November 17, 2000 Special Dispatch No. 153

Intifada and Politics: An Overview

November 17, 2000
Palestine | Special Dispatch No. 153

The following is an overview of statements in the Palestinian media and by high-ranking Palestinian leaders about the origins, goals, and tactics of the current violence and the peace process.

Who Controls the Intifada?

The prominent role played by the Tanzim (Fatah Militia) in the Intifada has led to speculation that there is a disagreement between the PA and the Fatah about the Intifada, and that the PA is no longer in control. Addressing this issue, Fatah Secretary and Head of the Tanzim in the West Bank, Marwan Al-Bargouthi stated, "There is a division of labor, each has its own role and mission. The Fatah movement is proud of launching the Intifada and is leading it. This is its mission today. Arafat is the chairman of the Fatah movement, and enjoys its trust. We stand by him and respect his instructions, but the Intifada expresses the [will] of the masses. It did not begin with an order and will not end with an order. It does not operate by remote control. [And then] who said Arafat wants to end the Intifada in the first place? The continuation of the Intifada is in the interest of the PA, because it had reached a dead end, and the Intifada is the [way] to rescue the peace process."[1]

In another interview, Bargouthi explained the rationale behind the Intifada: "Experience teaches us that negotiation without struggle in the field is beggary and humiliation. ...[Israel] will not listen to us except when there is struggle on the ground. The goal of the Intifada is not to destroy the peace process. But rather to rebuild it on new foundations that include the UN resolutions setting the time table for new negotiations while ending the US monopoly on the peace process and the inclusion of active international forces such as China, the EU, Russia and various Arab parties"[2]

Bargouthi criticized calls to restrain the Intifada, saying: "Some of us began to regret the continuation of the Intifada and to pressure for its cessation, as if ten years have passed since its outbreak, and not only a month and a half ...he who demands that should immediately be thrown from his work one has the right to direct fire at the Intifada, because its continuation is in the interest of the Palestinian people in the homeland and abroad ...there is no five star Intifada, no VIP Intifada...."[3]

Calls to Continue Intifada

Palestinan spokesmen continue to state that the Intifada will continue. Secretary-General of the PA Presidency, Tayyed Abd Al-Rahim, said, "The Intifada will continue until the liberation of Jerusalem. The blood of the martyrs is the beacon showing the way to our Al-Aqsa, to our Jerusalem, and to our independent Palestinian state. I vow that we will continue in their path until the realization of our goals ...there will be no peace, security, or stability in the Middle East unless the Palestinian people achieve their legitimate national rights - the establishment of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital and the Right of Return."[4]

The Fatah movement continues to publish calls for the continuation and escalation of the Intifada, until the occupation is defeated and a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital is established.[5] The PA leadership published a similar statement, saying, "Our people, who wage Jihad, decided to continue their struggle and its just war for its independence and the establishment of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital."[6]

In his daily column in the PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, columnist Fuad Abu Hijlah discussed ideas for the struggle: "The settlers are dirty stains on our land. Israel cannot defend all of them. It is time to begin expelling them by besieging them, cutting off their electricity, and contaminating their water - which they steal from our rivers and fountains. It won't be easy, but such a process will be more effective. They will become groups of rats gathering in their sewers before they are driven away into Israel."[7]

Debates Over Tactics

Several high-ranking Palestinian leaders stated that the PLO had made a decision not to shoot from within a demonstration in order to prevent the casualties that could result from the Israel Defense Force reaction. PLO Executive Committee Chairman, Mahmoud Abbas (aka Abu Mazen) stated: "The Palestinian leadership has decided not to allow armed persons to participate in the demonstrations."[8]

PA Information Minister Yasser Abd Rabbo elaborated on the issue, stating, "The PA acts to prevent children from participating in demonstrations organizing studies in schools, institutes and universities that force the students to avoid points of friction for as long as possible ...the Palestinian political parties and forces decided to prevent children under 16 from participating in demonstrations and agreed to form committees to implement this decision."[9]

At the same time, high-ranking Palestinian officials advocated the use of weapons. PA National Guidance Directorate Chief, Othman Abu Gharbiya, called for greater discipline in using firearms: "Anarchy in the use of weapons should stop. We must stick to military rules, according to which you shoot only at [targets] within range. Whoever does otherwise shoots aimlessly and wastes ammunition. ...mending this situation is in the national interest. I call on all factions of the Palestinian people to obey these instructions..."[10]

The Roots of the Violence

When the riots began, many Palestinian spokesmen described the outbreak of violence as a popular reaction to Sharon's visit to Temple Mount. Recently, more and more Palestinians assert that Sharon's visit was not the reason. "The direct cause for the outbreak of the Intifada was Sharon's visit," said Abu Mazen. "But, there was an indirect cause: the fact that the Israelis have raised proposals that suit them for the solution of the Palestinian problem."[11]

Columnist Adnan Dagher added, "Sharon's visit was just the spark that ignited a situation that was on the verge of exploding anyway. If this spark had not happened, another would have ignited the Palestinian rage ...the description of the Intifada as just a religious reaction to the desecration of the holy places by Sharon, is nothing but delusion and wishful thinking. The issue at stake is a national one and its goal is liberation."[12]

Goal of Internationalization

High-ranking Palestinian leaders continue to make the internationalization of the peace process a pre-condition to its resumption. PLC Chairman, Ahmed Qurei' (aka Abu Ala), reiterated his previous statements on this issue: "We have no faith in the US, nor in Israel's seriousness. Therefore, there is no way but to convene an international conference, in which the UN will participate as a sponsor, as well as Europe, which has commitments, responsibility and interests in the Middle East region. Russia, China and Arab parties will also join."

"The gate of negotiation is still open," Abu Ala continued, "but in a new framework, not the old one. ...The old framework can no longer bear results. There is no solution, and there will be no solution except through the presence of international parties in the negotiations, who will tell the wrong one that he is wrong, and the right one that he is right."[13]

Information Minister Yasser abd Rabbo, explained what the Palestinians mean by demanding an international force in the territories: "By international protection, we do not mean forces that will separate the two the fighting parties, we are talking about international forces that will replace the Israeli occupation."[14]

Threatening the US

The Palestinian disgust with the role of the US in the negotiations prompted high-ranking PA officials to threaten the US. PA Information Ministry Director General Hassan Al-Kashef for example stated: "When popular rage begins targeting American interests on Arab soil, the will of the Arabs will prevail. The United States will not reassess its position without suffering significant losses to its presence and interests in the Arab area. Without popular Arab rage, the Arab leaders will not reexamine their position nor will they change their policies. ...If the place where the Jewish voice is heard is the ballot box in the US, then the scene where the Arab voice is heard is Arab soil, which is stuffed with American companies and American interests."[15]

[1] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), November 9, 2000

[2] Al-Quds (Palestinian), November 7, 2000.

[3] Al-Quds, November 11, 2000.

[4] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, November 11, 2000.

[5] For example, Al-Quds, November 1, 2000.

[6] ibid

[7] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, November 3, 2000.

[8] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, November 1, 2000.

[9] Al-Quds, November 7, 2000.

[10] Al-Quds, November 4, 2000.

[11] Al-Quds (PA), November 1, 2000.

[12] Yanabi' supplement, Al-Ayyam (PA), November 11, 2000.

[13] Kul Al-Arab Weekly (Israel), November 3, 2000.

[14] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, November 6, 2000.

[15] Al-Ayyam November 7, 2000.

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