Indeed, many Palestinians think that the coming clashes of the intifada will be less violent and more civic in nature. During a private
conversation in East Jerusalem last week, a Bir Zeit lecturer said it's no accident that calls for transfer have replaced the "Let the
IDF win" slogan. The reason is simple: Israel also senses there is a change in the intifada, that after the reoccupation of the West
Bank, it has become more popular, and less violent. The Israelis know its difficult to win such a conflict. It's impossible to beat an
entire people. That's why the voices of those who want to expel all the Palestinians are now being heard.
THE INTIFADA IS BECOMING MORE POPULAR
The Palestinian press is predicting
that Israel will reoccupy Gaza, as
the uprising returns to it grass roots
By Danny Rubinstein
[Ha'aretz - Sunday, October 13, 2002]:
Has the intifada changed character? Where are we heading?
Palestinian leaders quoted or writing in the press have been trying to
answer these questions as they sum up two years of bloodshed.
Nearly every report in the Palestinian press in the past few weeks has
counted the losses. Thousands of dead - nearly a quarter children
under the age of 17 as well as 130 women, 17 doctors and
paramedics, and six journalists. Forty thousand wounded, many now
handicapped for the rest of their lives. Then there's the physical
damage. Some 5,000 buildings destroyed. In places like Khan Yunis,
Rafah and Jenin, there are entire neighborhoods that have been
razed. Aside from the homes, hundreds of shops, factories and
workshops have been demolished. Farmland has been flattened.
Schools, kindergartens, mosques, hotels and broadcast facilities have
been destroyed. Dozen of buildings and installations that served the
Palestinian security forces are gone, as well as many of the Palestinian
Authority's civic institutions, not the least of which was the PA
government headquarters in Ramallah, the Muqata.
The Palestinian economy is in a shambles, and the residents of the
West Bank and Gaza have become a nation looking for a handout,
seeking charity from states and agencies around the world. There are
some half a million unemployed people in the territories, according to
PA Labor Minister Ghassan al-Khatib. Some 150,000 once worked in
Israel as laborers, and most, some 350,000, work in the territories but
can't get to their jobs because of curfews, closures and checkpoints.
The hardest hit were the 30,000 who live in proximity to the Jewish
settlers of Hebron. They've been under curfew 385 days in the last two
years, and many have left.
It's difficult to find actual regret about the intifada in the Palestinian
press, but there is definitely a sense of change. It is not a change
resulting from profound soul-searching or reassessment of reality, but
a change resulting from the changes that have taken place in
circumstances. The conditions in both the West Bank and Gaza have
changed, so the intifada must change into a different intifada.
Mohammed Dararmeh of Nablus, one of the most prominent of
Palestinian journalists, writing in Al-Ayyam, says that the intifada is
now returning to its grass-roots and that trend will continue and
expand. He means the military element of gunfire and even combat in
the West Bank, which took place between the Israel Defense Forces
and armed intifada militias, has practically disappeared. Instead,
popular protest has taken its place: demonstrations, marches, rallies,
and stone throwing. Now there are more pictures of kids opposite
tanks, as in the first intifada, and no more organized armed attacks on
checkpoints or continuous fire on neighborhoods like Gilo or
settlements like Psagot on the edges of Al Bireh.
The change took place because of the IDFs reoccupation of the
territory, which began about six months before Operation Defensive
Shield last spring. Those IDF operations effectively eliminated the
Palestinian security services and turned supervision of security over to
Israeli hands. In the diplomatic lexicon, it meant changing the cities
and towns of Area A (designated full Palestinian civilian and security
control) to Area B, in which the PA is responsible for civilian affairs but
Israel has the security control.
The Palestinians have noticed that in recent months the slogan "Let
the IDF win" has disappeared from the Israeli public discourse. Why?
Because the IDF did win, and reoccupied Ramallah, Nablus, Jenin,
and the rest of the PA's territory in the West Bank where most of the
Palestinians live. The army's victory can be seen in how many of the
organizers of what the Palestinians called military operations and Israel
refers to as terrorism, have been killed in extra-judicial assassinations
by Israel. According to Palestinian data, since the start of the intifada
until the beginning of this month, 124 intifada activists were killed,
including 47 Hamas men, 44 Fatah activists, 19 Islamic Jihad
operatives, and 14 activists from left-wing parties. Israel has accepted
responsibility for most of the assassinations but not all.
Aside from the assassinations, Israel has arrested nearly 30,000
Palestinian youngsters since the start of the intifada, says the
Palestinian Prisoner Association. Most, more than 20,000, were
released after a few days, weeks or months of security investigations.
There are some 8,000 security prisoners in Israeli jails and detention
centers. The Palestinians regard them as prisoners of war, not criminal
prisoners, with the Palestinian media citing Israel itself referring to the
situation as a war, so Israel should treat the people it captures as
prisoners of war, according to international conventions, instead of
putting them on trial for terrorism.
The mass arrests, which included arrests of some 60 women and
many teens, is reflected in stormy reporting in the Palestinian press
about the conditions in which the Israelis are holding the prisoners.
There are reports of overcrowding, a lack of medical treatment, and
torture during interrogations. The parents of Palestinian youths held at
Tel Mond say their sons are routinely subject to attacks by Israeli
juvenile prisoners held in the same jail, including sexual assaults. In
many cases, relatives of wanted men are arrested to create pressure
on the suspect to turn himself in.
The mass arrests are a characteristic of the new-old intifada, as is the
growing number of civilians who are wounded. Before Operation
Defensive Shield, the IDF chased and beat the armed cells of the
Tanzim, Al Aqsa Brigades, and organized cells of the Iz a Din
al-Kassam, which often operated with help from the PA security forces.
Now the army has new missions: to chase demonstrating civilians and
The change in the intifada is most felt in the West Bank, and much
less so in Gaza, where the PA's security forces still operate. But the
Palestinian leadership is convinced that the latest IDF operations in
Khan Yunis and Rafah show that Israel is getting ready for a renewed
occupation of Gaza.
While the change in the intifada was not the result of soul-searching,
or a deliberate change in policy, many Palestinians nonetheless
welcome the change. Fatah's leaders and their allies on the left (PADA
and the Communist Peoples Party) are among those who welcome the
change. Samir Masharwi of the Fatah leadership in Gaza recently
spoke about how the use of weapons does not do the Palestinian
cause much good, and he much prefers non-violent disobedience,
which wins international support and solidarity. Many agree with him
and openly say that the armed struggle of the Al-Aqsa Intifada gave
the Sharon government an excuse to go on a campaign of destruction
in the West Bank and Gaza. But a leader of the Gaza Hamas, Ismail
Abu Shenab, differs. He believes one of the intifada's great
accomplishments was actually on the military side: the destruction of
five Israeli tanks by Hamas cells.
Al Quds quoted both views in its second anniversary reportage about
the intifada. Indeed, many Palestinians think that the coming clashes
of the intifada will be less violent and more civic in nature. During a
private conversation in East Jerusalem last week, a Bir Zeit lecturer
said it's no accident that calls for transfer have replaced the "Let the
IDF win" slogan.
The reason is simple: Israel also senses there is a change in the
intifada, that after the reoccupation of the West Bank, it has become
more popular, and less violent. The Israelis know its difficult to win
such a conflict. It's impossible to beat an entire people. That's why the
voices of those who want to expel all the Palestinians are now being