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هاني المصري
الخميس, 27 تموز (يوليو), 2017
"According to an Israeli military source, 'the only thing that Israel does not want now is a third Palestinian intifada, but the security assessments have noted such a prospect in recent days'," writes Hani al-Masri on the Palestinian
For his part, the occupation army's Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot has declared that 'we are dealing with escalation that is totally different from the October 2015 uprising; we are now talking of an additional motive to what existed then, namely, the religious motive.'
Israel's confusion peaked during a meeting of its 'inner cabinet' that failed to reach a decision due to its internal disagreements, and because all options are bad and not guaranteed. If the electronic gates and cameras [installed at the entrance to the Aqsa Mosque] were removed, that would add to the Palestinians' confidence in the importance of an intifada to achieve their aims; and if these gates and cameras were kept in place, an intifada that crosses borders and continents might break out.
And, we are, in fact, before the growing possibility of an intifada. For what is happening in the occupied Palestinian territories, specifically in Jerusalem, offers the glad tidings of such a prospect. This possibility will grow if the Netanyahu government does not retreat from its post-July-14th measures, especially the installation of electronic gates, because keeping these gates and the smart cameras in place, and carrying out searches via metal detectors, suggests that the moment for a spatiotemporal division of access [between Jews and Muslims] to the Aqsa Mosque is drawing closer. And that would be just a step along the path towards demolishing the Aqsa and building Solomon's alleged temple in its place.
Anyone who has seen or heard what Israeli Jews have been doing in recent days inside the violated Sanctuary with no controls or restrictions would understand that the talk of division and demolition is not mere Palestinian allegations, but a creeping Israeli scheme whose true goal is sovereignty on the pretext of religious worship that awaits the appropriate moment to be implemented.
Most of the prerequisites for the outbreak and perpetuation of an intifada are in place:
- The first and most important prerequisite is that of popular support and sustenance. This exists, as evident from the widespread participation of all shades of the Palestinian spectrum in the [protest] activities and prayers. This has led the head of Israeli policy, who is also the party most insistent on installing the electronic gateways, to declare that the police have lost control over Jerusalem because of the size of worshippers and demonstrators. He also denied that the army and the Shabak [Israeli internal security service] who opposed the electronic gates, had assessed that a deterioration of the sort that we have witnessed was possible. In short, he is defending himself and blaming everyone else, even though he was the one believed that the Israeli police could control the situation.
- The second prerequisite is continuity. This also is in place, as evident from the fact that the intifada has continued into its second week, amidst assessments that it may continue for many more weeks, at least, if the occupation authorities do not back down from their provocative measures. And what is serving this continuity is the fact that all sectors and all generations – women next to men, the rich next to the poor – are taking part in the battle to protect the Aqsa and in numbers that far exceeded even the most optimistic expectations.
What may contribute to the continuity of the intifada is that the issue is one of existence, a homeland, and a religion. For in addition to the religious and patriotic motives behind rejecting the installation of gates and cameras, there is an economic motive as well. These measures will decrease the number of worshippers in al-Aqsa and visitors to the Old City and to Jerusalem in general, especially on Fridays, on Islamic and Christian religious days, and throughout the month of Ramadan. That would constitute a severe blow to trade and business and help complete the Judaization and Israel-ization of the Aqsa and Jerusalem.
But for continuity to be achieved, the intifada must now go beyond being 'the Jerusalem intifada', with which the Palestinians and others are expressing their solidarity, and turn into the Palestinian people's intifada.
- The third prerequisite lies in having an aim and a program. These are already present, but in an insufficient manner that has not been adequately developed. Removing the gates is not enough to ensure that the intifada is sustainable, because returning to the situation before the gates were installed would be to return to a situation that was already bad and getting worse, in fact. For despite its inability to achieve all of its aims, Israel has still achieved some goals that cannot be dismissed as insignificant. The fact is that access to the Sanctuary is now effectively divided along temporal lines since the Jews can enter and pray there on a daily basis, specifically from 7am to 11am.
Moreover, the archeological digs under and near the Aqsa continue, along with all forms of harassment of the steadfast and patient Jerusalemites, via assaults, insults, imposing heavy taxes, demolishing homes, detentions, house arrests, withdrawing identity papers, taking over lands and homes, and the growth of crime, violence, drugs, and prostitution.
If we want the intifada to continue, there is an urgent need to pursue a more important goal than merely removing gates and cameras, such as preventing Jews from entering into Sanctuary and a return to the agreement upholding the status quo that [former Israeli defense minister] Moshe Dayan reached with the Islamic waqf authorities shortly after Jerusalem was occupied during the 1967 war. Nor should we slide towards a religious war; for the Aqsa is a national symbol, and preventing its Judaization is an inseparable part of the battle to liberate it, along with Jerusalem and Palestine in general, from the racist settler colonial occupation.
- The fourth and decisive prerequisite for an intifada is that of leadership. But this is a Palestinian point of vulnerability. There is an enormous vacuum as far the role that the leadership and the various forces should play, and that Muslim clerics and other activists and local and national dignitaries have tried to fill. But they cannot do so on their own, and to continue to assume leadership would turn the conflict into a religious one, even though it is a national conflict, albeit one with a significant religious dimension.
This means that it is necessary to produce a political and battlefield authority – a united national leadership – that can lead the intifada. And the ceiling of its aims should be higher than that of merely removing the electronic gates. And this leadership should not be hostage to the official [PA] leadership that does not want an intifada to break out, and cannot lead one if it does, because it has itself become hostage to the conditions, wagers and structures it has set up since the [1993] Oslo Accords and up till now, and because of the commitments stemming from those accords that shackle the PA and leave it as something akin to the occupation's security agent.
This may explain why Jerusalem has become the center of uprisings and intifadas in recent years. There are many reasons for this, most importantly, that Jerusalem is not subject to the PA's authority.
Any intifada without a sincere and cognizant leadership that adopts a clear national program, and that does not rely on a broad national front, and any intifada that does not have the necessary resources, would be a mere reaction, and yet another glorious chapter in Palestinian history books. But experience has taught us that it may also lead to chaos that will consume everything in its path, including its own achievements.
Because of the weakness, divisions, fragmentation, lack of direction, and priority given to the struggle for power and the expansion of personal interests, what we are saying should lead us to frankly and bravely acknowledge that the Palestinian condition is not ready for a third and all-inclusive intifada that can achieve victory. And this makes it more likely and requires that the current unrest would do better to assume the form of an intifada-wave; one which is more than a popular uprising and less than a comprehensive intifada.
In this regard, we should not drop from our calculations the fact that the Palestinian leadership and the influential forces on the Palestinian arena do not believe in a popular intifada, and are seeking to avoid it. And if such an intifada were to break out against their will, they will try to contain and abort it based on the pretext of the results of previous intifadas, specifically the Aqsa intifada (which I call the 'much-maligned intifada') that is said to have destroyed us, despite the fact that it attained some undeniable achievements, the most important of which was the world and part of Israel's recognition of the importance and need for the establishment of a Palestinian state, and its contribution to bringing about the redeployment of Israeli forces from the Gaza Strip.  And it failed, because it was one of the victims of internal competition and the delusion that it was possible to improve the terms of negotiations in light of the Oslo Accords, without daring to work towards bypassing them.
These and other factors have ensured that the third intifada in the last decade have assumed the form of intifada-waves and flare-ups. They have succeeded one another a short intervals, and raised varying slogans and borne various names. And they did secure achievements that were accumulated in the furnace of battle to defend the land against the attempt to swallow it up, Judaize it, and build settlements on it, and by preserving the Arab character of Jerusalem and the Aqsa – until the intifada of knife attacks and vehicle-ramming came, as well as our prisoners' strikes; those of the heroes of freedom, and their individual and collective struggle.
It may be best if the coming struggles were to assume the form of intifada-waves that take into consideration the fact that the battle will be protracted, and that life must proceed alongside the struggle against occupation. In other words, one intifada-wave after another should break out, each having a specific goal, and with cumulative achievements. And, gradually, a leadership will emerge that is capable of leading a comprehensive intifada that is very far from previous illusions and losing wagers.
"Once that happens, the aim of that intifada would not be to improve the terms of life under occupation, but to end it, and to secure the right of return, freedom, independence, and equality," concludes Masri.