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The Antithesis of an Intifada

Amira Hass
Amira Hass
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Israeli soldiers search cars at the southern entrance to Nablus city, a day after a terror attack at a bus stop at Zaatara (Tapuach) junction south of the city.
Israeli soldiers search cars at the southern entrance to Nablus, a day after a terror attack at a bus stop at Zaatara (Tapuach) junction south of the city.Credit: JAAFAR ASHTIYEH - AFP
Amira Hass
Amira Hass

Every day, Israel provides the Palestinians with dozens of good reasons to mount an intifada, a popular uprising. Yet it does not erupt. Shooting a number of yeshiva students at a hitchhiking post at the West Bank intersection Za’atara is the opposite of an intifada. That applies to any armed action by individuals, even if they were operating as part of some Palestinian organization.

The attack amounts to an admission that at this time, there is no chance of a mass uprising; an admission that there is no will or preparedness for mass uprising; no clear idea has been formed of how to develop a mass uprising, under conditions vastly different than what prevailed before the 1987 intifada. The shooting shows that right now, there is nobody capable of uniting an entire public which Israel has managed to divide and hem in, and whose unelected leadership ignores even its right to express its opinion at the polls.

Profoundly justified reasons for a broad uprising keep piling up, keep being reported – sometimes accurately, sometimes with some distortion – and confirm time and again that no miracle has happened. The same part of the Palestinian people living from Rafah to Jenin, including East Jerusalem, is under the same oppressive rule of a foreign military and police. A hostile 54-year-old rule that gives it every reason to revolt. Yet it does not revolt.

After the attack, Israeli intelligence agencies and former military personalities who’ve become “objective” eternal commentators, predicted that the coming two weeks will bring clashes and lone-wolf attacks, because of Ramadan and the delayed Palestinian election. So when we saw a young man with a glass bottle on Friday, and on Sunday, a 60-year-old woman with a knife – who apparently wanted to commit “suicide by soldier” (she was a “terrorist” and the soldiers who killed her were “fighters” in the language of the IDF Spokesperson Unit), and then there was the shooting, it appeared to affirm their prophetic prowess.

But their prophecies are cyclical; it always relies on upon Palestinian internal affairs, psychology, or conspiracy: a tendency toward copycat actions, the Ramadan fast, tension between Palestinian organizations, orders from Gaza or Iran. The learned experts and analysts never take into account the daily reasons that they themselves once provided when they were top commanders or coordinators of government activity in the territories, or that their successors continue to provide. Yet interviewers are inquiring: Is this a third intifada?

The reality is that, with every passing day, the Palestinians are voting with their feet. They praise the youths of the Damascus Gate steps who clashed with the Israeli police, they are horrified by reports about settlers who attacked shepherds, but they go on with life as usual in their enclaves that Israel has carefully carved out over the last 30 years.

Predictably, various Palestinian groups have already applauded the shooting on Sunday afternoon, which had been carried out by unknown assailants. A heroic action, they say; an unavoidable response to the crimes of the occupation; and similar catchphrases copied from the last time Palestinians shot at Israelis, and then pasted once more onto screens. It is considered heretical to deny the logic of any Palestinian shooting attack, or to question its necessity in a certain time or place.

Israeli 19-year-old Yehuda Guetta who was killed in an attack in the West Bank on Sunday, May 2021.Credit: Courtesy: The Guetta family

If anyone has doubts, they are not spoken aloud because it’s embarrassing. After all, there are young people who decided to sacrifice their freedom, and maybe their lives, and there are families, villages and refugee camps that will now be subjected to Israeli revenge, whether by settlers, who in the best case will only sabotage fields and orchards (as happened in Jaloud village on Sunday evening), or by soldiers who will raid their homes, make arrests and possibly demolish the house, and of course by Shin Bet coordinators who will be eager to torture the new detainees. The sad fact remains the same. The congratulations copied and pasted from one shooting to another are an admission that there is no Palestinian organization today that is capable of planning a long-term popular struggle, no organization that can attract the Palestinian public to such a campaign, which demands unwavering confidence in the leaderships, and belief in its chances of success.

Israeli soldiers at the scene of the shooting at Tapuah Junction (intersection Za’atara), earlier this week.Credit: Moti Milrod

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