 4).
A third and less factional reading of the popular resistance strategy was offered by the ever-articulate Palestinian activist Dr. Mostafa Barghouti, who was clear on Al Jazeera (October 18) when he defended Palestinians’ right to resist by all means available, but asserted that popular resistance can be a more effective strategy for achieving political rights.
Obviously, the problem doesn’t exist within the non-violent popular resistance strategy, but in its political context and misuse by certain parties. When placed within a truly genuine framework aimed at devising a conducive and beneficial strategy for obtaining Palestinian rights, popular-resistance takes on a different look and feel altogether. Moreover, as far as Palestinian history is concerned, the strategy is hardly an alien concept or a defeatist attempt at not being “misunder- stood” by western benefactors.
History is rife with evidence. On September 19, 1989, the West Bank town of
The story of popular resistance in
A general strike was declared, ushering the start of
Of course, these are not distant histories. That collective action was hardly a passing phase, but was repeated throughout history, even after the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993 which institutionalized the Israeli occupation and ruthlessly punished those who dared resist.
The PA in Ramallah should quit utilizing and referencing the notion of popular resistance while doing everything in its power to suppress it. And Abbas’s rivals must not associate popular resistance with
Ramzy Baroud (ramzybaroud.net) is an internationally syndicated columnist and the editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story. Photos of resistance are from Wikimedia. resistan