DALIT AL-CARMEL, Israel: Recently I have been hearing again the all-too-familiar Palestinian threat that the lack of progress in the negotiations with Israel will eventually lead to a third Intifada. Some Palestinians even speak about the option of a third Intifada as if they are going to a wedding celebration or a night of pleasure in Vienna!
Although it is true that Israeli politics have shifted away from the path of negotiation and reconciliation, and are veering towards renewed violence against Palestinians, this does not justify a third Intifada.
In fact, it is now clear that the second Intifada has undermined more than benefited Palestinian national aspirations. While the first Palestinian Intifada at the end of the 1980s was a legitimate popular struggle that led to the Oslo Accords, the second Intifada was unnecessarily violent and brought two Israeli military campaigns against the West Bank and Gaza, inflicting heavy damage to the Palestinian cause – politically, economically and morally. For this, we cannot blame the Israelis alone. The fact that the Palestinian factions chose the path of violence makes them also culpable.
Moreover, the fact that the Palestinians at the time did not disassociate their struggle from international fundamentalist terrorism and did not counter the link that Al-Qaeda, for example, made between its actions and the Palestinian cause, gave Israel an excuse to make an analogy between Hamas violence and international Jihadist terrorism.
Actually, the main reasons for the outbreak of the second Intifada were internal Palestinian factors, such as attempts by Hamas to compete with Fateh and other factions over who has a monopoly over the Palestinian cause, supported by a growing focus on sacrifice and martyrdom.
The result of this Intifada was a political split between the Hamas state in Gaza and the national authority in Ramallah, morphing into internal violence, which produced scenes that are no less horrific than those produced by the occupation and which brought the late Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish to wonder which martyr will enter heaven first, the one killed by his own brethren or the one killed by enemy fire!
The Palestinian struggle has been plagued by a propensity to expend lives without consideration, as if those leaders of the struggle consider people, especially the Palestinian youth, as cannon fodder or fuel for a revolution, to be disposed of at will. Preoccupation with the victims did not include attempts to reduce their numbers. Scores of Palestinian youth have been victims to the idea of sacrifice and martyrdom, many more than the resistance actually required. As a result, martyrdom has become more significant than liberation, and sacrifice more important than ending the occupation.
The just Palestinian cause of demanding an end to the occupation and establishing Palestinian sovereignty became immoral ever since it stopped dedicating its resources to life and freedom and began to use human beings as pawns to internal fighting.
It is now becoming more apparent that we have other non-violent options which are ultimately superior both politically and morally. In the last few years we have seen a proliferation in non-violent activities. Villages like Naalin and Bilin have been engaging in weekly protests against the separation wall for several years. An official Palestinian decision at this stage, to adopt the non-violence option in the framework of continuing the struggle with Israel would mean a historic adjustment of the Palestinian struggle, opening up new horizons, internally and externally. It would mean that the time of expending human lives without restraint and making political and material sacrifices without due accountability would be over. It would mean that the Palestinian would have his dignity restored and the right to life would triumph over the idea of martyrdom.
Nobody can doubt Ghandi s nationalistic feelings, or Martin Luther King s resoluteness. Palestinians can be similarly resolute without stepping over into armed action or endless violence. Non-violence does not undermine the credibility of Palestinian demands or the just cause of this people. One Intifada was enough.
Marzouq El-Halabi is a writer, columnist and political advisor. He writes a regular column for Al-Hayat newspaper. This article was written for the Common Ground News Service (CGNews).