The Palestinian Youth Had to Challenge the Occupation

By Hasan Afif El-Hasan

Four years after the advent of the “Arab Spring” and the failure to replace the ousted regimes with something better, the people of the Middle East today are engaged simultaneously in civil wars, holy wars, sectarian wars, and old and new foreign invasions. This is happening while Israel continues to commit human rights violations against the Palestinians, colonize their lands and denies them their right to be free, even the right to worship.

The aftermath of the spontaneous outbreak of the pro-democracy “Arab Spring” in January 2011 brought the authoritarian Arab regimes and Israel closer in their opposition to democracy and Islamist successes, although each has their own reasons. The pro-democracy uprising threatened the regional order that is rested on military dictatorships and absolute monarchies. This is especially obvious in Egypt, the most populous country and in the rich Gulf States. Although the uprisings were homegrown revolutions and not primarily anti-Israeli or even anti-Western, they did not resonate well at any level of the Israeli society because of their Islamic and democratic components.

The Arab Spring was basically calling for genuine political reform, freedom, better living standards, and national dignity. The pro-democracy movement was unpleasant surprise to all leaders of the Middle East regimes, including Israel although it does not call for the liberation of Palestine or threaten the existence of Israel. The Israeli leaders who have been accustomed to dealing with pliant and predictable old Arab authoritarian rulers do not relish the prospects of dealing with unpredictable young Arab idealist leaders chosen by democratic societies. Palestinian youth today are facing the Israeli occupation military and settler-gangs with their bare chests in the streets and alleys of Jerusalem, the West Bank towns and villages demanding the end of occupation.

Mahmud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority President has been blamed by Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for inciting violence in the West Bank and Jerusalem, but Netanyahu is wrong! Abbas prevented the Palestinians from protesting when Israel was carrying out the massacres in Gaza killing and injuring thousands, and when the Jewish settlers and the military violated the sanctity of Al-Aqsa mosque. The facts suggest that by promising that he would not allow uprising against the occupation no matter what Israel does against his people, Abbas encouraged Israel to continue colonizing the occupied lands, demolishing Palestinians’ homes, blockading Gaza and attempting to take over Al-Aqsa Mosque. From the Palestinian people perspective, Abbas is part of the problem! For more than twenty years, he was negotiating a division of the occupied lands while Israel keeps confiscating it, leaving the Palestinians in small enclaves with no rights and no identity.

Israel had always prided itself on being an “island of democracy” in a sea of authoritarianism, but contrary to this claim, Israel is a racist state because Zionism is not compatible with a citizenship-based liberal democracy. Its leaders carried out the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians to create a Jewish majority state in 1947-48. According to the Israeli Historian Ilan Pappe, hundreds of Palestinian towns and villages were destroyed by the Jewish paramilitary organizations, and their residents were forcibly expelled from their homes. After the 1967 war and the occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem, thousands of Palestinians have been displaced, others were denied return to their homes from abroad and more are being cleansed from East Jerusalem. Israel enforced an apartheid system in the occupied lands and it has done everything to undermine the Palestinian democracy.

Like all of Israel’s prime ministers and leaders, Netanyahu’s premiership is marked by a stubborn refusal to reevaluate Israel’s relations with the Palestinians. Netanyahu personally has no understanding, no empathy, and no faith in the possibility of peaceful solution with them even after the concessions made by the Palestinian leadership. Netanyahu’s government is the most aggressively right wing, chauvinistic, and racist government in Israel’s history. Netanyahu’s ambition is to go down in history as the leader who secured greater Israel. His ministers are wedded to an agenda of Greater Israel dominated by Jews that is fundamentally at odds with the idea of a two-state or even a unitary secular democratic state solution.

According to Likud member of Knesset, Tzipi Hotovely, a proponent of annexing the West Bank, “Netanyahu’s entire political biography is the struggle against the establishment of the Palestinian state.” Netanyahu is viewed by his supporters as an offshoot of revisionist Zionism and of his even more extreme religious-nationalist ideology that claims only Jews have historical rights to sovereignty over the whole territory of Palestine that includes the West Bank or, as they preferred to call it “Judea and Samaria. Knowing the indigenous Palestinians are going nowhere, the Zionists adopted the doctrine of permanent conflict with them.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled that the settlements and the walls infringed the rights of the Palestinians to national self-determination. It cited land confiscation, house demolition, the creation of enclaves, and restrictions on movement and access to water, food, education, healthcare, work, and an adequate standard of living to constitute a violation of Israel’s obligations under international laws. Scores of UN resolutions and ICJ advisory rulings had no discernible impact on the Israeli governments. What frustrated the Palestinian people even more is the silence of the international community especially the US.

Zionist policy since the 19th century First Zionist Congress onward has been to work through an alliance with the dominant great powers of the day. Reliance on great power is the central element in Zionist strategy. The Zionist fixation on enlisting the support of great powers to create their colonial state and in the consolidation and expansion of their state remained constant. First, it was Great Britain, and after World War II, it has been the US.

The US is the only country that can influence Israel’s policies because of its economic, military and political support in the UN Security Council. In the period since 1978, the US provided Israel with tens of billions of dollars in economic and military aid and used its veto in the Security Council fifty-two times in the service of Israel. But the US has failed to exercise its powers to pressure Israel even when Netanyahu rebuffed the latest Kerry’s peace mission proposals that were tailored to accommodate Israel’s demands. In an effort to persuade Netanyahu to extend a partial settlement freeze by sixty days, President Obama offered Israel a long term security agreement, a squadron of F-35 fighter jets and the use of the US veto to defeat any resolution that would not be to Israel’s likings. Netanyahu, the US ungrateful junior partner, rejected the offer knowing that aid to Israel is guaranteed by overwhelmingly pro-Israel Congress.

In his Cairo speech on June 4, 2009, President Obama declared, “The US does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements.” During his first term in office, President Obama had three confrontations with Netanyahu over the settlement issue, but the American president backed down each time. President Obama knows well that the problem is the continued occupation and colonization of the Palestinian lands. President Obama talks the talk but does not walk the walk. The lessons Israel learnt is that it can defy the US president without having to pay any political price. The US blatant support of Israel has turned the US in the eyes of the Palestinian people into a dishonest broker. After losing confidence in the US, the Arab states and their own leaders, the Palestinian youth have decided to challenge the occupation in the streets and alleys of Jerusalem, the West Bank towns and villages.

– Hasan Afif El-Hasan, Ph.D. is a political analyst. His latest book, Is The Two-State Solution Already Dead? (Algora Publishing, New York), now available on and Barnes & Noble. He contributed this article to


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