The Palestinian Authority has revealed its increasing discomfort with the rise of Palestinian anti-colonial resistance in the occupied West Bank. The narrative of Hamas as the epitome of Palestinian resistance can no longer be relied on to foment discord between resistance groups, as armed resistance now denotes a unified Palestinian struggle encompassing adherents of all factions.
Fatah’s Revolutionary Council recently held three days of meetings in Ramallah, during which it was decided that Palestinians should increase their participation in popular resistance. “Based on the leadership role of the Fatah movement, the [Revolutionary] Council stressed the continuation and escalation of the popular resistance everywhere, and the importance of the formation of popular resistance committees to confront the settlers’ aggression,” it said.
Having denounced armed struggle in favour of the Oslo Accords and diplomatic negotiations, Fatah is misplaced to speak about any form of resistance. Popular non-violent resistance is practiced daily by Palestinians, and collectively. To speak of escalating popular resistance against Israeli settler-colonial and state violence is to ask Palestinians to maintain their current non-violent actions which are no match against the increasingly militarised violence.
Of course, PA leader Mahmoud Abbas’s concern is to manipulate the Palestinians’ non-violent resistance and pit one form of resistance against another. Armed struggle against colonialism and military occupation is legitimate under international law, yet the PA knows that, eventually, its echelons will find themselves targets from within. What better way, according to Fatah, than to attempt to create a division between peaceful and armed resistance, now that the armed factions have found common cause?
Palestinians will not forget how the Jenin Brigade was targeted by the PA, despite its effort to push back against Israel’s invasion of the Jenin refugee camp. While Palestinians involved in armed struggle risked their lives facing the Israeli military, the PA targeted those who, quite legitimately, defended the camp, thus aligning itself directly with Israel’s bid to cleanse Jenin of any trace of a unified armed struggle.
What definition, therefore, is the PA attributing to Palestinian popular resistance? Given that the PA fails to protect Palestinians even in the most basic of ways, let alone how it renders Palestinians defenceless when facing Israel’s colonial violence, Ramallah’s concept of popular resistance is synonymous with political acquiescence and the renunciation of armed struggle. In this scenario, popular resistance as envisioned by the PA completely alters what such resistance seeks to achieve, which is the steadfast presence of Palestinians on Palestinian territory.
Popular peaceful resistance, however, is not enough when faced with Israel’s state and settler-colonial violence, particularly when the Palestinian leadership is not averse to Israel’s brutal tactics. Is the PA willing to risk Palestinian lives for the sake of “concentrated efforts to expose… the true face of the occupation before the world”? Armed resistance against Israel’s qualitative military edge and settler violence protected by the Israeli Occupation Forces is already at a disadvantage, let alone requiring Palestinians to resist settlers peacefully when the clear objective of the latter is the forced displacement of Palestinians by all means.
If the PA wants Palestinians to uphold popular peaceful resistance, then it has the duty to protect them from Israel using all means at the authority’s disposal. In the absence of such protection, the PA is merely calling upon Palestinians to sacrifice themselves for the political security of Mahmoud Abbas.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.