By Hussam Abu Hamed
US Secretary of State John Kerry did not want to leave Amman empty handed. In light of his war against Daesh, the bouts of clashes between the Jordanian government and Islamists, and a growing Hashemite nostalgia, King Abdullah II is keen on appearing to be the protector of Muslim sanctities.
As for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he has no qualms about announcing a mysterious agreement, which does not force him to make any guarantees, that stipulates the preservation of the status quo in Al-Aqsa Mosque, and limits the entry of non-Muslims into the mosque to a visit, without performing any prayers. In any case, this does not mean that a truce is within arm’s reach, especially after settlers immediately stormed Al-Aqsa once again in rejection of this agreement.
The main issue is not preserving the status quo in Al-Aqsa. Although the Jewish settlers’ violation of Palestinian sanctities under the protection of the Israeli forces was the spark that ignited the angry Palestinian popular uprising, the Palestinians are not only defending the sanctity of their holy sites. They are also defending their right to a dignified life, and they have not given up their dreams of independence. Throughout his years in power, Netanyahu has never been willing to take critical measures that would change the current situation in the occupied Palestinian territories. This is cited by the apartheid policy exercised against Palestinians living in the Palestinian territories occupied in 1948, the wars on Gaza, its besiegement, and the starvation of its people, the isolation of the West Bank cities and the confiscation of land, arrests, repeated settler crimes, the daily humiliation of Palestinians at crossings and checkpoints, controlling their livelihoods and water supply, etc.
Today, Netanyahu is focusing on the attempts to suppress this uprising by intensifying the systematic crimes and brutality against the Palestinians and letting the settler groups loose to carry out their collective crimes. On the other hand, he invests the individual violent Palestinian incidents in the media and his security forces do not hesitate to fabricate stabbings in order to justify killing more Palestinians, including women and children, in cold blood, or leaving them to bleed to death. The field executions have also spread to include Palestinians living in the Palestinian territories occupied in 1948. The killings also have not spared those who are suspected of being Arab. The Israeli hatred can no longer be reined in. Despite its high cost and its use to incite against the Palestinians in the media, unfortunately there are still many Palestinians who encourage such individual acts and call for more stabbings and hit-and-runs.
It seems that the correct reading of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s speech at the United Nations came from the Israeli side. Although the Palestinians debated over this speech and what should have been said, the speech played a role of incitement. The raising of the Palestinian flag at the UN was not only a symbolic measure, as it appeared to have meant a lot to the Palestinians. Abu Mazen is counting on the investment in the popular uprising to restore the Palestinian issue at the forefront of the international scene and to break the deadlock in the political process by pressuring Netanyahu to stop settlements and return to the negotiations table.
The alternative to this is gaining international protection for Palestinians, provided by the UN, and a resolution from the Security Council to end the occupation. It is true that Abu Mazen fears a long-term movement or action which he cannot control and the cost of which is growing, thus putting the PA under different pressures it will not be able to bear. However, it is also true that he is unwilling to risk involving the security forces in the suppression and thwarting of the popular uprising, because it will completely obliterate any popular credibility it has left. The majority of the confrontations with the occupation forces are focused in areas not subject to PA control, such as Jerusalem.
As for Hamas, since the beginning of the uprising, it stopped issuing its statements regarding a long-term truce with the Israeli occupation. Although it realised the reverse results that will occur if it launches rockets from Gaza, it will not hesitate to resort to suicide operations in the West Bank, and will attempt to push this uprising towards militarisation instead of supporting its current popular path. Since Hamas is keen on being at the forefront of the resistance scene, it will find the appropriate time to announce its closeness to reaching the Wafa Al-Ahrar II deal, which will release prisoners in Israeli prisons.
As for the individuals participating in the uprising, they are mostly school and university students who are not tied down by work permits in Israel or PA salaries. They also are not bound by a partisan or factional decision that limits them in their movements. The majority of them are also not one of the previous fighters, which the Israeli authorities call “those with priors”, rather they are networkers, i.e. they organise their actions and movements using social networking and information technology. This makes it harder for the Israeli intelligence agencies to monitor them. They are a new generation of Palestinians who are not driven by desperation or frustration; they are driven by hope, not anger, but the love for life. We can sense this in the bright smiles that they flash when they are being arrested, the celebration of their birthdays at the points of contact, and their dancing as they throw stones. They are not motivated by a desire for revenge; rather they enjoy what they are doing as much as they desire life and freedom.
Under the rubble of media statements made by Palestinian factions and forces welcoming this popular uprising and calling for the need to continue it, we still have not found an effective strategy to support and back it. It seems that each side in the Palestinian arena is content with trying to invest this uprising in a manner that serves its visions and approaches. In light of the current Palestinian division and the state of political and organisational ineffectiveness, the mistake lies in trying to dominate the uprising and turn it into a hierarchical movement under various pretexts, the most prominent of which is these activists’ lack of experience, while the Palestinian factions and cadres possess experience in these matters.
However, the Palestinian people are no longer relying on this expertise and have lost confidence and trust in the traditional political elites. These new activists are moving forward with developing joint visions and perspectives and are establishing plans of action, mechanisms for implementation and a media outlet. They are the new blood that has begun imposing its presence in the Palestinian political arena and is insisting on its right to have its experience and exercise its role.
This horizontal movement witnessed in the Palestinian arena today confirms that the Palestinian people are regaining control of the initiative, even if it fails. It also shows that the Palestinian people are capable of provided unconventional alternatives and this is a true guarantee for the future. This is a new generation of Palestinians, and Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders will have to try their luck with them.