The new armed Palestinian intifada
The Palestinians conducting the current uprising, or intifada, have begun to reconsider its current strategy and tactics. The usual rock-throwing scenario, which for years has dominated and symbolized the Palestinian struggle for freedom, may lessen, as the development of other forms of resistance looms ahead in the near future.
The decision to use arms is far from being a conscious approach to drive out Israeli occupation forces. Many, if not all, freedom fighting factions within Palestine are well aware of their lack of reliable military means that would provide a backbone for long term guerrilla warfare against an army ranked as one of the greatest in the world. Moreover, they are completely aware of the cruelty of the Israeli army that uses any means necessary to quash resistance.
The most evident example of this was the Israeli response to the second intifada, which broke out on September 28. As young Palestinians used stones, slingshots and Molotov cocktails, the Israeli responded as if it were a real war. The apparently well studied decision to treat any Palestinian "violence" as an act of war was made long before the spontaneous initiation of the Intifada, a fact that is rarely acknowledged among Israeli officials.
Threats made by Israeli officials, including the army chief of staff Shaul Mofaz, who issued orders for amassing heavy artillery in the occupied Palestinian territories, were greatly overlooked. These threats continued, even as Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak was presumably on a peace mission in Camp David. Mofaz then alleged that a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state was equivalent to a declaration of war.
Although the Israeli military failed at the time to explain such ludicrous rationale, the Israeli intimidation campaign succeeded nonetheless in bending Arafat's will, who once more postponed the official declaration date.
The interesting twist in this story is that while the Palestinian Authority (PA) deferred the state declaration option, Israel carried out its threats anyway, and launched a one-sided war against a largely unarmed Palestinian population.
The number of those killed thus far has reached nearly 200, and the number of wounded has elevated well past 6,000. Additionally, the West Bank and Gaza are sealed off from the outside world, blocking badly needed medical supplies and food.
Protecting the Palestinian population of the West Bank and Gaza through the interference of international or Arab forces, is an improbable scenario now and long into the future, thanks to the United States' domination over the United Nations, its infinite support of Israel, and weakness on the part of Arab governments.
But the makers of the Intifada didn't count on the possibility of outside military intervention, since they have learned from past crises that very few have dared to confront Israel's inhumane practices. This time is no exception.
However the ending of the Intifada is also out of the question, at least for now, since the Palestinian resistance is still in the hands of the enraged masses, and not yet in the hands of the increasingly marginalised leadership.
Meanwhile, Israel, despite its acknowledgment that it is bracing itself for a prolonged conflict, is hoping to smash the raging uprising quickly and swiftly. And even with an enormous amount of force used by Israel against significantly weaker Palestinians, the Israeli government is still vowing to use even more force. "The army will no longer just have a policy of response, but will put into effect a policy of initiative," said Shaul Mofaz, whose forces have begun heavily shelling the towns of Ramallah, Nablus, Gaza, Rafah, Beit Jala and Beit Sahour.
In an interview with Qatar based Al Jazeera satellite station, a top Israeli army official shamelessly bragged about his army's capabilities, saying that Israel has used only one-tenth of its military strength, assuring that more will be used as needed.
Under such circumstances, one cannot expect the Intifada to proceed with its daily routine unchanged. In fact, signs of transformation in the general behavior of the Palestinian resistance can be easily detected, commanding signs of greater political defiance even from the Palestinian Authority itself.
Beginning in the city of Nablus, where revolutions are often born, hundreds of young men have picked up arms and were sent to guard the city's main entrances against Israeli army attacks. Such a reaction is not surprising, as Nablus has accumulated the greater share of martyrs and wounded. Now most areas under Palestinian Authority control are full of armed men whose course of action is governed by the revived United National Front of the Intifada, which operated in the occupied territories during the 1987 uprising.
The Palestinian people's frustration with their leadership's inability to withstand the Israeli military machine, while at the same time failing to achieve any meaningful political gains, is likely to produce additional signs of defiance, such as suicide missions. The first suicide mission in two years which was carried out by Nabil Areer in Gaza on October 26 was an expected aftermath of the Palestinian peoples' frustration, and a desperate attempt to escape the crushing helplessness one must feel under ceaseless Israeli aggression.
The backbone of the Palestinian Authority, the Fatah movement appears to be the real main variable in the current armed Intifada. The movement's followers could produce military co-ordination and lead to intensifying Palestinian retaliation of the one-sided war.
The question is no longer whether armed Palestinian resistance is a strategic move or not. The question now is when such an alternation in the Intifada's course will take place. It must be clear however, that upgrading the level of Palestinian resistance to a full scale use of arms is motivated by the uncontested need for a nation to defend itself, as the world stands aside, dividing itself into three camps. One camp condemns Israel without taking real action to stop its aggression (the Arab and Muslim world). One camp blames Palestinians and oversupplies Israel with weapons; financial and political support (the United States). The third and final camp bashfully urges both parties to return to the negotiation table (the United Nations and Europe).
As none of the offerings of these three parties is sufficient enough to protect the tormented Palestinian population from Israel's merciless killing, one must expect more serious retaliation from the Palestinians sooner or later.
Ramzy Baroud is a freelance writer in Seattle, Washington and a regular contributor to iviews.com.
Topics: Conflicts And War, Occupation, Palestine