April 30, 2001 No.

Palestinian Criticism of the Use of Weapons in the Intifada

In an article in the PA daily Al-Ayyam, veteran Palestinian journalist, Tawfiq Abu Bakr, criticizes the Palestinian use of weapons in the Intifada. Following are excerpts from the article:

"Better late than never. It is good that the Palestinian decision makers discovered [finally] that continuos mortar attacks and shootings from [Palestinian] populated areas give Sharon's government and the Israeli Army the justification to attack Palestinians and demolish their homes. Better late than to continue to pay the dear price in destruction, expulsion, and more new refugees."

"I opened a hornet's nest when I wrote, early on, that the deterioration of the Intifada into the use of weapons is the biggest [Palestinian] mistake which will have terrible consequences. After bloody months...[high ranking Palestinian officials] declare the same thing and demand what I had demanded from the beginning."

"I have been overwhelmed by feelings of joy and sorrow when I heard my friend [head of the Fatah 'Tanzim' in the West Bank] Marwan Al-Barghuthi state on the Palestinian TV that it is in the supreme interest of the Palestinian people to refrain from using weapons from Palestinian populated areas [because] it leads to hard reaction from the Israeli Army..."

"I was happy because [finally] the right position was endorsed, a position that enjoys the overwhelming support of the Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Still, I felt sorrow because [by now] homes were demolished... and families lost their sons, due to the long delay in taking the necessary decision which could have saved those human beings."

"It is the responsibility of a leader, any leader, to take the right decision even if it does not seem popular at the first moment. A leader is he who is far sighted [enough to] see what the public does not. To our regret and pain, the Palestinian leadership took the right decision only after we paid a high price and only after this position became popular due to public pressure."

"We have to remember that the harshest dictatorships crumbled down in the last decade without one bullet shot. They were defeated by popular 'Intifada's and by masses that filled the streets and places of major cities...This is the main characteristic of the [struggle of the] oppressed against the oppressors in the modern world. We Palestinians should adhere to this way of struggle more than any other people."

"We were amongst the first people to invent this way of struggle. But precisely when it became a matter of common conduct by peoples seeking justice and freedom - we have disavowed it and turned to different types of military struggle... that does not benefit us in any way."

"Our beloved countrymen have many doubts about who shoots the aimless bullets and they have many stories to tell which I have only recorded for the time being but did not publish, because it is impossible to publish it at this stage while the blood is still flowing."

"Some brothers claim that the 'military clashes' cause loss of confidence amongst Israelis who should know they chose the wrong person when they thought Sharon would bring back [the feeling] of personal security. This general claim has but little truth in it... It is time for an immediate reassessment."

"The shooting clashes and mortar attacks disturbed [Israeli] settlements whose people number no more than a few thousand. The five million Jews residing in Haifa, Jaffe, Tel-Aviv, and the rest of the Israeli towns and villages, however, do not feel that they lost their security. [Instead] they begin to show sympathy to this little group of several thousand settlers even though most Israelis believe that these settlements should be withdrawn."

"More importantly, we have lost the sympathy of large [political] forces in Israel. These forces sympathize with us when we conduct our Intifada in peaceful ways and demand legitimate rights. But they do not dare - and do not want - to show sympathy to Palestinian military activity that strikes at their sons."

"I have read the speech given by Yossi Sarid, the leader of the Left wing opposition in the Knesset, addressed to the Palestinian leadership. This speech proves everything I say. Israeli public opinion polls over the last few months also show clearly the loss of [political support] we have suffered amongst the Israeli public."

"After all, we seek peace with them and we are interested in that [at least] half of them will be convinced by the justice of our demands...We have no other solution."

"[Remember], the forces of the left in Israel went out to demonstrate with us at the check points when the voice of the guns stopped. The logic of the average Israeli thinks: 'We let them have these riffles to maintain security and now they point them at us. How can we give them more land?" "It will only bring more weapons and military activity [against us]."

"In International circles too, there was a serious decline in support to the Intifada from the moment the sound of the weapons and mortars was heard without [even] harming anybody. But the [false] impression has already been created: it is a fight between two sides. It may not be an equal fight, but still, an exchange of fire..."

"There are some who claim that the Israelis will not be ready to make concessions before they loose their sons in battle. Even if this logic had been correct - the situation, in reality, is much more complicated. Thirty or forty Israelis killed in half a year is a number that could be added to the yearly record of Israeli traffic casualties, without anybody even paying attention to it. In the year 2000 there were 552 [Israeli] traffic casualties. Neither Israel, nor any other country in the world, will change its policy because of such a small number. In the 1973 war Israel had thousands of casualties which [only] led to the rise of the right wing to power in Israel, led by Menachem Begin..."

"The South Lebanon model [of a forced Israeli withdrawal] had distinct historic and circumstantial characteristics that cannot apply to other places and times. Can we accept the logic of disturbing a hundred settlers in a settlement on the border of the Gaza Strip by mortars which make only noise, when the price of this 'disturbance' is the demolition of houses in Beit Hanoon, the expulsion of hundreds, the death of children, and a net loss of support among Israeli circles who supported our just demands as well as a net loss of support in world public opinion. I really wonder..."[1]

[1] Al-Ayyam (PA), April 25, 2001.