Why there won’t be a third intifada

2014-07-13 15:00

The past two weeks of attacks by Israelis and Palestinians and street clashes in Jerusalem have raised questions about whether Palestinians will launch a third intifada to shake off Israeli occupation.

I suspect this is not the likely or best outcome from the Palestinian perspective. Many expect a new intifada mainly because they cannot imagine the Palestinians generating a different and more effective response to their national subjugation since their views of Palestinians are restricted to helpless people who can only go on strike or throw stones at Israeli troops.

The Palestinian perspective is very different for several reasons. The most important is that we have had two intifadas against Israeli occupation and they have generated no significant results in terms of either liberation or national rights and reconstitution.

Also, intifadas are like civil wars. A country usually only has one, very occasionally two, but never more than that because such cataclysmic national events cannot be repeated while the situation remains unchanged.

Israel uses massive and disproportionate military force and cruel collective punishment against Palestinians who challenge its hold over them.

We see in this week’s attacks on Gaza that Palestinians who resist Israel can expect to be killed, bombed, injured, jailed and see their homes destroyed?with impunity – Israeli actions that, in most other situations in the world, would elicit calls for war crimes investigations.

The two previous anti-Israeli occupation intifadas generated no lasting improvements in Palestinian national rights due to the intransigence of Zionism and the incompetence of the Palestinian leadership headed by Hamas and Fatah in Gaza and the West Bank.

Hamas and a few other smaller groups have demonstrated a great capacity to keep firing small rockets and explosive projectiles at southern Israel despite decades of Israeli air and ground attacks on Gaza.

It seems repeated Israeli attacks like the one now only fortify Hamas’ determination to resist and increase its ability to protect its rocket-launcher sites. Like all colonial powers, Israel seems to miss the rule that greater oppression elicits more fierce resistance.

The problem for Hamas and armed resistance groups is that their policy has not improved the lives of Palestinians, but only made them more difficult.

The same goes for Fatah’s 20 years of uninterrupted negotiations with Israel, which similarly have not achieved Palestinian national rights nor improved living conditions.

Translating popular anger into a new intifada on the streets in the context of the same Palestinian leadership that dominates today will be a futile effort of mass emotional and political self-expression with no other consequence other than more violent and increasingly racist Israeli reprisals.

As long as Palestinians are hobbled by Israeli-induced fragmentation, occupation, dehydration, isolation, siege and economic strangulation – and their incompetent leadership – they will find it very difficult to generate a more effective response to their sustained pain.

The three most significant options are mass nonviolent civil disobedience, a global boycott and a sanctions movement akin to the anti-apartheid strategy against racist South Africa, and diplomatic-legal action through the UN and other international institutions that promote the rule of law and self-determination.

One day, an effective Palestinian national leadership will emerge that can mobilise Palestinians and their many supporters across the world and channel their energy into political actions that will achieve meaningful results.

Khouri is director of the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut. Twitter: @

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