House Demolitions Backfire on the Occupation

By Dr. Hani Al-Masri

The wave of the intifada that has been ongoing for four consecutive months has not yet turned into a comprehensive popular intifada with a united leadership and specific goals for many reasons mentioned by me and others. The most important of these reasons is that the leadership did not adopt the intifada and remained content with its hesitant support and that the forces are either unable or are hesitant to adopt the intifada and use it and fear that it will turn into a comprehensive intifada that cannot be controlled. They are also afraid that an internal competitor or rival would utilise the intifada for their own benefit against them.

In addition to this, there are some actions that gave the intifada more popularity and we cannot diminish their importance, such as the popular gatherings that attended the funerals of the martyrs and who participated in protests and movements calling for the return of the martyrs’ bodies as well as forming human chains around their homes. This hindered and postponed the execution of demolition orders on several occasions.

In this article, I will focus on the policy of house demolitions ordered against the homes of those carrying out operations, a part of the measures the occupation authorities decided to take as a form of punishment and a deterrent to prevent others from doing the same.

Since the beginning of the intifada, Israeli media outlets circulated news of the presence of a contrast between the Israeli military and security agencies on the one hand, and between the political leadership on the other with regards to the feasibility of the house demolition policy, as well as the policy of withholding bodies and other strategies. The events, in the eyes of the army, were proof that these policies will exacerbate the situation and would not be conducive to extinguishing the intifada. This drove the occupation to release the majority of the bodies, but kept the bodies of those from Jerusalem because the responsibility for them does not fall on the shoulders of the army given that Jerusalem was annexed to Israel and therefore Israeli law is applied. However, Israeli law is not applied in the territories occupied in 1967.

The story began in the Shufat camp in Jerusalem, when a number of people organised a campaign to collect donations in order to restore the home of martyr Ibrahim Al-Akkari and many people responded despite their difficult living conditions. Rich and poor contributed to the campaign. That got the ball rolling and another campaign called “rebuilding the homes of the free” was setup in Nablus, where over $250,000 was collected as well as other donations. They also launched the campaign to rebuild Mohannad Al-Halaby’s house, collecting approximately $125,000 in addition to land, equipment and free labour. The dissolved worker’s union, which is currently facing a court case, announced its decision for each employee to pay one per cent of their salary to support the campaign; if the PA applied this decision, they would have collected about $1.2 million. Other unions were encouraged to do the same and raise double this amount and use it to rebuild demolished houses and help the martyrs’ and prisoners’ families who are suffering from the occupation’s measures.

The donations campaigns show once again that the nation is willing and prepared to fight and give, but the leadership and the elites are greatly absent. The national initiatives were not launched by the leadership nor did the PA adopt them. This is despite the fact that the PA should commit to rebuilding every home demolished by the occupation and not give the excuse of a lack of resources. This is because meeting these needs are a national and vital priority and takes priority over any other issue.

We do not know the PA’s decision on this initiative, and it has not adopted a policy to cover all the losses resulting from the occupation’s measures and crimes committed against the people under the pretext of the intifada. This is because the PA is afraid of the occupation’s anger with it if it decides to do so, although the PA is greatly exaggerating this. The PA led the second armed intifada and Israel did not dissolve the PA because the alternative to the PA is much worse. It also did not dissolve the PA because it was betting on finding a new PA and it unfortunately was able to do so. After the Second Intifada, the PA was worse than ever. Before the Second Intifada, it was part of the political process which it hoped would end the occupation, but after the collapse of the Camp David summit and the return of the occupation to the West Bank, the PA had no political horizon.

If the PA is afraid to adopt the task of rebuilding demolished homes and so on, then how will it convince us that it will implement the decisions of the Central Committee regarding reconsidering its relationship with the occupation, ending security coordination, and ending the Palestinian economy’s dependency?

Those who only participate in the martyrs’ funerals in a limited manner, not at the highest level, and those who do not initiate or adopt the campaigns to raise money to rebuild the homes of the martyrs will not change the relationship with the occupation from “a partner in peace” to an enemy unless they are forced to do so for one reason or another, or as a response to major events or crimes. We must be alert early on and make sure Israel does not succeed in utilising the current events and the Palestinian division and confusion to subjugate the PA even further, especially during the rule of Abu Mazen’s successor.

There are some who accept whatever the PA does or doesn’t do, arguing that this is better than nothing and that the PA is governed by agreements and obligations. They also argue that if they do this or that, the PA would be punished and that will ultimately lead to its collapse or dissolution, thus opening the door to chaos leading to hell. These justifications reached the point of considering the fact that the PA and leadership did not condemn the intifada and prohibit protests in its territories as a great blessing and better than nothing or condemnation.

No gentlemen, this is unacceptable. It is true that supporting the intifada and showing solidarity with it, as Sweden is doing, for example, is better than condemning and prohibiting it, but it is not enough. This may be because the PA is afraid that the intifada will backfire or turn against it, which may lead to the PA prohibiting and preventing it if it thinks it can do so. Perhaps the prohibition in Beit El and other areas where protestors approach the occupation’s checkpoints and barriers are a means of testing the waters and are a beginning of what is yet to come.

The leadership and PA say that they support the peaceful popular uprising, but we do not know what is stopping them from organising it, because if they did so it would not be afraid of the intifada turning against it. At that point, the people will feel that they are concerned and involved in an effective resistance, albeit a peaceful one, despite the fact that the Palestinians have the right, according to international law, to exercise all forms of resistance, including armed resistance. There is a need to preserve this right and use it when needed in accordance with a national decision and as part of a national strategy in the context of self-defence during any time and any place.

The peaceful resistance that the PA wants consists of protests in cities, far from confrontation with the occupation forces and settlers. Such an “intifada” cannot attract the masses and the occupation would be able to live with it forever.

In the complete sense of the word, peaceful resistance consists of over 200 forms of confrontation. It includes all non-violent acts of resistance, including destroying all the occupation’s institutions, roads and infrastructure. It also includes organising protests attended by thousands and tens of thousands of people, which are peaceful, and which head towards settlements and settlers in Jerusalem, Hebron and everywhere else. These protests should be led by the PA, PLO and Palestinian faction leaders.

The PA and leadership could also adopt a campaign to boycott Israel, even if it starts out by boycotting the settlements in terms of trade and interaction. It is illogical for there to be a Palestinian investment in Israel and the settlements, and illogical for Palestinian shops to carry Israeli products after announcing the boycott, especially in light of the recent news about supermarket chain owner Rami Levy intending on building large shopping centres in cooperation with Palestinian businessmen and companies. He says he aims to achieve co-existence between Palestinians and Israelis, including settlers.

Do we need another attack on the Gaza Strip to reactivate the boycott once again? The PA must not only blame the businessmen, but also itself because the private sector will be forced to accept and adhere to any policy adopted by the PA if it is serious in enforcing a boycott.

If we do not act on the basis of being in a national liberation phase, that there is no current solution, that Israel does not intend to accept a settlement that will grant the Palestinians their basic rights, and that we need to protect the Palestinian human existence in Palestine, provide the elements of steadfastness, preserve and maintain what we have left, reduce our damages and loses, and thwart all Israeli projects, plans and alternatives, then we will continue to go down a path that will only become worse.

We cannot maintain the current situation. What is occurring is slow deterioration and erosion, as our unhappy ending is only a matter of time away. However, our possibilities and opportunities can change this fate by means of steadfastness, giving and resistance in all its forms, which continuously fade and grow from time to time and take on new forms. However, our resistance never stops. It can also change by means of the global solidarity with the just Palestinian cause and many other matters that are based on reliance on the people who have proven throughout history that they do not disappoint those relying on them.

(Translated from Masarat by MEMO on January 19, 2016.)

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