The global intifada
The global intifada (uprising)
Jai Magazine 2011
Mazin Qumsiyeh, PhD*
*Professor at Bethlehem University and author of “Sharing the Land of Canaan: Human Rights and the Israeli-Palestinian Struggle” and “Popular Resistance in Palestine: A history of Hope and Empowerment”. His website is qumsiyeh.org and he sends weekly blogs about life in occupied Palestine.
The Arab awakening started in the late 19th century seeking independence from the Ottoman empire. The Arab people mistakenly thought that it is possible to work and build alliances with Western powers (European ones at first and then the US in the second half of the 19th century). But Western powers had their own agendas including supporting the Zionist project for internal domestic reasons. Our people were slow to understand this but the Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916, the Cambon and Balfour Declarations of 1917, and the San Remo Conference of 1920 dissipated all illusions. Arab revolts started in the 1920s in Egypt, Iraq, Syria, and Palestine. I think what we are witnessing today is a resumption of that historic struggle for freedom and self-determination. Let us not be under any illusions: most Arab dictators were put in power by these same western governments.
I was reminded of this as I watched the hypocritical Western celebration of the killing of Gaddafi. Obama celebrated the killing of Gaddafi. He did not talk about Gaddafi's cozy relationship with the US and the west for the past 8 years including torturing people for the CIA**. On several occasions, the US administration said that revenge should not be practiced yet no western leader said a word about lynching happening daily in Libya. A Libyan rebel leader told Al-Jazeera that Gaddafi came out and greeted them but was shot anyway. I spent two months in Libya (studying its fauna) and know how bad the regime was and I am certainly happy that his rule ended. Congratulations to the Libyan people. But we must be cautious. The US government considers this its first victory in getting a government moved from an erratic despotic western stooge to a government that will be (at least they hope) more reliably dominated and subjugated. My inside information tells me that they hope Syria would be next so that it will be two for two: Egypt and Tunisia changing from pro-US/Israel to perhaps a democracy (which would mean against US and Israeli interests) vs. Libya and Syria changing from unpredictable western allies to more predictable western puppets (not democracies). Let us not forget that Bashar Assad (and before him his father) and Gaddafi were not bastions of support for Arab causes. After all, both had close CIA ties and were more than happy to receive and torture prisoners captured by US forces (a process known as rendering which was never stopped under the Obama administration). The Syrian regime was also an ally with the US in the destruction of Iraq (including the genocide of over 1 million civilians).
By US/Israeli calculations, if the Yemeni or Bahraini dictator is toppled first then the score will be 3:1 and they want Syria's dictator first. In their chess game, they are also trying to turn the loss of Tunisia and Egypt into a gain. The US and Israeli governments are meddling in Egypt and Tunisia to stop them from having governments that reflect the will of the people (including the people's will to boycott Israel and stop helping the US/Israeli designs). I think they underestimate the Arab people. In Libya, they believe that Abdul Jalil will stay in his self-appointed seat and then open the country (like Iraq) for Western oil exploits, for the US military base (closed in 1969), and establish friendly diplomatic ties with Israel (which already met with the so called national transitional council or NTC). The NTC is talking about elections "maybe in two years" (in other words after they consolidate power and money and can manipulate the system). US lawmakers in Congress (prostituting themselves for their AIPAC masters) are talking about Libya and Iraq paying (financially) for their "liberation" and that they expect these countries to have friendly relation with Israel! But there are already voices within Libya and Iraq who say "enough" BS. I think the Arab spring and Arab people will surprise the (Zionist) US foreign policy makers. Democracy is coming.
Where does this leave us in Palestine? Native Palestinian's non-violent resistance caused the failure of the Zionist movement to get support from Ottoman rulers in the late 19th century. The Zionist movement then turned to Britain and France to achieve the Cambon and Balfour Declarations of 1917. Soon after WWI and the British occupation of Palestine, popular non-violent resistance resumed. In early 1919, the newly founded Muslim-Christian Society began work to influence the direction of the destructive policies promulgated by Western powers in Palestine. For example they sent a letter to demand from the King-Crane commission that it follows President Wilson stated goal of letting indigenous people determine their own future after so many decades of colonial rule. While the King-Crane commission issued favorable recommendations, these were ignored because the fate of the area was already decided by the Sykes-Picot agreement of 1916, the Balfour Declaration of 1917, and the Paris ‘Peace’ Conference of 1919. But this Muslim-Christian partnership in rejection of colonialism was to get even stronger in time.
Muslim and Christian Palestinians together protested the appointment of the Zionist Herbert Samuel as the British high commissioner of Palestine in 1921. Together, they protested and marched against the unfair land laws that his administration promulgated to transfer land ownership from natives to European Jews. Together, they participated in the resistance of the late 1920s. Together, they engaged in strikes and paralyzed economic life in 1936 demanding freedom and the end to the colonial Zionist activities.
This Christian-Muslim partnership was never directed against Jews. In fact the activists went out of their way to assert that ‘Local Jews are nationals who will have what we have and endure what we endure’. On March 11, 1920 many peaceful demonstrations were held in major Palestinian cities concomitant with the foundation of the underground Haganna forces (forerunners of the Israeli army). The uprising of 1920-1921 was the first obvious mass movement for liberation. This was followed by a pattern of uprisings separated by periods of relative calm (though with continuing resistance in various forms including sumud.) The intervening periods between these uprisings usually spanned 8-15 years or more depending on geopolitical circumstances. There were thus uprisings in 1920/1, 1929, 1936, 1955/6, 1971/2, 1982-1984, 1987-1991, 2000-2005.
Lessons can be learned from these series of uprisings. For example, the 1936 uprising was highly successful where popular resistance (later with some limited armed resistance) achieved a remarkable success. This included the longest strike in Palestinian (and perhaps world) history. The uprising was weakened by a number of factors: 1) the massive oppression including destruction of large areas of some Palestinian towns like Jaffa by the occupation authorities (as form of collective punishment), 2) the collaborationists Arab regimes who pushed the Palestinians to "trust" the British authorities, 3) the Palestinian political leadership (mostly self-appointed) who first stood against the uprising, then claimed its leadership, then traded on its expense.
The Oslo process harvested low fruits of the 1987-1991 uprising in exchange for ending the resistance and ending International pressure on Israel. Israel was then free to double colonial settlers, introduce massive restrictions of movements, isolate and judaicize Jerusalem, and fragment what remains of Palestine. But throughout these years, the popular resistance seemed to spread and accelerate. Small remote villages became famous in the media and among Palestinians and internationals making pilgrimage to join the struggle: Budrus, Masha, Al-Walaja, Ni'lin, Bil'in, Beit Ommar, and dozens more. The globalization of the struggle is entering a new phase with proliferation of Palestine solidarity movements around the world. Our human struggles are connected: from the occupy wall street movement to the toppling of dictators in the Arab world to our resistance in Palestine.
The Zionist project, well-funded, violent, and supported by imperial western powers failed at its stated goals but it is still trying to succeed. While its state is militarily and economically strong, it is a failure on moral, ethical, and management style and it is trying to hold back the inevitable progress. Our struggle is now a global struggle. This global intifada using tools of popular uprisings, media, internet, lobbying, BDS, moral persuasion and more is destined to achieve its goals: democracy, justice, and peace. Palestinian refugees will return to their homes and lands and all people in the Arab world will live in freedom and dignity despite all the attempts from the US and Israeli governments to set the clock back.