Seventy years of resistance in Palestine – A history


December 15, 2017 – Fort Russ News – Paul Antonopoulos – Translated from Descrifra la Guerra.

MADRID, Spain – In the Middle East, the cradle of civilizations, the land of prophets and martyrs, is Palestine, drowned in the blood of a conflict that is becoming increasingly entrenched. In its territory there are Jewish settlements that cohabit with Arabs in a peaceful way, but there are also others in where confrontations and abuses are daily; in which violence is the bread of every day. The situation remains tense after seventy years of a land conflict that some have tried to justify with religion and that has caused entire generations to ignore the meaning of what it is to live in peace.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has its origin in Resolution 181 of the United Nations of 1947, which established the division of the Palestinian territory into a Jewish State, an Arab State and an area under international regime, realizing the aspirations of the Zionists. This declaration, which was not well received by the locals, led to the first Arab-Israeli war between 1948 and 1949.

However, Zionism – the doctrine that seeks the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine – is prior to the creation of the state of Israel, and dates back to the late nineteenth century. For the Zionists, the Jewish people is not an exclusively religious group, but a national group that should have its own territory shaped as a modern state. These ideas did not begin to penetrate the Jewish population until the wave of anti-Semitism that swept Central and Eastern Europe in the late nineteenth century that resulted in killings of Jews (pogroms) and confinement in ghettos. This triggered a wave of migrations (aliya) of Jewish population towards Palestine, which went from having a population of about 25 thousand Jews in 1880 to more than 80 thousand in 1914.

It is in World War I that Zionism begins to gain international recognition thanks to the Balfour Declaration, in which British Foreign Minister James Balfour let British tycoon and representative Walter Rothschild know that Britain would support the conversion of Palestine into the national home of the Jewish people. This measure sought to win over the Zionist lobby, which was one of the most powerful in the West.

The great victory for Zionism would come after the Second World War. Sheltered in the persecution suffered during the Holocaust and the Balfour Declaration, they received the support of the United Nations where, as a compensatory measure, it was decided to draft the Partition in the two States, with an international zone that included the holy places, Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

Despite the fact that the partition proposed by the United Nations was never implemented, the climate of hostility in Palestine between Arabs began to be felt, which rejected completely the creation of a Jewish State and Zionists, whose true objective was the creation of a Great Israel that would comprise all Palestine and Transjordan (today’s Jordan).

It was with the approval of the aforementioned resolution 181 of the UN that the conflict finally broke out between Jews and Palestinians. The conflict unleashed the first Arab-Israeli war in which the armies of Syria, Transjordan and Egypt decided to enter Palestine to defend their sovereignty. The war would end in 1949 with a traumatic defeat for the Arabs and the expansion of Israel that expanded a third of its territory, which forced the expulsion of 700 thousand Palestinians from their homes to make way for Israeli settlers. The lands that the Palestinians had to abandon were distributed among the kibbutz; Israeli agricultural holdings managed collectively. From this moment began Israel’s new policy of expelling Palestinians from their lands so that they could create new settlements.

The Arab defeats throughout the different wars against Israel, laid the foundations for the expansion of the State of Israel and a conflict that has been bleeding to the Middle East for seventy years.

The intifada as a form of struggle

Within the occupied territory, the Palestinians still do not accept the Israeli presence, and acts of disobedience, attacks on settlers, terrorist actions and insurrections are not uncommon. The most important act of resistance of the Palestinians is the intifadas.

The word intifada could be translated as ‘the uprising’ or revolt. The term began to be used for the first time in 1987 in what was called the first intifada in Gaza and the West Bank broke out after a traffic collision between an Israeli vehicle and a Palestinian collective taxi that caused the death of its occupants. The revolts, which started as a small nuclei, spread throughout the Palestinian territories in a matter of days; something that took Israel by surprise.

The Israeli Army responded with extreme hardness to the insurrection, using lethal fire against demonstrators and strikers. Israel used all possible methods to subdue the Palestinians, and after a year of fighting the death toll rose to 400 in addition to more than 25 thousand wounded. Despite the repression, the insurgency did not falter, and the Palestinian Liberation Organization called to continue the protests.

In this context, the crisis of the First Gulf War (1990-1991) exploded, in which many Palestinians desperate for their situation, saw in Saddam Hussein a leader capable of tipping the balance in their favor.

The defeat of the Iraqi leader was a sentence for the Palestinians, who with the Oslo agreements saw their dream of a Palestinian state of their own completely vanish.

If the situation was already hopeless for the Palestinians, the failure of the Camp David summit with which it was intended to end the conflict generated the breeding ground for the second intifada in September 2000.

The second intifada was a direct consequence of the visit of the leader of the right-wing Zionist party Likud Ariel Sharon to the al-Aqsa mosque. Sharon was hated in Palestine for being one of the main promoters of the settlement policy, and his complicity in 1982 for the killing of thousands of Palestinian refugees in Sabra and Shatila.

With this background, the visit of Sharon was seen as a provocation, so the Palestinians unleashed all their anger against the police forces, thus leading to the second intifada or the intifada of al-Aqsa.

The Israeli response was immediate, and in three days the IDF ended the lives of 30 Palestinians and caused more than 500 injuries. In the face of repression, the Palestinians began enlisting en masse in the armed arms of the different organizations to such an extent that all attempted mediation failed.

With the death of PLO leader Yasser Arafat in 2004 the end of the second intifada began, but it was not until 2005 when the new leader Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon agreed to a ceasefire.

Following the second intifada Israel had to withdraw its troops from the Gaza Strip, although it has never stopped practicing its settlement policy. The conflict, however, left behind a trail of blood of 1000 dead Israelis and 5,000 Palestinians. Far from being a ceasefire with which to start the dialogues again, barely three years later Israel carried out Operation Cast Lead; an operation by land, sea and air against Hamas that completely destroyed the infrastructure of the cities of Gaza, Khan Younis and Rafah.

Today, the war drums sound again, and that is that Donald Trump’s decision to declare Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, beyond something symbolic, means stripping the Palestinians of their capital (al-Quds) and ending any attempt of reconciliation and coexistence.

The protests are returning to cover the entire Palestinian territory, and appeals to a third intifada are heard in both Palestine and Lebanon.

Divisions and clashes inside Palestine at a critical moment

Far from what may seem, the Palestinian organizations are divided and confronted with each other. The main groups that operate in the Palestinian territory are Fatah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, although there are dozens more militias; most of them integrated into the Organization for the Liberation of Palestine.

Fatah Shield From all groups, Fatah or the Palestinian National Liberation Movement is the one who has embodied the Palestinian resistance for the longest time. Socialist, nationalist and leftist, Fatah is the backbone of the Organization for the Liberation of Palestine which was united in 1968, four years after its founding.

The group was founded at the end of the 50s by Yasser Arafat, and currently its representative is Azam al-Ahmad. Its first armed wing was al-Assifa, and it did not begin to have a truly violent stance until the Arab defeat in the Six Day War that ended the Israeli occupation of the Gaza Strip.

At this time it is when Fatah together with the PLO carried out its most mediatic action: the attack of Munich in the Olympic Games of the 72 when they executed to 11 hostages of the Olympic equipment of Israel after they rejected the demands of the members of the command that demanded the release of 234 Palestinian prisoners as well as the founders of the Red Army Fraction in Germany, Andreas Baader and Ulrike Meinhof.

This, together with the radicalization of the PFLP, which was also part of the PLO, caused them to be expelled from Jordan, with whom they had a good relationship with Lebanon and Syria.

When the second intifada began in 2000, Fatah decided to change the name of al-Assifa to the ‘Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade’, with the intention of seeking the support of the Muslims who were turning towards the Islamist groups that they pointed to Fatah as traitors after participating in the Oslo agreements, in which they sought a peaceful solution to the conflict recognizing the right to exist of the State of Israel according to its pre-1947 borders. Fatah’s loss of popularity due to its shift towards moderation led to the Hamas election in 2006, with Ismail Haniya in command.

Fatah refused to accept the result, which provoked a confrontation between the two groups that ended with the expulsion of Fatah from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank. Ismail Haniya then proclaimed Hamas as the party that ruled the Gaza Strip while the West Bank remained under the control of Fatah.

After this dispute that divided Palestine and confronted the two strongest groups, reconciliation negotiations were attempted, but all of them failed. It was on October 12, 2017, that after ten years of disputes, a new reconciliation pact between Hamas and Fatah was reached in Cairo, which put an end to a decade of division between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

The importance of this agreement is that it is the first step to strengthen the Government of the Palestinian National Authority, known since 2013 as the State of Palestine, which has no power in Gaza since 2007. This is because the president of Palestine Mahmoud Abbas is a Fatah militant.

While the agreement is an important step in bringing the Palestinian cause back together, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made clear his position of rejecting the agreement by stating categorically that Israel will not recognize Palestine while Hamas has representation of any kind.

Hamas ShieldThe Hamas Islamic Resistance Movement is the Palestinian arm of the Muslim Brotherhood founded in 1987 during the first intifada by Ahmed Yasin. With a clear Salafist line, its objective is the creation of an Islamic State ruled by Sharia and purify the Umma – Islamic community -, which has led to clashes since its inception with the secular groups of the Organization for the Liberation of Palestine. The current leader of the Islamist formation, classified as a terrorist organization according to the USA, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Japan and Canada is Ismail Haniyah, the Ezzedin al-Qassam Brigades are his armed wing.

The Hamas tendency is already clear from the preamble of its founding charter:

“Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam destroys it, in the same way that it has destroyed other peoples in the past”

This group is not something that comes from the boiling of the first intifada, but rather this is the moment when they decide to finally emerge after years of intervention as Muslim Brothers in the numerous charitable works that were already in Palestine. The objective of its creation is to dispute power to the PLO and become the reference body for Sunni Muslims in the fight against Israel.

That the Islamic Resistance Movement is part of the Muslim Brotherhood has not caused problems only within Palestine, but has also muddied relations with the country that has most supported the Palestinian resistance: Syria. The turning point was experienced during the war in Syria, when Hamas chose to call its brothers to fight against President Bashar al-Assad. Earlier, the Palestinian Hamas members who were in the refugee camp of Yarmouk (Damascus) turned their guns against the government, and many of them ended up joining the ranks of ISIS. With his other ally, Hezbollah, there was not a total break due to the need of each other to face Israel, but since 2012 their relations have been lukewarm at best, although the current crisis is forcing to both organizations to reach common places and a possible reconciliation.

Those who have suffered the most are the few remaining Palestinian Christians in Gaza, who suffer both the persecution of Israel and the Islamist organization that since 2007 has banned any Christian public celebration including Christmas.

Even so, the Qassam Brigades are the group that fights Israel with more virulence, so they have won the sympathy of the vast majority of Palestinian conservatives. As of 2004, they stopped carrying out suicide attacks to focus operations on rocket attacks against the Israel Defense Forces; mainly Grad and self-made Qassam rockets.

The moment of real Hamas boom was in 1993. Following the Oslo accords, the PLO and Fatah accepted Israel’s right to exist at Balfour’s borders, but the Islamic Resistance Movement remained in its traditional anti-Islamic positions. Israelis, which legitimized them in the face of Yasser Arafat’s new position, which, even if it was with good intentions, the Palestinians saw it as a betrayal.

Israel’s constant persecution of its militants and even the arrest of its founder have led to an aura of heroism around the organization that is full of martyrs.

Coat of arms of the Palestinian Islamic JihadWhile Hamas is the main Islamist organization operating in the Palestinian territories, it is not the only one. Although smaller and with less capacity, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and its armed wing the al-Quds Brigades (Jerusalem) are also a group to be taken into account for their radicalism and their support: Iran. Syria and Hezbollah.

The Islamic Palestine Jihad was created in the seventies by Fathi Shaqaq and Abd al-Aziz, two students who were members of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, who soon broke with the organization after considering that their work was inefficient and insufficient for the Palestinian cause.

Despite having an origin linked to the Muslim Brotherhood and being a Sunni group, in the eighties they were not slow to approach the positions of Iran and Hezbollah when the leaders of the Islamic Jihad were in exile in Lebanon. This led them to put aside sectarianism to forge alliances that still exist today.

The objective of Islamic Jihad is, like that of Hamas, to create an Islamic State in Palestine that geographically make up the borders prior to the 1948 mandate, as they reject the existence of a Zionist state in the region. The only solution that they pose is the total disappearance of the State of Israel.

Like the other groups, Islamic Jihad refuses to participate in politics, and its al-Quds Brigades are the only organization that has refused to stop both the armed struggle and the attacks throughout the conflict.

Although they operate throughout the Palestinian territory, they have had disputes with Hamas in Gaza in which there have been deaths, and where they have more strength is in Jedá.

FPLPE shield In opposition to the Islamists, another of the main organizations there is the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Part of the PLO, it is a political-military Marxist-Leninist, secular and Palestinian nationalist organization of the extreme left founded in 1967 by George Habash after the Israeli occupation of the Gaza Strip. The objective of this organization is the creation of a secular, socialist and pan-Arab state inspired by the Soviet model. It is noteworthy that its founder George Habash is a Christian, so the PFLP has always had a clear stance against Islamic extremism while continuing to bet on the coexistence of Muslims, Christians and Jews within a united Palestinian state.

In contrast to Fatah’s moderate policies, the PFLP always remained hostile towards Israel, rejecting the Oslo accords that they considered a betrayal. However, with the arrival of the new century, the PFLP had to accept Israel’s right to exist in the face of threats by the PLO to disband its armed wing, the Martyr Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades.

The current leader of the organization is Ahmad Sadaat, who is being detained by Israel. Due to security issues, the group refuses to disclose the name of its current leader on the streets.

The most important and well-known militant of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine is Leila Khaled, who, dressed in a kefiyyeh and embraced by her rifle, still represents the Palestinian resistance.

The most spectacular actions of the PFLP were its aircraft hijacking. In the month of September of 1970 managed to kidnap up to five flights. The fourth attempt failed and ended with the death of one of the kidnappers and the detention of Leila Khaled, so the PFLP responded by hijacking a fifth plane to demand the release of Khaled.

Although in its beginnings it became a strong organization, the dissolution of the Soviet Union was a hard blow for the group that weakened in the face of the resurgence of Islamist organizations.

As can be seen, Palestine is a complex puzzle, in which each piece has its place. At a critical moment in which a new intifada is imminent, its future depends on the groups of the State of Palestine deciding to put aside their differences to act as a block of resistance or to submit completely to the Zionist state of Israel.

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