Palestine: youth lead the resistance

Sit-in protest at Shuhada Street checkpoint in Occupied Hebron

The new year has seen a continuation of street protests across Palestine against Israeli settlement building and fascist violence. Zionist occupation forces and Palestinian Authority (PA) collaborators have tried to destroy a resistance movement which is being led by the youth. Despite an apparent thaw in relations with President Obama in the run-up to the US presidential election, Israel remains an embarrassment to its backers who favour negotiation with Palestine’s comprador elite. The PA, propped up by the capital and security training of the EU, US and, more recently, Saudi Arabia, faces its own crisis. Declarations by Majed Faraj, the PA director of intelligence, that the Authority had stopped 200 resistance actions and arrested 100 Palestinian activists, will only accelerate the search for an alternative to the PA.

The Palestinian Health Ministry released a list of 162 Palestinians killed by Israeli fire on demonstrations and Zionist invasions into the West Bank, Jerusalem and Gaza Strip between 1 October and 25 January; two more were not included because they had been identified as being shot dead carrying out knife attacks. By 1 January, 14,070 Palestinians had been injured in the West Bank and 1,347 in Gaza, by teargas, rubber bullets, live ammunition and severe burns. During this wave of repression, the Palestinian Red Crescent medical association reported 337 Israeli attacks on its teams, including 96 instances of violent damage against ambulances. The names and ages of those who have died shows the youth and working class character of the uprising, with the majority under the age of 25 and from areas suffering severe poverty and low employment. By the end of 2014, the combined youth unemployment rate in the West Bank and Gaza had reached almost 40% for young men and 63% for young women. In May 2015, unemployment in Gaza was the highest in the world at 43% and rising. Young Palestinians in the occupied territories have nothing to lose and everything to fight for.

Israel has continued to impose collective punishment on the families and community members of those involved in protests and acts of resistance. In October the Zionist security cabinet included in its emergency measures withholding the bodies of Palestinians accused of acts of resistance. More than 80 bodies have been withheld by Israeli authorities since then. These measures have been used by Israel in the past; its repressive controls have only intensified with the new protests and have been felt by Gaza in particular. In the first 10 months of 2015, Israel’s military occupation administration, COGAT, refused 1,035 Palestinians permission to leave for medical treatment – twice as many as in the whole of 2014.What is at stake with Israel’s violent occupation is land and political control. On 21 January, military forces destroyed the homes of 59 people, including 37 children, in the areas of Badu Al Baba and Abu Al Nuwar, north east of Jerusalem. Both communities lie within the area labelled E1 by Israel’s colonial administration – there are plans to ethnically cleanse their populations to make way for Zionist settlements. Tents and facilities provided by humanitarian groups for residents have been confiscated or destroyed. On 28 January, 19 people were made homeless in Shufat, East Jerusalem, another target for settlement building. Other demolitions have taken place in South Hebron where around 30 Palestinian villages, and 4,000 residents, are under threat as Israel promotes its colonisation policy in Area C, which is under its full control, making up 60% of the West Bank.

On 29 January five Palestinian teenagers known as the ‘Hares boys’ were sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment each for throwing stones at a road connecting Zionist settlements on the West Bank to Tel Aviv. The youths were 16 when the alleged crime took place and protested their innocence, saying they had been tortured into making confessions.

Occupied Jerusalem has continued to be a centre of Palestinian resistance. In 2015 Israeli forces detained more than 1,900 Palestinians from occupied East Jerusalem alone, the majority of whom were under 18. For many young people, the PA represents an illegitimate, pro-Israeli leadership and this is beginning to be challenged on the streets. According to Birzeit University students in contact with FRFI, students from PA president Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah Party have reportedly ignored their leaders’ directives not to get involved in confrontations with Zionist forces.

A joint statement by Hamas, the PFLP and Islamic Jihad condemned the comments of PA officials boasting of their collaboration in putting down the resistance:

‘these statements reflect the Authority’s insistence on the continuation of security co-ordination, and more seriously, equate the resistance of our people against occupation and their struggle with terrorism, which we reject…We reaffirm our rejection of the involvement of Palestine, its cause and its people in a game of axes and alliances under the banner of “fighting terrorism”. It must always be noted that the sponsor of the Zionist terrorism against our people is the same US administration that provides [the Authority] with these positions that do not reflect the concerns and aspirations of the Palestinian people.’

Israel’s backers are worried about Abbas’s unpopularity, forcing US Secretary of State John Kerry to admit that, ‘If Abu Mazen [Abbas] gets weaker, I believe that’s a danger for Israel... The fact is that current trends, including violence, settlement activity, demolitions are imperilling the viability of a two-state solution. And that trend has to be reversed in order to prevent this untenable one-state reality from taking hold.’

US and British allies are determined to keep the PA in its position as the bought-off ruler of a not-yet-free Palestine. In the face of the PA’s increasing financial crisis and workers’ protests, Saudi Arabia stepped in with $60 million to support the PA budget for the last three months of 2015; it now contributes $20 million a month to a budget funded overwhelmingly by the EU. The EU’s relationship with Israel is also rocky as European politicians seek to protect their interests through a neo-colonial settlement that promises a Palestinian state, if only in name. Through its alliance with the Saudi regime, the PA is allying itself with the forces of reaction that the EU and US support in the Middle East, and stands in the way of an effective movement against settlement building and ethnic cleansing. Along with the Kurds standing against the fascist forces of Turkey and Isis in Syria, the Palestinian people are central to any democratic progress in the Middle East.

Louis Brehony

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 249 February/March 2016


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