Site Navigation

The Popular Palestinian Intifada – Where is it heading?

8. November 2003

By Ahmad Saadat, General Secretary of Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP)

September 28, 2003 marked the 3rd anniversary of the Intifada (Uprising). What distinguishes this last year from the previous two is the rapid political developments, which pose important questions as to the fate of the Intifada and how to reap the greatest benefits of three years of Palestinian sacrifices. In the first half of this year, the Palestinian Authority (PA) fulfilled the obligations required for the completion of phase one of the Road Map, by hiring a Prime Minister with maximum authority. The second half of the year saw US imperialism and its British ally invade Iraq, occupying its lands, despite near unanimous international and UN opposition. It also marked the US declaration of the Road Map, formation of a new Palestinian government, and the start of security negotiations with the Zionist government, followed by the so called Truce, which meant the halt of resistance and military operations from the Palestinians side only!

However, the most visible characteristic of this period is the deepening crisis of the Palestinian Authority, with three governments formed in this year alone. The illusions of the Palestinian Authority were offset by the reality contained in the Road Map. The PA thought, or perhaps wished, that the Road Map would provide the pathway and mechanisms towards an independent state on the Palestinian lands occupied in 1967, based on the address by George Bush in which he called for the formation of a Palestinian leadership that would seriously fight terrorism (in other words, fight the Palestinian Resistance).

It was clear that the primary aim of this new/old security project was to contain the Palestinian issue, to provide security for the Zionist occupier and its settlers, and to transfer the entire crisis onto Palestinian society. On the ground, the Sharon government let its racism loose-escalating its campaign of assassinations against our people and our leadership; assassinating Hamas leaders and cadres; taking outrageous decisions, such as the deportation of Arafat; directly and blatantly targeting Palestinian civilians, particularly the families of resistance fighters; and, of course, expanding the settlements and building the separation wall to force new realities on our people.

All of these facts suggest important questions: has the Palestinian Uprising exhausted its strength and thus its reasons to continue? What are the achievements of the last three years? Did the Road Map provide a political and national alternative to the uprising and to the resistance? Did the Road Map reflect a political achievement that reaped the benefits of the uprising? What are the requirements and challenges facing our people and its political leadership?

The uprising is a popular initiative. It is a state of rebellion that is a response to the failure of the political negotiations that reached a dead end at Camp David 2000, and a rejection of the attempts by Barak`s Zionist government to impose its conditions on our people and marginalize the Palestinian national rights. In other words, the uprising was a natural response to the Zionist political escalation against our people. And the methods and weapons used by the resistance were also a natural response to the Zionist military escalation against our people. The weaknesses that accompanied the uprising stemmed from the absence of a unified political decision-making body (and the absence of a unified leadership), as well as from the state of political division that our people have lived through since the birth of the Madrid-Oslo path. In addition, the lack of harmony and balance between the dual components of armed struggle and popular mass initiatives also weakened the uprising.

There are attempts to hold the uprising responsible for the pain and the suffering of our people, rather than holding the occupier responsible. This is an unjust argument that holds no objective understanding. It is only natural that the losses of the occupied are larger than those of the occupier, especially when the occupying power possesses a superior military machine. So the central question that we now need to answer is: are the achievements of the Intifada equivalent to the sacrifices of our masses?

The Palestinian uprising, in its first two years, forced the UN Security Council to approve resolution 1397. This resolution called for the establishment of an independent Palestinian State, as a non-negotiable right, regardless of any future negotiations. The Intifada also managed to deepen the internal crisis within the Zionist society to a level never before witnessed by the “Israeli state,” a total crisis that manifested itself politically, economically and militarily. On the political front, Sharon, who is considered to be a doomed, corrupted failure, became the top political leader in “Israel.” The Intifada also unmasked the deceitful politics of the Zionist left and their tokenism of co-existence, as well as the marketing of their illusions to the Palestinian people through regional and international conferences and workshops in attempts to normalize relations with the Zionist enemy. Both the Zionist right and the Zionist left are unified against the Right of Return of Palestinian refugees, and against the recognition of Jerusalem as an Arab city. Both agree that “Israel” should determine the Palestinian future and fate.

Statistics show that the Zionist settler project entered a serious crisis in terms of the slow population growth, particularly in settlements. And economically, the Israeli losses in the tourism industry exceeded billions of dollars, with decreasing economic growth in various industries, which reflected itself on prioritization of spending.

On the security level, the settlers inside and outside the “Green Line” are living in a continuous state of panic and fear, especially with the rate of human loss at almost 1 to 3 (Israeli to Palestinian). This has resulted in a state of hysteria, collapse of morale, deterioration of confidence, and feelings of insecurity.

The greatest achievement of the Intifada has been the regaining of Palestinian unity on national goals and objectives, in Palestine and in the Diaspora (Shatat). The totality of the Palestinian people contributed to the Intifada in one way or another, according to their capabilities and conditions. For example, the rise of participation from our people in occupied, 1948 Palestine and in the Shatat; and the rise of the popular forces and masses in the Arab world and worldwide, who took the streets on many occasions to express their support for the Intifada-despite the silence and collapse of the Arab regimes.

But to say that the Intifada has achieved its objectives and that it is time to reap the benefits of its achievements and turn them into political gains (as declared by Abu Mazen in a speech to the Palestinian Legislative Council [PLC] on the eve of forming his government) is an assumption that can be confirmed or denied only on the basis of the political settlement presented by the Zionist enemy in diplomatic negotiations.

In this case, the proposed settlement is the Road Map, which was altered from its original version, and was subjected to “Israeli” conditions. Too much has been said and written about the Road Map already. It is a political initiative that is based on the criminalization of the Palestinian people and condemnation of the Palestinian resistance as “terrorism.” It is also blatant intervention into Palestinian internal affairs. The Road Map can only serve as an American political umbrella to manage and contain the crisis in Palestine, providing more space for “Israel” to impose its logic on both our people and on the Palestinian Authority.

We are asked to exchange the Intifada for the Road Map. Such an exchange will not be beneficial to our people and will only re-create the wheels of Oslo, but in a more dangerous way. It might have benefits, but only for specific layers in the ruling class within the Palestinian Authority, which took advantage of Oslo and that political negotiation to build its own private projects and establish business partnerships with Zionist investors.

Let`s assume for the sake of argument that the Palestinian ruling class is basing its call to end the Intifada on good intentions. The reality says that what determines the transition from the battlefield to the negotiating table is the ability of the resistance to make a radical change in the balance of powers between our people and the occupation. In other words, to force “Israel” to end its occupation, and recognize the Right of Return for Palestinian refugees and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital. Have we reached that stage yet?

In reality, the answer is no. The conditions to transform achievements of the Intifada into real political gains are not yet there. The only choice in front of us as we enter the forth year of this Intifada is to support its continuation, escalation and development, and to enhance its political vision which would encourage expansion of the Intifada to include all the sectors of our society. What we need to do immediately can be summarized as follows:

Firstly: To free the masses and their leadership from the illusions of any possible US support or an unbiased stand. Instead, we should work on creating the right international conditions to help achieve a political settlement and protect our national rights. We should also unify our political vision and political decisions on the basis of national dialogues, in order to build a unified leadership consisting of all Palestinian political parties, as well as influential and respected individuals.

Secondly: To provide a political alternative to the Road Map made of a realistic political vision that would integrate the tools of the Uprising. Call for the international community to take responsibility and pressure “Israel” to stop its aggression against the Palestinian people. Secure temporary international protection for Palestinian people while transitioning and building the institutions of a democratic, independent Palestinian state. And pressure “Israel” to stop its aggression and implement UN resolutions that can lead to an International Conference under the auspices of the United Nations. Such a conference would create mechanisms for “Israel” to implement UN resolutions related to Palestine, and provide a framework to stop violence and security deterioration in the region.

Thirdly: To reclaim and re-affirm the Arab national dimension of the Palestinian question, especially since the occupation of Iraq represents a step toward the building of a “new Middle East” in the context of imposing total imperialist hegemony on the Arab homeland. It is only through the Arab national framework that we are capable of achieving the national goals of the Arab masses, and empowering its resistance to the imperialist American domination. We need to take the initiative to participate in building an Arab mass movement confronting the American-Zionist aggression against our Arab homeland. We also need to present a progressive Palestinian discourse based on local, national, and international popular resistance, and not a discourse that would provide the Arab regimes with justifications for their defeat or collaboration with the US.

Fourthly: To identify the weaknesses that have led to the imbalance between the various forms of popular resistance, and provide the conditions for reviving the popular dimension of the Intifada. These include: building the organizational infrastructure and leadership body for the Intifada, which would extend to cities, villages and neighborhoods; re-activating popular organizations and trade unions; and electing a capable leadership in order to revive such organizations, and to become a mobilizing force for organizing the wide popular resistance. The imbalance between the armed resistance and the popular resistance is not attributed only to the intense use of the Zionist military machine, forcing what some called the “militarization” of the Intifada, but also to the absence of a program and plans that would motivate all sectors of society, and provide the democratic popular dimension of the Intifada.

Finally, and in response to the whispers of those who call for the end of the Intifada under the claim of protecting the national interest of our people, I would like to state clearly that the continuation of the Intifada might harm the interest of the Palestinian Authority. That is logical and possible. However, the existence of the Authority, any authority, is not a goal in itself, except for those who see it as a means to self-interested gain. The Palestinian Authority in our situation was supposed to be, according to the defenders of Oslo, a mechanism for transition from the occupation to a real Palestinian sovereignty capable of ending the occupation. Such a view could be understood. However, if the PA is no longer capable of such a task, and responds to international pressure as it has (arresting resistance leaders and “criminalizing” the resistance), then it becomes a tool of oppression against the Palestinian people, the Intifada, and the resistance. Therefore, in this case, what would justify the PA`s existence, and would it represent the highest national interest of the Palestinian people?

The Authority was not the project of the Palestinian majority; however, all Palestinian political forces respected its existence and dealt with it in different ways. This does not mean that we should make the PA our fate, especially if it becomes a burden on our people`s national struggle.

This conclusion is not a call to dismantle the Palestinian Authority, but rather a call to be ready at all times to protect the political entity of our people in the face of complex equations, especially should the existence of the PA become conditioned upon surrender to the demands of the enemy in the future.

The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) represented the strategic tool for our people`s struggle and secured our unity worldwide. The PLO also represented the common goals of the struggle of our people. That is why the central mission now must be re-affirming the need for the PLO, and presenting practical democratic mechanisms to re-build its institutions and expanding it to include all political and social forces. The PLO must be the instrument of resistance at this current political stage in the history of our people`s struggle against the Zionist enemy.