Sep 27 2002

The Third Intifada

Published by at 12:00 am under Articles,Palestinian politics

The time was almost midnight on September 20th when a number of the satellite stations interrupted their regular programming to announce that Israeli soldiers had warned Palestinians living near Arafat’s headquarters that the building would be blown up in 15 minutes if those inside it didn’t come out.

Within those tense minutes the streets of Ramallah were full of ordinary Palestinians. Marchers often led by women were getting larger and larger in numbers as people trapped in their homes for days on end had decided to shake off the injustice that had befallen them. many of the demonstrators were not necessarily Arafat supporters but rather they were every day Palestinians attempting to defend their national honor.

This popular uprising that began in the Ramallah neighborhood of Im al Sharit quickly spread to Nablus, Tulkarem , Gaza and Bethlehem. The following day women and men came out with pots and pans and beat on their household utinsels as a sign of agner and protest. The next day a candle light vigil was the way people in Palestinian cities decided was their way to break what they considered a repressive curfew.

In 1987 Palestinians introduce the term intiafada to the international lexicon. In the fall of 2000 many gave the protests the term Al Aqsa Intifada but on most people’s tongues was simply the term the second intifada. What happened that evening in Ramallah gets my vote as the third intifada.

Since then schools in many West Bank cities have decided to stay open every school day regardless of whether the Israelis are declaring their arbitrary curfews. Some areas are organizing popular schools. Some of the more wealthy schools are sending homework to their students by email. Curfew days have become high traffic days on the Internet as most people are doing their office work or school work from their homes. A major culture is being written up, recorded, photographed and spread on cyberspace about life under curfew.

What happened late on Friday night was not without a warning. A week earlier the representatives of the Palestinian people did what no other Arab parliament has ever done. They forced a government appointed by the president to resign rather than be shamed into a vote of no confidence. A public opinion poll commissioned by the Search for Common Ground organization also found a majority of Palestinians supporting ideas of non violent resistance.

But like the previous two intifadas, many people are trying to claim copyright to the latest protests. Supporters of President Arafat’s party are claiming that it was Fatah activists who got the ball rolling. Many would disagree saying that like the previous intifadas this was a popular movement that was triggered by the anger of the population rather than the decision of a person or group.

Also like previous intifadas many of those romantically hooked to violent protests are unable to let the marchers carry out their protests without starting to throw stones or in some cases use fire arms. Such acts not only are contrary to the spirit of non violence but they endanger those involved thus quickly reducing the possibility that large numbers of ordinary Palestinians participate.

One of the first martyrs of this third intifada was a journalist Issam Tillawi who was gunned down by Israeli troops who were distracted from their efforts to blow up Arafat’s headquarters by the sound of ordinary Palestinians sick and tired of being imprisoned in their homes day after day after day.

For a long time many of the international critics of Palestinians have been asking why Palestinians don’t use methods of non violence to try and cause change. They argue that if Palestinians do that, a major change will take place in Israeli and international public opinion that will eventually be translated in political terms. Many have doubts about that seeing that the Sharon government is only interested in a Palestinian population that raises the white flag of surrender. When Palestinians in Ramallah carried out their plans to hold a candle light vigil on Wednesday night, the Israeli army which had declared that the following day curfew would be lifted decided to reverse itself and re impose the curfew. On Thursday some people adhered to the Israeli army’s curfew announcement, but most didn’t. Schools in particular have decided that they will no longer call off their teaching duties according to Israeli army dictates.

What is worrisome, however, is that the Israeli and international press have ignored or belittled the nonviolent nature of what is happening in Palestine this week. It seems that the long awaited change in Israeli and US public opinion will not happen soon as both peoples continue to be bombarded by news that fulfills the aspirations of those wishing to end the conflict in a violent way.

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