The new Palestinian uprising (VERY informative)

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Sat Nov 18 15:29:24 MST 2000

NY Times, November 18, 2000

Tale of Two Uprisings: This Time, the Palestinians Have Territory, and Guns


RAMALLAH, West Bank — When Hussam Shaheen was 14, in the first year of the
first Palestinian intifada in 1987, his worried parents forbade him to join
the street demonstrations.

"Of course, I found ways to sneak out of the house," he remembered. "But
one day my mother, she caught me in the middle of the demonstration and
took me home."

It was worse than embarrassing. It enabled the Israeli police to identify
and jail him.

These days he strides confidently among the younger rock-throwers on the
hillside that has become an institutionalized daily confrontation point
here, shaking hands, slapping backs and producing a neatly printed business
card that identifies him as the "international secretary" of the Fatah
Youth Organization.

Like many Palestinians he sees some similarities between 1987 and today —
mainly that both erupted out of bitter, pent-up frustration — as well as
important differences.

"It is the same reasons that made people resist, actually the same
reasons," he said of the two insurrections. "We have seven years of
intifada without the Palestinian Authority and seven years of the authority
without intifada. We have learned there is no way to obtain our rights
without struggle. And it is carried on the shoulders of the young generation."

Intifada is generally translated as uprising but has a connotation of
"shaking off." The tinder was laid for the first one at a 1987 Arab summit
meeting in Amman, Jordan, that effectively abandoned the Palestinian cause.
Protests erupted a few weeks later, after an Israeli tank in the Gaza Strip
swerved into a line of cars, killing four Palestinians.

The immediate spark this time was a visit on Sept. 28 by Ariel Sharon, a
rightist former Israeli general reviled by Palestinians, to the uneasily
shared holy site in Jerusalem known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to
Muslims as Haram al Sharif.

Palestinians say that incident ignited a simmering frustration fed by the
unrealized promise of the Oslo agreement in 1993 and the Camp David talks
this summer.

"Sharon was the starting point," Mr. Shaheen said. "He is the ugly face of
the enemy, but not the main reason. After Camp David it became very clear
the Palestinian dream will not rise. The Israelis were changing facts on
the ground with more settlements. They wanted to maintain occupation. There
was the daily humiliation at the checkpoints."

Indeed this uprising is a revolt not only against Israel and the Oslo
agreement, many Palestinians say privately, but also against the
Palestinian Authority, which is widely regarded as corrupt and
undemocratic. There are strains between the "Tunisians" — the longtime
Palestine Liberation Organization officials Yasir Arafat brought here with
him — and local leaders who emerged from the 1987 uprising, like Marwan
Barghouti, the chief here of the armed militia known as the Tanzim, or

If the reasons for the two uprisings seem drearily similar, the action has
played out in drastically different ways. The biggest difference is the
most obvious: this time around, the Palestinians have guns.

The initial images of this uprising seemed almost a repeat of the first:
young boys throwing rocks, soldiers shooting back. But recently a new
pattern has emerged of nightly gunfire from Palestinian areas at Israeli
settlements and army positions, answered by heavier return fire, often from
tanks and helicopters.

Since Nov. 11 a half-dozen Israelis have been killed in ambushes and
drive-by shootings, which drastically changes the character of the conflict.

"Lebanonization" is the term both Israelis and Palestinians are using for
what seems to be a shift toward low-level guerrilla warfare, and it points
toward another important change.

In the interim between the uprisings, guerrillas of Hezbollah — a Lebanese
Shiite Muslim militia backed by Iran — mounted a campaign of ambushes and
roadside bombings against Israeli troops who occupied what they called a
security zone in southern Lebanon.

When the troops withdrew from Lebanon in May, Hezbollah, whose name means
Party of God, claimed a signal victory in the long struggle with Israel.
Now the young Palestinians are holding up Hezbollah as an example.

Coincidentally, Hezbollah had been searching for a new role over the
summer, and Iran advised its leaders that they should lead the fight to
regain Jerusalem for Islam, said Nizar Hamzi, an expert on the group at the
American University of Beirut. The ambition seemed far- fetched until Mr.
Sharon took his stroll.

Another sea change since the 1987 uprising, Palestinians say, is the
emergence of independent Arab satellite television stations, particularly
Al Jazeera, based in the emirate of Qatar on the Persian Gulf.

All television in the Arab world used to be state-run, the nightly news
broadcasts consisting of the ruler greeting and being greeted. Instead, Al
Jazeera and its imitators have been offering dramatic coverage of the
clashes, along with discussions from a variety of political viewpoints,
including appearances by Hezbollah's leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah.

It is a riveting combination, and Palestinians here watch it avidly, along
with new local stations that can sometimes broadcast a nearby bombardment
live. The Palestinian Authority also runs its own radio and television
stations, nonexistent during the 1987 uprising.

Al Jazeera's influence is also felt throughout the Arab world, often to
governments' discomfort, building support on the street for the intifada.
Satellite dishes have been selling furiously in Jordan, for example, and
the programming has helped build huge demonstrations in that usually
orderly country.

"Al Jazeera has been for this intifada what CNN was to the Gulf war," said
Daoud Kuttab, a Palestinian journalist.

On the ground, the fact that Palestinians are now in control of chunks of
territory has dictated a shift in tactics. The Palestinian Authority has
jurisdiction — in effect, borders — in swaths of the West Bank and Gaza
Strip designated "Area A."

"Before, the enemy was everywhere," said Mr. Shaheen, the Fatah youth leader.

What that meant, he and others explained, is that in the first uprising the
Israeli Army controlled all the ground, so the tactics were fluid, hit and
run. Now confrontations are more formal, taking place at fixed points where
the Israelis have their posts — for instance, the City Inn here, where
parked jeeps are the targets of daily stonings.

During the uprising that began in 1987, the Israelis tried a series of
tactics with little success. There were curfews and closings of villages
and refugee camps, beatings that broke hands and arms, and mass arrests.
Thousands of Palestinians were in jail at any one time, so many that two
tent camps had to be built to house them. But the jails became schools of

After widespread riots followed Israel's opening of an archaeological
tunnel in Jerusalem in September 1996, the army's general staff decided to
make more use of snipers, Western diplomats said.

That tactic was employed from the first day of the recent protests at Al
Aksa Mosque, and it helps account for the large number of Palestinians shot
in the head or chest.

Each death brings a funeral, which turns into an emotional demonstration,
chants of "Revenge! Revenge!" and, almost inevitably, new deaths and new

The grim cycle is one result of Palestinian control of territory. The
territorial change of hands also appears to have reduced the involvement of
Palestinian women. In 1987 soldiers would go into villages or refugee camps
to arrest youths, and protective women would fling themselves, screaming,
onto the soldiers. Now, with the confrontations at fixed, often distant,
points rather than near their homes, women are less in evidence.

Fourteen years ago a local leadership emerged, made up of academics, young
street fighters and a few figures from old notable families, like Faisal
Husseini of Jerusalem.

After about a year, Hamas, an Islamic fundamentalist group, emerged as a
rival force. Particularly at the beginning, the leadership of the P.L.O.,
then in exile in Tunis, was relatively uninvolved.

Now, of course, there is the Palestinian Authority. Under its leader, Mr.
Arafat, is a jumble of rival security agencies and the Tanzim militia,
recreating the anarchic way he used to run things in West Beirut. And there
is the Nationalist and Islamic Leadership, a group including
representatives of Hamas and Islamic Holy War, which meets nightly to plan

>From there, things become more complicated.

The extent of Mr. Arafat's control is uncertain, and many here believe that
it is slipping away. Much of the action seems to be carried out locally by
leaders like Mr. Barghouti and Hussein Obaiyat, the leader of a squad of
gunmen near Bethlehem whom the Israelis assassinated with rockets from a
helicopter gunship along with two middle-aged mothers who happened to be
standing nearby.

Mr. Obaiyat was a veteran of the first intifada who nurtured his hatred of
the Israelis in their jails and whose gun-brandishing poster now adorns
walls and automobile hoods.

"This intifada is stronger than the other one," said Mahmoud, a 28-
year-old former construction worker, one of roughly 120,000 Palestinians
who used to work in Israel and are now kept out, at a confrontation point
the other day. Mahmoud threw stones for the first two years of the 1987
uprising, he said. Then one day an Israeli undercover unit dressed as Arabs
caught him and some other teenagers. He spent the next three years in jail.

"We have more experience," he went on. "Our consciousness is raised by the
first intifada not to surrender. If an agreement is made that doesn't reach
what we want, we'll carry on despite Arafat."

Standing next to him was an 18- year-old with a black headband, who said he
came to the confrontation point every day to throw stones at the Israeli

The 18-year-old summed it up this way: "They can't stop. And we can't stop."

Louis Proyect
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