It’s only natural to resist
As we look around us at what has been happening lately, we stand speechless. As natives of the land of Palestine, we live in a never-ending conflict, under an authority that doesn’t recognize us or our rights, under constant pressure to justify to the international community that we have a right to live in our land in peace without any discrimination based on religion or race. While wondering how a religious state can claim to be a democracy, and how the word ‘occupation’ still exists when it’s supposed to be a term taught only in history books. Since the start of this conflict in Palestine ‘peace’ has only been an anonymous symbol.
Resistance Is an Inevitable Result of Occupation
Israel has maintained a military occupation of Palestinian territories since 1967. It has taken over Palestinian lands and built settlements on them for its own population in violation of international law. Israel denies Palestinians freedom of movement through the institution of checkpoints, the separation wall around the West Bank and the siege on Gaza. Therefore, Israel controls the economy, water and electricity. Palestinians living under the Israeli occupation don’t have the right to vote in the system that dominates their lives. Resistance, which is portrayed as “violence,” is an inevitable result of the occupation.
Palestinians are being displaced from their homeland each day, their homes are being demolished, and they are being kept in refugee camps. Palestinian refugees in foreign countries are denied residency and therefore denied the right to property ownership. The Palestinian refugees in Syria are moving from one asylum to another, while millions of new Jewish immigrants from various countries around the world are given endless privileges by the Israeli government to live in what is today called “Israel,” and these refugees are not allowed to return to their homeland. Even Palestinians who are living under Israeli occupation are denied permanent residency, including residents of East Jerusalem: Israel controls their stay and movement in and outside the country and treats them as temporary residents only. They are given IDs but not passports, and East Jerusalemites only have a “travel document” that states their nationality as Jordanian and not Palestinian.
Whether Palestinians protest violently or nonviolently, Israel frequently responds with military force. So how can the violence end in the Occupied Palestinian Territories without an end to occupation?!
Many of us are wondering if this is a new intifada. Well, maybe it’s too soon to tell. But it is more important to focus on the reality on the ground than to worry about definitions or labels. What the world should know is that a new tide of Palestinian rebellion has been rising for the last few years, for the simple reason that occupation, colonialism and apartheid produce resistance.
I don’t want to talk about the denial of Palestinian freedom, the humiliation and checkpoints, the terrorized young children whose homes were raided at 2 in the morning. Nor do I want to talk about the owners of the olive groves that Jewish settlers burn every now and then, or about the poor Palestinian families who were kicked out of their homes to make space for a new Jewish settlement. I don’t want to talk about the Israeli regime that prevents Muslims from entering and praying in al-Haram al-Sharif by beefing up military and police presence in the Old City of Jerusalem, leaving them to pray in the streets instead.
Israel is trying to exterminate Palestinians from their homeland. They are attempting to judaize Palestine by erasing its Palestinian and Muslim identity entirely under claims of historical belonging and their search for evidence that was never found. They are only trying to find justifications for all their cruel acts. Even Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is trying to rewrite history by saying that the Holocaust wasn’t Hitler’s idea and pointing his finger at a Palestinian leader. Maybe this is why it didn’t surprise us when we watched videos of Israelis and Israeli soldiers placing weapons next to dead Palestinians to justify their murder.
Palestinians who were accused of attacking Israelis were shot directly, either by Israeli military forces or by settlers who may have just felt insecure or threatened with or without reason. Most of the martyrs would not be liable for a death sentence in a state of law. The homes of these Palestinian martyrs are being demolished in violation of international law, and their families are threatened with loss of residency. While raids on Palestinian homes and schools continue, the theft of Palestinian land and spree of barbaric extrajudicial killings are all being buoyed by the cheers of the masses, media incitement and the encouragement of the Israeli government and the Zionist far-right extremists.
Israelis have a government and weapons. They are protected by an army that stands behind them. Recently the Israeli government set up metal detectors at the entrances of the Old City of Jerusalem so that Palestinians aren’t allowed to go through with any metal objects, while Israeli settlers pass through with their guns!! The Israelis are asked to keep their weapons with them at all times!!! Could you think for yourself what do Palestinians have, who is there to protect them or care about their lost livelihoods. They are paralyzed and fed up with injustice, racism, the denial of rights practiced by the Israeli government and the ignorance of the Palestinian Authority. The Palestinians are the only people on this earth who are asked to guarantee the security of their occupier, while Israel is the only country that calls for defense from its victims. Are you still wondering why this is happening? Palestinians chose to resist and express their anger in their own way.
Understanding the Primary Violence of Occupation
You cannot be an innocent settler. It does not mean you deserve to die in front of your children. But it means that you are guilty and your crimes cannot be swept away. As stated by Haaretz correspondent Amira Haas:
Young Palestinians do not go out to murder Jews because they are Jews. It’s because Jews are their occupiers, their torturers, their jailers, the thieves of their land and water, their exilers, the demolishers of their homes, the blockers of their horizon. Young Palestinians, vengeful and desperate, are willing to lose their lives and cause their families great pain because the enemy they face proves every day that its malice has no limits.”
If we look at the latest crimes committed by the IDF and Israeli settlers against Palestinians, we would find an endless number of killings. We all remember Mohammad Abu Khdeir, the 16-year-old boy from Jerusalem who in July 2014 was kidnapped by Israeli settlers, tied up, forced to drink a flammable material that was then poured all over his body and then burned alive.
In a similar attack by Israeli settlers, the Dawabsheh home was torched with a baby sleeping inside. The Nablus family was attacked late after midnight while they were sleeping. The Israeli settlers set the house on fire using an unidentified material which, according to eyewitnesses, ignites through contact with water and oxygen and therefore makes the fire almost impossible to extinguish. The parents and their baby infant died suffering from severe burns. Only the four-year-old boy survived while still suffering from second-degree burns that covered 60% of his body.
Another example is Fadi Alloun, the 19-year-old unarmed teenage boy in Jerusalem, killed by an Israeli police officer who shot him. Fadi was running toward the police seeking protection from a mob of Israeli settlers who were threatening to kill him because he was Arab. The video of this incident shows that Fadi did not appear to pose a threat, yet the Israeli settlers were shouting that he was an Arab and inciting the police to kill him. “Israeli soldiers are committing war crimes. This is murder,” alleged Tahseen Elayyan from the Al-Haq human rights organization in Ramallah. “Based on what we have documented recently, we have noticed that it is very easy for Israeli security forces to claim Palestinians have knives and then to kill them, even when soldiers’ lives are not in danger.”
Ahmad Manasrah was a 13-year-old Palestinian who bled to death on the pavement of an East Jerusalem neighborhood after being shot by IDF soldiers. The video of the incident showed Israelis verbally abusing him while watching him bleed. You can hear them shouting “Die, you son of a whore. Die! Die!” This obviously showcases the fascist, supremacist ideology espoused by leaders of the Israeli state.
And then there was Hanin Doayat, the 20-year-old female Palestinian university student who was shot and stripped naked in the Old City near al-Haram al-Sharif. According to eyewitness reports, an Israeli settler harassed her by trying to pull off her headscarf. In response, she hit the attacker with her handbag and was then shot at point blank. The Israeli regime claims the woman had a knife and stabbed the settler, but sources say there were no traces of blood at the scene before the woman was shot. However, if she was carrying a knife, do they need 10 men to shoot her! If Jerusalem is a united city, why does its mayor call only on Jews to carry guns to protect themselves? And what should non-Jews carry…tomatoes! If Israelis feel unsafe among Palestinians, why build colonial settlements on stolen Palestinian land?
Many other similar incidents of the extrajudicial execution of Palestinian youth accused of stabbing Israelis laid bare for the world the inhumanity of Zionism. It was enough to show the ongoing Jewish supremacist ideology which places non-Jews in an inferior relation to Jews and places less value on their lives. Cursing bleeding young boys and shouting “Death to Arabs” could not be understood as simple hatred. It is an intergenerational sense of superiority bred from the dehumanization of Palestinians and Arabs in general that justifies their oppression, brutalization and murder.
What Are Palestinians Supposed to Do?
In the absence of international action to put an end to the Israeli occupation or even provide protection, what are Palestinians supposed to do, stand still and wait for the next family to be burned, or for the next Palestinian to be killed, or for the next settlement to be built? Why does the world remain silent while watching the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians? Israel’s actions and crimes have not only destroyed the two-state solution and violated international law; they have created a new concept of resistance.
We should be mindful that the underlying motivation of young educated Palestinians who commit stabbing attacks is the savageness and inhumanity of the Israeli occupation and desperation over the lack of international support. The stabbings were themselves responses to endless brutalizing attacks by Israeli settlers and security forces against Palestinians. The stabbers were not poor, ignorant or without ambition. Many came from wealthy educated backgrounds. What they suffered from is a poverty of freedom and justice. Bahaa Allyan and Muhannad Halabi are good examples of this.
Bahaa Allyan was born in Jerusalem. He was an active graphic designer. He took part in Scouts of Al Quds and participated in building libraries and organizing cultural events which he promoted through his Facebook posts. He organized the longest reading chain surrounding the Jerusalem walls in an attempt to promote a culture of reading and to break a Guinness world record. Bahaa’s Facebook posts also reflected his anger over the savageness of the Israeli occupation, which he said made Palestinian lives unbearable (citing the brutality of the Israeli settlers who burned the Dawabsheh family alive). He also wrote about his dissatisfaction with the futility of the PA and lack of the Palestinian narratives in the media.
Muhannad Halabi was born in a wealthy family in al-Bireh, Ramallah. He was an active student who wanted to be a lawyer. His profile picture on Facebook was of one of his best friends who was killed by the Israeli occupation forces when he protested against the occupation. He also had another photo of the Palestinian map covered in a kefiyye. Next to it he wrote: “The only wish which I have is to be buried in Palestine when I die, so that you could write on my grave he is no longer a refugee.” He also expressed his anger about happenings in al-Haram al-Sharif and about the Muslim women and elders who are provoked and humiliated each day. So he said: “What is happening to Al-Aqsa Mosque, and what is happening to the women there, to our mothers and sisters, I do not think our people should be subjugated to humiliation. The people will rise; no, they have actually risen.”
Moreover, most of the demonstrators risking their lives are students. They are shot on the upper part of their bodies. A lot of them suffered serious injuries or were killed from a bullet that came straight to their heart, neck or head. Some of the Palestinian youth lost their vision from rubber bullets shot at their faces, and many infants died in their homes from tear gas. Even journalists are being targeted by the Israeli regime to black out the reality they attempt to communicate through media. Hana Mahameed, one of the active journalists at Al-Mayadeen TV suffered from serious burns on her face after the Israeli occupation forces targeted her by throwing a stun grenade at her.
Unfortunately, the biased international media has always tried to exonerate Israel as an ethnic supremacist state from its guilt regarding ethnic cleansing. Many political analysts, activists and others fear being portrayed as anti-Semites. Conservative discourse surrounding anti-Semitism itself actually functions to shield Israeli society from the criticism that it deserves. This was obvious in the news coverage of the stabbing attacks in some of the international media channels. In the headlines, “stabbings” were presented as the root of the problem which justifies deadly responses and the murder of Palestinians. In this way, the responses were portrayed as responses to an external factor, which is the violence against Israelis. As a result, Israel was portrayed as a victim, changing victims into criminals, and criminals into victims.
At the same time, social media by contrast threatens to damage the public image of Israel. It played a big role in removing the mask of the Israeli image through its ability to bypass the propaganda war of international media channels. The image of Israeli society has had barbarous periods before, but not like this one, in which every stabber or anyone who threatens with a knife, school scissors or a ruler is executed, even after he has thrown down his “weapon,” while the killer becomes the hero of the nation.
The goal of this unilateral war is, on one hand, to force Palestinians to give up all their national demands in their homeland and, on the other hand, add privileges to the Israelis. Israel has chosen occupation over peace and has used negotiations as a smokescreen to advance its colonial project.
Remember That You Are Enforcing an Inhumane Occupation
Imprisoned Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouthi has said:
We were called upon to be patient by resorting to peaceful means to gain the support of the international community and end the occupation. But the international community failed to undertake any meaningful steps, neither setting up an international framework to implement international law and UN resolutions, nor enacting measures to ensure accountability, including boycott, divestment and sanctions. During the first intifada, the Israeli government launched a “break their bones to break their will” policy, but for generation after generation the Palestinian people have proven their will is unbreakable. This new Palestinian generation has not awaited reconciliation talks to embody a national unity that political parties have failed to achieve, but has risen above political divides and geographic fragmentation. It has not awaited instructions to uphold its right, and its duty, to resist this occupation. It is doing so unarmed, while being confronted by one of the biggest military powers in the world. The flag that we raised with pride at the UN will one day fly over the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem to signal our independence.1
“The Palestinians are fighting for their lives, for their freedom, for their future, for justice in the full sense of the words. The Israelis are fighting for their privilege as a nation of masters. They are doing everything in their power to make lives of Palestinians unbearable,” writes Amira Hass. “Not only East Jerusalemites but all Palestinians are suffering from this barbaric occupation.
Therefore, I would like to tell all the Israelis who are enjoying clubbing in Tel Aviv, watching movies in Cinema City in Jerusalem, swimming near the beach of Haifa and walking in the old city of Acre, remember that your country is oppressing another people and making their lives a living hell. Remember, when you finish your army service and you’re ready to travel the world or to start along your academic journey, that there are Palestinians who are living in a cage, that there are families with no shelter, that there are children who no longer have siblings or parents, that the youth in Gaza have lost their future, and that there are patients who die there each day, unable to travel abroad for operations.
Remember that you are enforcing an inhumane occupation.”2