Intifada Arises From Occupation, Palestinians Assert

This is a partial toll of the price Palestinian society has paid during the last two years of intifada. More than 1,800 people were killed by the Israeli military, more than 40,000 people were injured (including hundreds with permanent disabilities), thousands of people lost their homes to army demolition, there is a jobless rate of 50 percent, more than half the population live below the poverty line, there is an almost permanent curfew confining more than half a million people for the last three months, and internal restrictions that curb normal passage between Palestinian areas that are often no more than ten minute's drive apart. The inventory does not include the emotional costs, nor the loss of months of learning at universities and schools.

Yet despite the massive suffering, and despite the widespread feeling that the intifada has set back Palestinian society in economic, social and political senses, it appears that residents in the territories are prepared to continue suffering. This is especially reflected by the lack of popular pressure for Islamic organizations to halt attacks within Israel, strikes which (everyone knows) precipitate increasingly stiff Israeli responses.

In addition, it appears that there is a consensus in favor of armed actions within the territories - against Israeli soldiers and civilians. This support remains intact despite the clear understanding that Israel also responds to strikes in the territories by escalating its attacks.

The Arab and Palestinian media has in recent days addressed the issue of "achievements" wrought by two years of intifada fighting. Sociologist Dr. Jamil Hilel, from Ramallah, says the right question isn't about the intifada's accomplishments, but about the reasons why it erupted, and has continued.

In early 2000, Hilel was one of several dozen Palestinian academics and artists who signed an appeal to Israel's public, a statement which warned that an attempt to impose a coercive surrender on the Palestinians would end in an explosion. As writers of this appeal saw it, Israel adopted a coercive negotiation policy during the Oslo years which was designed to back the PA into a corner. It tried to impose a settlement that would neither satisfy Palestinian longing for genuine independence, nor square with United Nations resolutions which stipulate full withdrawal from lands gained in the 1967 war.

Hilel also numbers among Palestinian figures who have denounced terror attacks against Israeli civilians; and he has been involved in a number of Israeli-Palestinian dialogue efforts. As he sees it, the intifada erupted as a protest against Israel's prolonged conquest, and it has exposed the occupation's "ugly face." Hilel argues that Palestinians' do not view the suffering of the past two years as a result of the intifada; instead, they view the recent trials and tribulations as a consequence of the Israeli occupation.

For these reasons, Palestinians do not now demand an end to the intifada, Hilel says. They do not believe there is any practical political alternative. Fadwa Barghouti, wife of imprisoned Tanzim leader Marwan Barghouti, speaks in a similar vein.

She told Ha'aretz that her personal loss, the incarceration of her husband, is only part of "the public's suffering." This suffering, Barghouti continues, does not result from the public's decision to rise up and protest. Instead, it is a natural result of Israel's conquest. She says displaying support for the Oslo accords was not a mistake - however, once it became clear that Israel was not implementing the accords, then Palestinians had no choice but to protest, though Barghouti admits that terror attacks in Israel have in some measure obscured this message.