The October 2000 Intifada, or "uprising", was a defining moment in the history of our Palestinian people, especially for the Palestinian Arabs inside Israel. It was a violent shock, which transformed the ideas and illusions of many.
Within this uprising, the reality of the Israeli state's hatred towards the Palestinian Arab masses was apparent. It was as if they were waiting for the opportunity to pounce and shed the blood of young men in their prime, without any regret or conscience. They did so with great enthusiasm, while criminals at the top of the political pyramid justified these murders, defending the murderers – and why not? They are the decision-makers.
However, this is not the most important aspect of the 2000 uprising. The most significant aspect is the young emerging generation's realisation of themselves and their position, and the responsibility entrusted to them. They realised the reality that they are second-class citizens and that at any given moment, any official can make a political decision that would make them an enemy and vulnerable to death. Some hospitals even registered the wounded who arrived as "enemy forces", as if the ambulances had transported them from trenches and battlefields. The young generation learned within hours how they were viewed in the eyes of the state. No one was under any false illusion.
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The second discovery was the ability of events to transform dynamically into strong "explosions" of popular momentum, through the speed of reaction and the discovery of the masses' ability to respond and confront without hesitation. This refutes statements about the immaturity of the masses, their slumber and their lack of readiness. They have proven their willingness to proceed with much more force than appeared on the surface. They did not wait for leaders' decisions to confront, but instead went out on their own to respond to Ariel Sharon's provocation of their feelings by storming Al-Aqsa Mosque. They then responded with even greater dynamism, revolting in defence of their dignity and humanity when the scene of the young boy, Muhammad Al-Durrah, who tried to hide behind his father's back, appeared.
Within hours, the young men challenged the prevalent claims that they were an indifferent, reckless, dependent and useless generation, and participated in the uprising – and the image was quickly reversed. This proved that this generation was neither indifferent nor unaware, nor a "lost" generation. The generation in question has proven that they are well-aware of what is happening around them and that feelings of patriotism are deeply rooted within. When the opportunity arose, they did not hesitate to carry out their duty. They took to the streets in their thousands. They stood guard at the entrances to their villages and cities to stand up to the forces of repression, remaining undeterred by the escalation of violence and the numbers of victims that began to fall, including martyrs, wounded and detainees.
These young men announced with their blood and vigour, that the Palestinian people are one, and that regions and geographical divisions did not succeed in fragmenting them. Anything that harms those from Rafah, harms those from Nablus, Bethlehem, Galilee, the Negev, the Triangle, the coast, and the camps in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, the diaspora, and everywhere.
The youth of the October uprising ignited the entire Arab world at the time. The Arabs did not die, but rather they are a living nation, and what is lacking is bold leaders who make decisions. At that time, solidarity marches and activities started without the exception of any country, while programmes for moral support were launched on satellite channels. The song, the "Arab Dream", began to spread. It was released in 1998 featuring 21 Arab artists, but did not become widespread until the October uprising. Another song which became popular during this time was "Jerusalem will return to us", which was inspired by the scene of Muhammad Al-Durrah and his father. The song opens with the lyrics: "He was holding his crayons, on his way to school, and he was dreaming of his horse, his toy, and his airplane. When the treachery befell him and killed his innocence, his pure blood flowed onto his notebook."
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Suddenly, the nation shifted from a state of death to a movement of national life, from the ocean to the Gulf, to announce that the Arab people have not yet said their last word.
The October uprising was a profound jolt in Palestinian consciousness, resonating within the Arab world, and even internationally. It was an indicator and a road sign for the future, that people will not remain quiet in the face of injustice. It prompted all to reconsider their considerations towards the Palestinians, Arabs and Israeli leaders. The issue of Arab Palestinians inside Israel, their destiny, their rights and what they represent were at the forefront of the scene, especially after the uprising had its say. The Palestinian people will remain as one in their suffering, while the Arab dream will be carried through generation after generation, until it is fulfilled.
Translated from Arab48, 29 September 2020
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.