Palestinians: is "keeping the lid on" a strategy?

All this talk about a possible Third Intifada…

One of the most irritating things about this discussion is the assumption that violence is the strategy of choice for Palestinians.

Palestinians are not ready for violence, and there are absolutely no indications either that they have in any way prepared for it. Moreover, the sentiment most often heard is a refusal to be the one to go out on the street to protest and get arrested, with all the consequences, while their families will be left alone without support and the others will stay in their offices and continue to be comfortable, making money…

But, the situation is getting worse and worse.

Nevertheless, this speculation about another Intifada is a classic example of “the boogeyman” approach: the suggestion is made that if x or y does not happen, then one’s worst fears will come true…

UPDATE: On Thursday 28 February, Dalia Hatuqa wrote about the Third Intifada speculation in The National here, saying that “Of late, Palestinians have become an afterthought for the Israeli public. This was evident in the latest Israeli elections … There is a too-little discussed acceptance in Israel that the denial of rights and the self-determination of millions of Palestinians is a normal status quo”. She added that ‘Neither Israel nor the PA has an interest in another intifada and, as long as security cooperation between the two continues, Israel can rest easy. But the ongoing policies of Israel’s occupation are unsustainable and it is clear that Palestinians will not tolerate them in perpetuity. As long as Israel continues to rely on carrots and sticks to temporarily quash popular outrage, the PA will be walking a fine line between an angry constituency and a demanding occupying force’. Meanwhile, she reported, “A senior Fatah official, Jibril Rajoub, went on Israel Radio to echo Mr Abbas’s statement, declaring ‘on behalf of the entire Palestinian leadership that there is no plan to lead to bloodshed’.”

UPDATE: Daoud Kuttab, in a peculiar and counter-intuitive piece on Thursday 28 February, speculated that ” Abbas, whose team has been working hard to prepare for the Obama visit, is aware that if the level of violence escalates dramatically, it could lead to the cancellation of his expected short three-hour visit to occupied Palestine. But at the same time, Abbas is unwilling to be seen by his people as actively involved in repressing the demonstrations through mass arrests and a direct crackdown by Palestinian security. The likely result will be Abbas taking a neutral position, allowing the public to protest while standing by to prevent the demonstrations from spiraling out of control and threatening Obama’s visit”. This is published on Al-Monitor here.

As the drumbeat of speculation about the possibility of a new outbreak of violence in the occupied West Bank becomes more insistent, Yousef Munayyer of The Palestine Center in Washington D.C. has just written that “the occupation itself is an intolerable and constant system of violence. It has been ongoing for decades, with episode after episode that could be a spark. Yet it is because an Intifada—or Palestinian uprising—is understood to mean that Israelis will face greater security risks, it suddenly generates urgency and fear. The message this sends is that only when Israeli security is challenged does the world seem to take note. The perpetual insecurity of Palestinians living under Israeli military occupation is acceptable to Israeli and American power-brokers. The elevation of Intifada periods alone to the level of crisis suggests non-Intifada periods are not a crisis. But, in reality, the denial of self-determination to millions of people through military occupation is a crisis – a human rights crisis and a catastrophe. Continuing to ignore the urgency of this reality, as Israel and America have done, is of far more consequence than any individual or isolated event. Unlike their Israeli and American counterparts, Palestinians don’t have the luxury of ignoring the military occupation around them.” This is posted here

Amira Hass wrote in a piece published today in Haaretz that “The question that has been raised frequently over the last few days – Do the clashes this week portend a third intifada? – is being asked from a narrow Israeli, military perspective. It is a perspective that accepts Israeli control over the Palestinians as the natural order of things, an order the Palestinians are disturbing. We should be flipping the question on its head: How is it that the third intifada has yet to erupt? It is the narrow Israeli perspective that has prompted local pundits to ponder whether the single rocket fired from Gaza on Tuesday also portends change, marking an end to three months of quiet on the Gaza border. Framing the question in this way entails a routine avoidance of the fact that these haven’t actually been quiet months for the residents of the Gaza Strip. In that time, the Israel Defense Forces has continued to fire on Palestinian civilians: fishermen, farmers, scrap collectors on the edges of the Strip. Some have been wounded, while others have been detained – primarily fishermen, some of whose fishing boats have been seized. As in Gaza, so too is this the case in the West Bank. Even when the Palestinians are not seeking confrontation with IDF soldiers, quiet does not prevail and the undisturbed atmosphere is not the natural order of things”. This is published here.

Another article published in Haaretz today, by Gili Cohen, reports that “A senior officer in the Israel Defense Forces Central Command said Tuesday that the past week’s violence in the West Bank ‘hasn’t ended yet, although its intensity dropped [Tuesday] significantly compared to recent days’. The IDF cites a number of reasons for the recent violent outbreaks, among them the difficult economic situation and the stagnation on the diplomatic front. Central Command officials believe that the government’s decision to transfer the January taxes collected on behalf of the Palestinian Authority to the PA would have a positive effect, although the move didn’t mean that all PA employees would be able to get their salaries. ‘We believe there is a connection between the PA’s stability and the ability of its security apparatuses to function and the financial issue’, the senior officer said. “Our position is consistent: Salaries should be paid’.” The senior officer also noted that “the PA security forces performed well in organizing [Arafat] Jaradat’s funeral on Monday, which was why it didn’t turn into a violent confrontation with the IDF”. This is posted here.

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