Losing the Al-Aqsa Intifada
The Palestinian factions have not always paid sufficient attention to the lessons of the Al-Aqsa Intifada. Could strategic failings be to blame, asks Saleh Al-Naami
Hassan Al-Rabie, 32, manoeuvred his wheelchair from his home in the Al-Zeitoun district of Gaza City last Thursday to the headquarters of a local charity in order to collect monthly benefits for his family.
Al-Rabie, permanently paralysed after being shot by an Israeli soldier in 2005, as the Al-Aqsa Intifada was drawing to a close, goes to the charity at the beginning of every month to collect aid paid to the charity by a Palestinian expatriate.
According to medical records and data from human rights organisations operating in the Palestinian territories, the Al-Aqsa Intifada left some 1,000 people handicapped, 4,000 dead and around 10,000 injured, while the Israeli occupation forces also arrested thousands of others.
On the 10th anniversary of the uprising many are now asking whether, after such immense sacrifices, the Palestinians have made political progress, or whether they are as far away as ever from achieving their goals.
The Palestinian factions and their leaders have not taken this question sufficiently seriously, and for the last decade, some say, they have regurgitated populist speeches without worrying too much about matters of fact or reason.
The Intifada was also associated with many deaths among Israeli settlers, and it eroded the sense of personal security of settlers at the time.
However, such developments failed to empower the Palestinians. The Intifada was suppressed, and
Acting in coordination with the
Abbas had made his opposition to the resistance known, and his appointment as Palestinian prime minister was pivotal in paving the way for him to become sole candidate for president of the PA.
Through the force used in suppressing the Al-Aqsa Intifada
Salam Fayyad, for example, Palestinian minister of finance and later prime minister, formed a PA security apparatus with the goal of fighting the resistance in coordination with the occupation forces and under the auspices of the
The PLO factions simply accepted US-Israeli requirements in choosing the PA leadership. In return, they maintained their membership of the PLO's Executive Committee, and some became partners in Fayyad's government in charge of security coordination.
Hamas also misread
Hamas saw this as a victory for the resistance, and its policies were based upon it, including its controversial decision to participate in parliamentary elections, eventually trapping it in control of the Gaza Strip.
Dismantling settlements and redeploying the occupying forces allowed
The Palestinians made mistakes during the Al-Aqsa uprising which seriously damaged their national cause and caused them to lose much of what had been staked on the uprising in the first place.
The uprising was launched without a specific goal, for example, Fatah wanting the Intifada to improve the PA's hand in negotiations with
Moreover, the Palestinian factions did not think through the timing and location of the resistance attacks. The events of 9/11 should have caused them to change their modus operandi, because there was now a world consensus against suicide attacks.
Osama bin Laden became synonymous with Ahmed Yassin, who became synonymous with Yasser Arafat. The 9/11 events made international opinion more sympathetic towards
The resistance did not realise that continued suicide attacks in Israeli cities would galvanise domestic Israeli opinion behind suffocating the Palestinian resistance. Had the attacks been confined to settlements and soldiers in the
Thirdly, unlike during the 1936 Revolution and the first Intifada in 1987, the Palestinian factions did not take the level of the Palestinian people's resolve into account during the Al-Aqsa Intifada, nor did they correctly estimate the social and economic conditions of the Palestinian people when carrying out operations.
Mostly Palestinian civilians were targeted during Israeli military reprisals, making the uprising into a nightmare for many Palestinians, who just wanted it to end, even if this had the effect of strengthening those who have historically opposed resistance activities.
Relying mainly on armed operations also made the Al-Aqsa Intifada an exclusive affair of members of the Palestinian factions, with the effect that too little effort was made to tap into grassroots resistance. This would have curtailed
Fifthly, appearing to cope with the occupation, rather than confronting it directly, was another weakness in the Palestinian strategy. Instead of challenging Israeli roadblocks that obstruct mobility on the
The period before, after and during the Intifada also made it crystal clear that government and resistance cannot be espoused at the same time, whether under direct occupation, as is the case in the West Bank, or indirect occupation, as in
Lastly, the Palestinian leaders were remiss in not realising the dangers of ignoring world opinion, paying too little heed to it and then being placed under siege. The freezing of funds for resistance activities would not have succeeded had it not been for world opinion, which supported actions to contain and frustrate the resistance.
Organisations that supported the families of Palestinian martyrs and low-income families were targeted, and these were economically stifled by
The Palestinians will not be able to learn the lessons of the struggle or end the occupation without analysing what went wrong during the Al-Aqsa Intifada.
Undoubtedly this is true. But history has nonetheless demonstrated that the Palestinians have not been as successful as they might have been in designing tactics most likely to lead to the desired outcome.
The link: http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2010/1018/re2.htm.