Militarization of the Palestinian Intifada

by Mamdouh Nofal on 05/10/2004

Last September, the Palestinian Intifada completed its fourth anniversary. This carried in its crease certain features that distinguished it from all other major events that every Palestinian witnessed during the long Palestinian-Israeli conflict, including the 1987 Intifada which lasted a few years. The main attribute of this Intifada was the association of its leverages and public mobilizations with intensive military actions, and the increase in human and economic losses on both sides. Second, the political regime participated in this Intifada through its ruling party Fatah, and through the participation of the security and civil systems.

It is unnecessary at this specific moment in time to concentrate on searching for the achievements of the Intifada. I believe that the biggest favor that this Intifada presented at the threshold of its fifth anniversary was the fact that it highlighted the means of ameliorating the people’s consolidation and diminishing their losses. At its beginning, the Intifada assured the Palestinian national and Islamic forces the importance of maintaining a peaceful aspect for the Intifada, and the importance of maintaining public mobilization as an essential weapon against the occupation forces. However, this peaceful ideology did not last long, and the Israeli security institution succeeded in pushing the national and Islamic forces towards the battlefield. Accordingly, the cost of the Intifada increased, along with its human losses, without any reaction from the international public opinion or the peace movements inside Israel.

As soon as the Palestinians were dragged to the battlefield, the Intifada was militarized; the Palestinian Authority and its ruling party Fatah played an essential role in this militarization. The militarized feature was associated with a decrease in public participation in the leverages of the Intifada, and the image of the peaceful movement was lost. Suicide operations replaced peaceful protests, demonstrations, and economic boycotts. The Gazans and the West Bankers anxiously waited for news about a military operation against the Israelis, or news about a suicide bombing inside a restaurant, bus, or discotheque in an Israeli area. Accordingly, the leaders of the Intifada were no longer capable of convincing the people in the West Bank and Gaza, not to mention the Arabs, that the Intifada is a peaceful resistance.

No matter what the intentions of the suicide operations were, they incurred harm on the Palestinian higher interests on all levels and aspects. These operations made it easier for the Bush administration and other European countries to blame the Palestinians for destroying the peace process. With the dilation of the militarized scope of the Intifada, Israel bombarded the Palestinians with tanks and fighter jets. The Israeli invasion of Palestinian villages, cities, and refugee camps, and the killing of 5 to 7 Palestinians became a daily habit. This was met by an increase in the militarization of the Intifada, as the Palestinian started to develop Al Qassam missiles, in order to launch them at Israeli settlements. Some Israelis started insisting on finding a solution to the problem. Sharon used this development in the Israeli public opinion, utilized America’s involvement in Iraq and the war on terror, and started annexing additional Palestinian territories and building the Israeli fence.

At the peak of the cold war, the Palestinian resistance carried out military operations outside of Israel; however, leaders of the Nationalist Front admitted that these operations harmed the Palestinian cause and the Palestinian national interests. I do not think it is necessary to repeat this experience, as everyone knows its outcomes.

No doubt the different political, organizational, and intellectual stances among the national and Islamic forces are normal and healthy. I affirmatively think there are no differences in opinion between the Palestinian National forces and the Palestinian Islamic forces regarding the legitimacy of the resistance. However, the main difference with the supporters of the armed Intifada and the supporters of suicide operations lies in the possible estimation of achieving national goals at every stage.

Regardless of Sharon’s racial practices, nobody has the right to consider the legitimate Palestinian resistance as an act of terrorism. Nobody has the right to impose his opinion in order to involve the majority in trials that should actually be avoided. I hope that the Intifada’s fifth anniversary would be an occasion to establish assessment norms in order to shed the light on all our mistakes.