A new outburst of Palestinian resistance is firmly underway. Ismael Haniyeh, leader of Palestinian resistance group Hamas which governs the Gaza Strip, has declared this is the start of a “Third Intifada”, or uprising.
Third Intifada or not, there’s no doubting the intensity and scale of the latest outbreak of protests and clashes.
Protests that began in occupied East Jerusalem have spread into the West Bank, Gaza and Israel itself.
As Socialist Worker went to press, Israeli forces had killed at least 24 Palestinians since the start of this month. The figure includes at least eight children.
Much like the Second Intifada of 2000-2005, this explosion of resistance was triggered by Israeli incursions into the Al Aqsa mosque compound in East Jerusalem.
Clashes between Palestinians and Israeli forces began last month when right wing Israeli groups tried to enter the compound ahead of a Jewish holiday.
The site of the mosque is holy to both Muslims and Jews. Many of those Israelis trying to enter the compound are squads of “temple activists”. These are right wing Israelis who say they want to demolish the Al Aqsa mosque and replace it with a Jewish “third temple”.
But this isn’t about a clash between two religions. Nor is this a case of mutual violence between two equivalent sides.
Israeli settlers are systematically trying to force Palestinians out of East Jerusalem. Palestinians living in East Jerusalem are often forcibly evicted from their homes under Israeli “requisition” laws. These allow settlers to claim Palestinian houses as their own.
Temple activists see the demolition of the Al Aqsa mosque as part of this strategy to cleanse East Jerusalem of Palestinians. So attempts to force their way into the compound are clear provocations. The responses from Palestinians—whether protests, riots or individual attacks on soldiers and settlers—are acts of resistance.
Palestinians in the West Bank face violent attacks from settlers and Israeli soldiers too. And they have to contend with the daily reality of the occupation.
But protesters there have also clashed with police from the Palestinian Authority (PA). The PA was set up to contain and police the Palestinian resistance. It has also implemented economic reforms that benefit Israeli and Western businesses and the Palestinian ruling class, but have left the majority of Palestinians impoverished.
Rulers in the PA have hoped that this would eventually lead to Palestinian statehood. Their vision of a state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel is no solution.
There can be no real self-determination for Palestinians while Israel exists.
There is no sign that Israel will ever allow any kind of Palestinian state. Successive Israeli governments have preferred instead to build ever more settlements inside the Palestinian territories.
This set up can’t last. Speaking at the United Nations last month, PA president Mahmoud Abbas threatened to stop abiding by the Oslo Accords—to effectively stop cooperating with Israel. This may be bluster. But it shows that the renewed resistance is developing against the backdrop of a growing rift between the PA and Israel.
The situation is worse yet in the Gaza Strip. Almost ten years of an Israeli siege has put unemployment there at 42 percent—60 percent among young people.
Gazans are still reeling from Israel’s deadly assault last year. Israeli forces killed 2,251 Palestinians in Gaza over a period of six weeks during the summer of 2014. The Gaza Strip still experiences frequent blackouts after its only power station was bombed. And, thanks to the blockade, few of the 100,000 destroyed homes have been rebuilt.
Revolt has been brewing in Palestine ever since. Similar protests and riots broke out across East Jerusalem last November. Palestinians clashed with Israeli forces around Al Aqsa in July this year.
Hopes for Palestinian freedom receded with the defeat of revolutions in Egypt and Syria. But resistance inside Palestine is growing anyway. This may or may not be the start of a Third Intifada. But the conditions for one are ripe.