Palestine: no justice, no peace

May 15, 2002

The New Intifada: Resisting Israel's Apartheid
Edited by Roane Carey
Verso, 2001
354 pages, US$20
Order at <>


Most stories about Israel's war on the occupied territories refer to the start of the Palestinian uprising, or intifada, in late 2000. But this is only the latest stage in a rich history of the Palestinian people's struggle for justice.

“Ever since the beginning of the Middle Eastern conflict [in 1948], Palestinians have fought to achieve their legitimate national and civil rights”, writes Ghassan Andoni in his contribution to The New Intifada, an excellent new collection of essays. “With the colonial and expansionist character of the Israeli occupation, resistance has continued on many different fronts, using a variety of methods.”

The first intifada began in 1987 as a massive and spontaneous upheaval against Israel's rule in the occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. “In 1987, Israel controlled every aspect of Palestinian life; there was no authority but the occupation authority”, writes Andoni.

“As a result, intifada activities were neither confined nor localised. Protests and clashes occurred in every neighbourhood and street. The 1987 intifada was a genuine mass movement; most of the Palestinian population was directly involved in the resistance in one way or another. Methods ranged from peaceful protest and civil disobedience to limited violence.”

The second intifada that began in September 2000 has at times had a mass character, but there are differences. The most significant is that this uprising follows nearly a decade of “peace” negotiations that began with the 1993 Oslo accords and the establishment of the Palestinian Authority, led by Yasser Arafat.

The capitalist media portray the intifada as the brainchild of Arafat — a leader who, it claims, prefers “violence” to “peace” and whose influence is so vast that he has the power to order terrorist attacks or to halt them with the snap of his fingers.

In reality, the uprising is an expression of the anger and bitterness that Palestinians feel at how little has been gained after Arafat compromised away many of their historical claims to return to homes that their ancestors were driven from in 1948. Life for Palestinians has worsened since 1993 in innumerable ways.

Israel has been the source of the overwhelming majority of violence. “Within the first six days of the [second] intifada, Israel's army and police had killed 61 Palestinians and injured 2657, many of them children under the age of 18, and many of them killed or wounded from shots fired to the upper part of the body”, notes Muna Hamzeh, a Palestinian journalist, whose chapter in the book tells the story of refugees living in the Dheisheh camp. “By comparison, during the same period, four Israelis — three soldiers and one settler — were killed, while 35 Israelis were wounded, most of them lightly.”

“Nobody can convince me that we didn't needlessly kill dozens of children”, a senior Israeli army officer told Israel's Haaretz newspaper early on in the conflict.

At the beginning of the Oslo process, Arafat agreed to Israel's sovereign right to control 78% of historic Palestine — a huge concession. But as far as Israel's negotiators were concerned, this was only the beginning — just “one component of the compromise”, as Mouin Rabbani documents in his excellent chapter, “A smorgasbord of failure: Oslo and the Al-Aqsa Intifada”.

Describing the pattern of negotiations, Rabbani writes that “Israel first refuses to implement its own commitments, seeks and obtains their dilution in a new agreement, subsequently engages in systematic prevarication and finally demands additional negotiations, leading to a yet further diluted agreement.”

These simple facts and arguments are missing from almost all US and Australian media accounts of the Palestine conflict, which is why The New Intifada is well worth reading. The conclusion is plain: without justice for the Palestinians, there can never be peace.

[From Socialist Worker, weekly paper of the US International Socialist Organization. Visit <>.]

From Green Left Weekly, May 15, 2002.
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