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What we are missing on the anniversary of the first Intifada

If you had the chance to notice the graffiti dating back to the first Intifada while walking down a street in Palestine, it would not only evoke the memories of those days, but also the spirit that was present then but which has almost faded away today. That spirit was full of the enthusiasm found at the beginning of any struggle, the drive towards unprecedented confrontation and the involvement and participation of thousands; it was not limited to an elite ready to make sacrifices.

Perhaps the shock of the 1967 defeat needed 20 years to convince the Palestinians that getting rid of the occupation or sparking confrontation was and remains their responsibility. They also needed this time to allow for a new generation to emerge, one that did not witness the defeat but still witnessed its effects on their day-to-day reality, and who took it upon themselves to change that reality. That generation's ability to spark confrontation and chip away at the occupation was greater than that of the older generation.

The first Intifada is too great an event to do justice in one article, as it will always be an experience worthy of comprehensive, detailed deliberation and study. However, on its 26th anniversary we are lacking something that needs to be restored, which is often the case as the years roll by. There is a need to restore its spirit, momentum and conviction, but not necessarily channelled into the same sort of confrontation.

Why not? When perseverance and sacrifice is still required, perhaps even more so, we need to consider the exhausted state of the Palestinians. The first intifada did not achieve immediate freedom and justice for the Palestinians, and they know full well that the popular revolution was aborted by the Oslo Accords and the reality of authority under occupation. That is why the popular presence was not so pronounced during the Second, or Al-Aqsa, Intifada, which turned quickly into an armed confrontation by those whose conviction about the need for resistance to the occupation has never been affected by setbacks. Such a group is exceptional and its members bear the responsibility for maintaining resistance as an option while most of the Palestinians go about their daily business unwilling even to take part in peaceful protests against the occupiers.

Perhaps the most striking indicator of the fatigue affecting the Palestinian public is the negativity exuded about the possibility of success of a third uprising. The spirit needed to break the deadlock is jaded and alien to most people, not least in the older generation who witnessed both of the previous uprisings.

A genuine liberation project cannot use the slogans of the struggle for partisan purposes, while plotting against resistance and planning to keep its spirit exhausted. Moreover, the Intifada cannot be repeated until the collective conscience is revived in those individuals who have distanced themselves from the struggle for freedom and justice, believing that the burden of resistance is on other people, and content to watch and criticise from the sidelines.

As such, Palestine needs to revive the spirit of the first Intifada more than anything else, with a spirit full of the grit and determination and capable of gathering all the Palestinians under its banner. Those who object and argue against this path exclude themselves from the national struggle. On this anniversary, it is as good a time as any to begin the revival process.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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