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17 January 2013

Will 3rd Intifada replicate the 1st?

By: Daoud Kuttab
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Israeli security officials have been unable to clearly identify what is happening in the occupied state of Palestine, as the lack of a credible peace process leaves a big vacuum.

Early in January, Colonel Yaniv Alaluf told soldiers the third Intifada has already begun. His statement, which was reproduced in Arab and Israeli media, was intended to reflect the state of uneasiness and unrest the Palestinians are feeling as the window of hope and opportunity quickly shuts down for the young Palestinian population.

While Alaluf’s statement might not be reflected in any major way in the level of violence in the occupied West Bank, it could be true in ways that the Israeli commander probably never realised.

As the level of Palestinian-Israeli security cooperation continues to produce record number of relatively quiet days in occupied Palestine, a totally different form of Intifada is seeing the light of day. And the Israelis are clearly unequipped and totally unready for it.

There are more and more signs that a possible third Intifada will not look anything like Al Aqsa Intifada, in 2000, but more like the initial 1987 protests that gave the world the name Intifada.

This week’s creative and disciplined actions by young and unaffiliated Palestinian men and women resemble very much the creativity and experimentation that had been the hallmark of the first Intifada.

Using a novel by Lebanese writer Elias Khoury, these young Palestinians put to shame the self-declared leaders of Palestine liberation and resistance.

Bab Al Shams, which has become the new name of a village, as well as a symbol of the new dawn, caught both Palestinian and Israeli leaders off guard.

While PLO leaders as well as the Palestinian prime minister rushed to embrace the new actions, the Israelis, as usual, used the same violent tactics to put down what is a totally nonviolent form of protest.

The difference is that the images were instantly circulated around the world, giving the hashtag Bab Al Shams the honour of being among the top 10 trending globally.

And just to prove that this is not a one-time aberration; the same young people were able to return to their newly created village of Bab Al Shams passing the Israeli checkpoint by pretending to be part of a joyous Palestinian wedding celebration.

A real groom and bride were appropriately dressed, cameras were filming and the procession passed the checkpoint only to reveal their real purpose and declare, again, that Palestinians are setting up their own village on their own land, despite the Oslo classifications and the Israeli army brutality.

Palestinians are naturally hoping that this newly exhibited courage will be contagious.

And, in fact, various groups, including classical factions like Fateh, declared that they plan to create tens, if not hundreds, of similar villages.

Israel will have a much harder time dealing with this new/old form of protest. While Palestinians were able to produce impressive results during their first Intifada because of its nonviolent nature, the opportunities to accelerate this visibility today with media communication so readily available are much wider.

Nonviolent actions require discipline and persistence. It needs local, regional and international coalitions, and it succeeds when an oppressor claims to be liberal and tolerant, and accepts peaceful protests.

Palestinians can check “yes” all these requirements, and can have much more powerful results as long as they refuse to be pulled into the Israeli political and security game.

By playing on their turf and according to their strengths, these Palestinian activists have shown that they can help change the rules of the game and, in the process, attract others to follow their leadership rather than the other way around.

Fateh and Hamas can talk as much as they want in fancy Cairo hotels, but as in all conflicts, the real game is played on the battleground and not at hotel-based press conferences.

* A Palestinian columnist based in Amman, Jordan. - dkuttab@ammannet.net



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