One of these days the political and military leadership in Israel will understand you can’t kill an idea with bombs, bullets, brute force or bribery. Just when the brutal occupation forces of the Zionist state think that they have contained Palestinian resistance, others step up to the mark with even more defiance and courage.
There are now three youth-led armed uprisings in the occupied West Bank and their emergence has confounded Tel Aviv, which is failing miserably to silence or contain them. Moreover, not only are they viewed by the apartheid state as a threat, but the aging, corrupt figureheads of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah also fear them and have proved powerless, so far, to exert any control.
Earlier this week, the PA security services arrested 11 members of Areen Al-Aswad — the Lions’ Den — and have already detained members of the Balata Battalion and Jenin Brigade. All are resistance fighters; young, unmarried men who are exercising their legitimate right to resist the military occupation of their land.
To his eternal shame, the Governor of Nablus, Ibrahim Ramadan, said during a recent radio interview that the mothers of those who are killed in clashes with Israeli security forces should not glorify them as martyrs. “Some deviant mothers send their sons to commit suicide attacks,” said Ramadan. “There are those who think such a mother is a fighter but she is not. She is just sending her son to his death.”
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The man is a disgrace. No mother wants to send her child off to die, and I can’t believe that he said that, especially when he has a portrait of the late Yasser Arafat looking down on him in his office. Admittedly, Arafat didn’t encounter such internal rebellion; it would have been as inconceivable as arresting and locking up these young revolutionaries on behalf of the Israelis. Arafat, I am sure, would have sat down and talked to them and harnessed their revolutionary fighting spirit for the Palestinian cause.
Sadly, though, there are many weasels like Major-General Ramadan within the corrupt PA, which has profited obscenely from the Israeli occupation. It seems that the authority without authority is concerned about Zionist forces raiding Palestinian communities across the occupied West Bank, while also fearing the resistance in response to the Israeli raids, in case it becomes a direct threat to the PA’s ongoing feckless rule.
What neither Tel Aviv nor Ramallah understands is that these young men feel that they have nothing to lose by rising up against the corrupt authorities within the PA and the brutality of the Israeli occupation. That three disparate groups have emerged — the Lions’ Den in the heart of Nablus, the Balata Battalion in the largest refugee camp in the occupied West Bank, and Jenin with its strong history of resistance — should surprise no one. However, intelligence agencies in Israel and the US are confounded and concerned by their uncoordinated emergence in recent months. I am only surprised that it hasn’t happened before now.
Israel and America should know from history that when injustice happens on a daily basis against an occupied and oppressed people with no hope of an end in sight, the oppressors can expect a backlash. It’s not even a question of winning a battle, it’s simply a matter of fighting back no matter how hopeless the odds. Resistance didn’t spring up out of nowhere; it is the legitimate response to the Israeli occupation.
So these brave young Palestinians have simply had enough. They’ve had enough of the occupation and the brutality which enforces it. They’ve had enough of the corrupt, divisive rule of the PA which has failed to deliver anything positive to the vast majority of the people of occupied Palestine. They’ve had enough of watching the old men in charge in Ramallah grow fat and rich on the proceeds of their lickspittle obedience to Israel and the US.
Moreover, these young Palestinians have no fear. They don’t fear the collaborators in the PA security services and hierarchy. They don’t even fear the heavily armed, trigger-happy Israeli army. And that absence of fear scares the Israelis and the PA.
Nevertheless, it is a sad indictment of the international order that these young men are willing to pay the ultimate price because death holds no fear. That’s what happens when you rob young people of their childhood and their future. As long as the Israeli occupation is in place, resistance of every kind is inevitable.
In the most densely populated refugee camp of Balata its 30,000 residents barely survive. The spring of hope is as dry as the dust on the ground. In Jenin, a town known for its heroic resistance and martyrs, there is no promise of a future for the youth. The city of Nablus, meanwhile, resembles a ghost town because of the Israeli-imposed siege. According to Yasser Manna, a researcher in the Israeli Studies Programme at Birzeit University, the uprisings came about because of the “lack of political horizon, Israel’s continued aggression, the growth of illegal Israeli settlements, and a failure of negotiations.”
Will this message get through? I doubt it. In the meantime, the three groups are being hailed by Palestinians across the occupied territories and beyond by those who see armed resistance as the only way to bring about change.
“If this phenomenon continues to grow, it could threaten the very existence of the PA, while placing Israel before its most difficult choice since the invasion of major Palestinian West Bank cities in 2002,” wrote Ramzy Baroud, the editor of the Palestine Chronicle, recently.
Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz has dismissed the Lions’ Den as a just group of around thirty members. “We will lay our hands on the terrorists,” he declared. He has obviously never heard of the mythical Hydra: cut one head off, and three replace it. So it is with these courageous young Palestinians who see their peers being captured and killed, but that only inspires others to step into their shoes.
The Lions’ Den, the Balata Battalion and the Jenin Brigade are just the start. The spirit of intifada is in the air and the old men of Ramallah and the big guns of Israel have neither the imagination nor the common sense to understand that this latest manifestation will evolve and grow. Tel Aviv, Washington and Ramallah must share the responsibility for this. They cannot ignore the fact that Israel continues to kill Palestinians on an almost daily basis — one Palestinian child has been killed every three days on average for the past twenty years — and expect the people of occupied Palestine to accept their oppression indefinitely. End the occupation, and there is no need for resistance. It’s as simple as that. In the meantime, the roar of the Lions’ Den is only going to get louder.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.