In mosques throughout the world, the last Friday of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadaan has been devoted to highlight the problems facing the Palestinians in their struggle for freedom from Zionist occupation. Ever since the outbreak of the first intifada (uprising) the spotlight in the Muslim world has been firmly focused on the valiant struggle being waged against the fourth most powerful country in the world – Israel.
Decades of suffering, humiliation, and expulsion culminated in the first intifada in December 1987. Having being pushed out of their hearth and homes in 1948, and again in 1967, and stoically withstood the hell-hole of the refugee camps, the Palestinian’s immense suffering had finally reached its limits.
The Palestinians witnessed the loss of 55% of their land under the United Nation Partition Plan in 1947. With Israel having control of over 78% of historic Palestine, and deserted by the United Nations and the international community, Palestinian youth had reached a crossroads: fear was forbidden, stones were taken up and political independence declared.
Previous resistance to the brutal Israeli occupation had been sporadic, limited and scattered. Calls to strike after the intifada was widely demonstrated throughout the occupied territories. The struggle for liberation was transferred from the surrounding Arab countries into occupied Palestine, thus curtailing the influence of the corrupt and servile Arab leadership. Collaborators were gradually rendered ineffective as the entire mass of people under occupation came together in a block that opposed occupation.
Islam became the rallying cry for freedom. Muslims in the occupied territories assumed the leadership, and an alternative social structure emerged. Hamas became a major force and considered the intifada a legitimate stage in the continuing resistance against Israeli occupation, hegemony and injustice.
The intifada had a shattering effect on all facets of Israeli society. Strikes, unrest, boycotts, refusal to pay taxes, loss in tourism, exports, labour shortages, and increased emigration and military expenditure cost the Israeli economy billions of dollars. The Israeli psyche took such a knock that soldiers, previously allowed free movement in the occupied territories, were afraid to venture there.
Suicide amongst soldiers sky-rocketed. Their arrogance was replaced by fear, and vulnerability, and demolished the myth of invincibility. Israel’s Shin Beth’s
20 000-strong intelligence network among the Palestinians was destroyed, making it impossible for Israel to re-impose full control and restore law and order.
These factors, amongst others, and the refusal of the Palestinians to call off the intifada convinced the Israeli government of the futility of the continued suppression. The Palestinians cast aside the double occupation, by the corrupt Palestinian elite and Israel. Israel was unable to control the occupied territories. This paved the way to the Oslo Accords, which were announced publicly on August 31, 1993.
The next seven years saw numerous treaties and plans: Sharm al Sheikh, Camp David, the Tenet and Mitchel plans, Wye River Agreements and Oslo II, and the most recent, the Road Map. All of these abrogated the Palestinian Right of Return, overriding decades of United Nations resolutions and created a pretence of a “Palestinian state” which will not be sovereign, armed, or independent of Israeli control.
The Palestinian concession of 78% of their land was not sufficient to satisfy the Israeli greed for more land. Not willing to give up East Jerusalem or the illegal Settlements, the Israelis demanded the Palestinian Authority to suppress any and all resistance. In fact, they wished to incite a civil war between the various Palestinian factions, a fervent hope not yet realized.
The number of Jewish Settlers in the Occupied Territories doubled to over 400 000. “Jewish-only” by-pass roads, linked the Settlements and cut off Palestinian areas into Bantustans and small cantons. The checkpoints strangulated trade, transport and freedom of movement. Unemployment reached over 60% and dire poverty prevailed. The expansion and confiscation of land would not allow the creation of a viable, contiguous Palestinian state. Ariel Sharon’s provocative entrance to the Haram al- Sharif (Al- Aqsa Mosque) was the spark that lit the fuse of the Al-Aqsa intifada.
The most significant factor in the current intifada has been the amaliya istish-had –” the martyrdom operations. In the western media the misnomer ‘suicide bombing’ is applied to describe this unselfish, courageous act of sacrifice against a savage Zionist occupation force whose actions violate international humanitarian law, UN charter resolutions and the Geneva Conventions. The cost for the Palestinians has been high, but a price they are most willing to pay.
The istish-had or “martyrdom bombing” challenged the awesome Israeli military power that previously decimated the Arabs armies, with one exception – Hizbullah. It is accurate, effective, relatively cheap in monetary terms, difficult to detect, reliable and shows a commitment and faith that is powerful and terrifying.
The achievements of the Palestinians in the fourth year of the intifada is remarkable. Making Israel a battleground has instilled such fear that almost a million Israelis have fled to the USA, demolishing the myth that Israel is a safe haven for Jews. Pilots, military generals, and intelligence chiefs have criticized the Israeli policy of expansionism, racism and occupation. Avraham Burg, former Israeli Knesset speaker and chairman of the Jewish Agency surprisingly remarked “the end of the Zionist enterprise is already at our doorstep. There is a real chance that ours will be the last Zionist generation”.
The Palestinian struggle is one of survival and self-defence. Without the Apache helicopters, Merkava tanks, air-force, navy or army, the Palestinians have courageously resisted oppression with the only weapon available to them – martyrdom!