An Analysis of the Current Revolt
The current uprising in the occupied territories is the result of the coincidence of a number of factors, primary among them the cumulative effects of the occupation. We are now in the twenty-first year of this occupation which has been characterized by a range of human rights violations: deportations, administrative detentions, town restrictions, lack of freedom of expression, censorship of the press, not to mention land confiscation, high taxation, imprisonment, and various forms of humiliation. It is the assertive, confident generation of 1967 that has just come of age that is rebelling. It fears neither the Israeli occupation nor the fact that live ammunition is being used. And each time the Israelis arrest some of the leaders, twice the number arrested steps in to assume leadership roles.
This generation believes strongly in a secular state and a secular ideology, although the voice of the fundamentalists is present. And although the uprising is primarily the product of work begun by the younger generation, it is clear today that young and old of all factions have joined in. Prior to the uprising it seemed that Israel, the Arab countries, and the international community had succeeded in shelving the Palestinian issue for probably two or three years. There was no movement; the Palestinian issue appeared to be in suspended animation. Now the situation is different. We have succeeded in changing the status quo and in calling into question the viability of the occupation.
The Local Factors
Several local factors played a role in triggering the uprising. One was the failure of the Israeli government, especially the coalition government, to formulate a peace plan or to endorse discussions about an international conference. The government is, in effect, speaking with two voices, with each of the coalition partners saying something different. They have been unable to come to an agreement or to formulate a policy that would lead to a better future for the occupied territories, although they perceive clearly that they have to give up those territories.
The Palestinians have not, as many Israelis would have liked, simply packed up and left their homeland. Instead, they have remained steadfast and today Israel has to face these issues. Nevertheless, the Israelis have continued to be complacent and in fact have worked to keep the status quo. Another factor that should be taken into consideration is that in the Arab summit meeting held in Amman in November 1987 the Arab heads of state-while congregating only half an hour away from Jerusalem-for the first time in the history of the Arab-Israeli struggle down-graded the Palestinian issue. The attention of the Arab countries was focused else- where-on the Gulf war-and therefore, the Palestinian issue was put on the back burner. This both angered the Palestinians and created tension among them, particularly those living under occupation. Another important event, which came on the heels of the Amman summit, was the Washington meeting between Reagan and Gorbachev. There, too, the Palestinian issue was ignored. It may have been discussed at a lower level at the State Department, but it was not discussed between Reagan and Gorbachev.
The Palestinians, therefore, felt that the Arab world and the international community were ignoring the Palestinian issue. Thus, the uprising was to a large extent the result of the cumulative effects of twenty years of occupation, the position of the Israeli government, and the lack of interest on the part of the Arab countries and the international community. Yet the immediate triggers were local ones. In Gaza there was the 8 December accident in which an Israeli van hit a truck, killing four Palestinian workers. It was widely believed, although never proven, that the incident was not an accident, but rather, a deliberate act of revenge for the stabbing death two days earlier of an Israeli in Gaza. There were also local factors in the West Bank, primary among them the indiscriminate shooting by Israeli soldiers in the refugee camps, specifically Balatah camp in Nablus.
Forgoing the use of rubber bullets, the IDF used live ammunition and people were killed. (The rubber bullets used in the occupied territories are quite different from the rubber bullets used in Northern Ireland. The rubber bullets in Northern Ireland are much larger and are not lethal, while the rubber bullets used in the West Bank and Gaza are lethal if fired at close range because they are filled with steel.) Another local factor was General Ariel Sharon's move into the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem. That only served to create more tension, both because of his presence and because of the many guards and soldiers stationed there to protect him. It was yet another source of friction in the daily life of Jerusalem.
The Creation of a New Situation
These factors, then, led to the development of a new situation in the occupied territories, paid for heavily with the blood of the younger generation. Through their sacrifices and lack of fear of the Israeli occupation, these young people have succeeded in placing the Palestinian issue at the top of the agenda of the international community. They have also helped to create a feeling that Palestinians are self-reliant and that they can work together collectively. A new self-confidence has developed. Palestinians are now clearly saying that they will not accept a return to the situation that existed before the uprising; the occupation must be terminated.
What is needed today is a political gesture from the government of Israel to the Palestinian people. But what we see today is that the Israeli government is incapable of moving on the political scene; for the past three years the coalition government has been paralyzed. So far it has failed to endorse even an international conference negotiated between Peres and Hussein where the conditions were favorable to the Israeli side. New Strategies In the current situation, the Palestinians must move on the political level to develop a strategy so that the sacrifices of the uprising are not for naught. Palestinians are now using some of the tools that have been neglected over the past twenty years.
Here I am referring to the campaign that the Palestinian leadership in the occupied territories launched in early January, calling for nonviolent resistance to the occupation, or civil disobedience. This campaign is very important because if the Israeli government is to understand that the occupation has to be ended, if it is to change its present policies, the Palestinians must talk to the Israeli populace, the Israeli electorate. Palestinians must understand that changes in the Israeli government come through the Israeli worker.
Today we are finally using a tool that will allow us to influence the Israeli worker. This is an election year in Israel. The Palestinians should not simply hand victory to the right-wing parties in Israel. If there are to be changes in the position and the policies of the Israeli government, the peace camp in Israel has to grow and become more influential as a result of the next election. The campaign of nonviolent resistance to the occupation is important for another reason. So far, the occupation has been a very profitable business for the Israelis. The occupied territories are the second biggest market (after the United States) for Israeli products. Israel annually sells $850 million in exports to a captive market next door.
Palestinians have begun with a decision to boycott products like cigarettes and soft drinks, which are available in the Palestinian market. The response will be used to gauge how to undertake future projects requiring much more cooperation among various sectors of Palestinian society. To date, the economic boycott has lasted nearly three months and shows no signs of ending. The decision to boycott first cigarettes and soft drinks was made because the Palestinian market has both products. In January the production of Palestinian cigarette factories actually increased by 25 percent. This strategy will draw more Palestinian labor to Palestinian institutions and factories. At the same time the territories will be able to rely increasingly on Palestinian products. There are several other products besides Israeli cigarettes and soft drinks that could be targeted. For example, we have five major pharmaceutical concerns in the occupied territories. Today they are operating at only 20 percent capacity. If the Israelis are unresponsive to the first stage of the civil disobedience, which is the boycott of Israeli products, we will move on to the second stage, which is also a way of telling the Israelis that we will not allow the occupation to become, or to continue to be, profitable. From direct and indirect taxes Israel annually realizes a surplus of $200 million, which goes to the Israeli treasury.
In the second stage the plan is to ask the Palestinians legally not to pay their taxes. They will flood the courts with protests that the taxes are both unjust and high. In this way it may take several years for Palestinians to pay their taxes. However, this stage cannot be launched until and unless the world community and specifically the Arab countries help to create alternative means and resources for the Palestinians to survive. It is impractical for Palestinians outside to call on their fellow Palestinians inside not to work in Israeli factories or establishments if at the end of the month those outside cannot provide them decent alternative means of survival or making a living.
Even now, during the first stage, this is important because the occupied territories today are a captive, cheap labor pool for Israel. The Israelis have threatened to import labor from outside the area, but such labor would cost Israel double what the Palestinian worker currently costs. As it is, Israeli products are barely competitive in the world market. If the cost of labor were to double, Israeli products would become uncompetitive in the world market. During the meeting chaired by King Hassan in Morocco, the Jerusalem Committee gave all available funds to the Committee for the Steadfastness of the Territories. In order to enable our people to boycott their jobs in Israeli factories and facilities we will need at least $200 million annually from the Arab world in order to survive, stay steadfast, and develop our economic infrastructure so as to promote greater self-reliance. These funds should be administered by the representative of the Palestinian people but in conjunction with the Arab donor countries. If the money is allocated to develop the territories' economic infrastructure, within a period of five to eight years the West Bank and the Gaza Strip can become self-sufficient. People must learn to rely on themselves and to cooperate with each other. They must begin to build self-confidence, because the later stages, which are more difficult to implement, require a diversification of forces and resources.
We are simply repeating what was done by Gandhi in India. He began by asking his people to boycott salt and the movement in India succeeded in forcing a British withdrawal. Our hope is that a similar movement will develop here, that the Israelis will eventually withdraw from the occupied territories, and that a Palestinian state will emerge. The importance of this movement is that it is long-term, people can participate in it at various levels, and it does not alienate the international community or the Israeli worker. In fact, many people in the Israeli peace camp are extending their hand in cooperation. They want to work with the Palestinian local leadership in order to draw more attention to the situation.
Our success in the first stage has far exceeded our expectations. Today people are asking each other what brand of cigarettes they are smoking. And people are rebuking Palestinians who are smoking Israeli cigarettes. One incident occurred in my own household. I asked my twelve-year-old son to go to buy yogurt. He went to the grocery store next door and scolded the market for carrying Israeli products. Instead, he bought a brand from a Palestinian factory in Hebron. When he returned, he told me what he had said to the owner of the market and then concluded, "I want to buy only Palestinian products." If Palestinians only twelve years old are trying to observe the boycott and generalize it to other products, it shows the idea has taken root. This is important on the economic level because it will make the Israelis understand that the occupation from now on is going to be unprofitable. It's important also on the level of cooperation between Palestinians because it will build a collective feeling of working together.
The immediate demands are the fourteen points.† These points should not, however, be understood as a transitional plan. Rather, the Palestinians see them as a kind of local palliative. A positive Israeli response to them would create goodwill, confidence, and a certain degree of credibility. The fourteen points give the Israelis enough leeway to attempt to gain this credibility, but Defense Minister Yitzhaq Rabin has failed even to acknowl- edge the existence of the demands. In addition to presenting the demands to the Israelis, Fayiz Abu Rahmah and I presented them to the U.S. administration on 27 January. So far, no one has been willing to discuss them.
We have asked the Israelis to review the root cause of many of the intolerable policies that are referred to in the fourteen points-the 1945 Emergency Regulations-which the Defense Ministry and the security forces invoke as justification for violating Palestinian human rights, this despite the fact that according to information available to the Palestinians these regulations were rescinded by the British just before their 1948 withdrawal from Palestine. The regulations are used, not only to deport Palestinians, but also to put Palestinians under administrative detention, town restrictions, and at the same time to control and censor the press. The Peace Camp in Israel I have had a great deal of experience working with the peace camp in Israel and I have traveled to the United States several times with Israelis, some of them former members of Knesset, some of them highly respected academics, from Uri Avnery to Galya Golan. Last November I went to several American and Canadian cities with a member of the Israeli Knesset See Special Document, "The Palestinians' Fourteen Demands," below. from the Citizens Rights Movement (Ratz), Mordechai Vishuski. In fact, before the uprising started we were telling both American Jewish and sometimes American Arab audiences that an eruption was going to occur.
We called for the Israeli government to realize that the occupation cannot continue and that it might well lead to another major confrontation between the Arab countries and Israel. We warned the audiences we addressed that those who allow the status quo to continue are in fact sowing more hatred and suspicion. The continuing uprising has clearly shown that the occupation cannot continue, particularly given the sacrifices the young Palestinians have made. The peace camp in Israel realizes this. The Peace Now movement has also tried to mobilize its people by calling for sit-ins and demonstrations. Its supporters in the U.S. also sponsored a series of teach-ins on peace which coincided with the March visit of Prime Minister Shamir to the U.S.
The situation today is similar to that of almost six years ago during the invasion of Lebanon. Traditionally, when the Israelis are under stress, they close ranks. For the first few weeks of the 1982 invasion of Lebanon, even the Labor party supported the invasion. However, when the real goals of the campaign became known, tensions developed. They surfaced not only in the political parties but also within the army, where the movement Yesh Givul began to call upon Israeli soldiers not to serve in Lebanon. Today, the same movement, Yesh Givul, is calling on Israeli reservists, not to serve in the occupied territories. The 1982 Lebanon war gradually became the most unpopular war in Israel, and it led to demonstrations by Peace Now and others. The same thing is happening today. During the first few weeks of the uprising the Israeli body politic closed ranks. There was no noticeable difference between Shamir, Rabin, or even Peres. But gradually, the tension in the political arena in Israel has become apparent.
Even in Likud, Amirav and others are questioning the lack of a political message for the Palestinians. In the Labor party, the general secretary, Uzi Bar'am, resigned in early January (although he subsequently returned to his post). He resigned because he felt Labor cabinet ministers were bypassing the Labor party structure. Yet he stated plainly on several occasions during the resignation period that the Labor party of Israel stands for social justice. Where is social justice in the iron fist policy that Rabin, a Labor minister, is applying in the territories? Because the rumblings of dissension are being voiced in Israel, it is important for the Palestinians to use the nonviolent tool, a campaign of civil resistance and civil disobedience, to accentuate the need for change.
That is also why it is important for the peace camp to grow and flourish. Palestinians are working with the Israeli peace camp. Where to Go from Here? The Palestinians are using all means available to them to impress not only the world but also the Israeli political parties that the situation cannot return to the status quo ante. That situation is unbearable. The Palestinians are fighting and struggling for the right to be recognized. They intend to show that traditional methods used by the Israelis-more repressive measures, more soldiers in the camps, the heavy hand of the occupation, the iron fist policy-are not going to work. What is needed is a political response. So far there have been some suggestions, some of which are familiar and unacceptable, like Shamir's notion of autonomy, or like Lahat's-the mayor of Tel Aviv from the Liberal party of the Likud- suggestion that both the Gaza Strip and West Bank be given to Jordan.
The message that the whole world, including Israel, should understand is that through this uprising the Palestinians have said once and for all that Palestinians and Palestinians alone will represent the Palestinian people. They will not be represented by proxy, not by Egypt, not by Jordan, not by anybody else. If the Israelis want a settlement, they must go to the representative of the Palestinian people. It is also clear that more than 90 percent of the Palestinian people support the PLO. The message of the 1976 elections was that Palestinians support those who espouse the PLO platform. The Israelis, however, do not want the international community to be provided with electoral proof of Palestinian political sentiment and have subsequently prevented elections. Al-Fajr newspaper, therefore, decided in late summer 1986 to conduct a poll, the only instrument available to us, to measure public opinion.
In order not to be accused of being biased, we asked an American newspaper from Long Island, Newsday, and an Australian electronic media company, ABC Australia, to participate and cosponsor the poll. The poll was also overseen by a Palestinian American professor from al-Najah University, Prof. Muhammad Shadid. He had assistance and advice from a former Israeli deputy-mayor of Jerusalem, Meron Benvenisti. That now well- known poll showed clearly that 93 percent of the Palestinian people support the PLO. The message to the Israeli people, the international public, and the govemments of the world is that peace can be achieved, but only by the real representatives of both sides. Palestinians do not interfere in the matter of who represents the other parties to the conflict; likewise, Palestinians reject attempts by any outsiders to designate their leaders or to interfere in the process.
The Palestinian people have indicated clearly that the PLO represents them. If Israel were today to allow a referendum to take place under UN auspices or even under the military occupation, the results would again be that more than 90 percent of the Palestinian people endorse the PLO as their representative. Palestinians have made clear that they want a two-state solution. They want a Palestinian state, but not in place of the state of Israel: they are not calling for the destruction of the state of Israel. In 1983, at its sixteenth meeting, the PNC accepted and endorsed an Arab peace plan, in which the parameters of the settlement were Israel's withdrawal from the territories it occupied in 1967 and the establishment of a Palestinian state there.
At the moment, Israel has few options. One of them has been called for by Professor Sari Nusaybah and by Mayor Furayj of Bethlehem. Furayj used an allegory which was published in the press: "Israel cannot continue to keep us as a mistress; Israel has either to wed us or divorce us." His meaning is clear: if Israel wants, it can wed the territories, meaning it would have to give Palestinians full civil and political rights. Then Israel will become a binational state in which Palestinians and Israelis have the same rights. This, however, is an unlikely solution because this is the secular democratic state scenario, which the Israelis have rejected. The only option left is divorce: each people, each national movement, should have its separate national identity recognized in part of the homeland. The Palestinians have said that they will recognize Israel in its 1967 borders if the Israelis will withdraw to these borders. As a result of negotiations, the occupied territories would probably have a status similar to that of Sinai, which is, in effect, a demilitarized zone between Israel and Egypt.
The Palestinians are not going to attempt to build an army that in any case could not hope to compete with Israel's military machine: Israel is a regional military superpower. When the Palestinians have their own state, they will likely use all resources available to them to build an economic infrastructure. We want to make the West Bank a home to the refugees who want to retum. Therefore, we can accept a situation in which the occupied territories would be a demilitarized zone. Planning for the Future Palestinian experiences over the past twenty years of occupation have clearly shown that it is not wise to announce all of our intentions. Two important committees that were formed and operated openly during the occupation-the National Front and the National Guidance Committee- were both decimated by the Israelis. Their leaders were either banished or imprisoned because of the publicity they received.
Last summer I raised the possibility of entering a Palestinian list to run in the Jerusalem municipal election. This option is still viable, but at present there are more urgent things to do. When negotiations finally do take place and the difficult issue of Jerusalem has to be tackled, it should be understood that a working relationship must be developed on the municipal level because no one-the international community, the Palestinians, the Arabs, or the Israelis- wants to divide the city of Jerusalem. The national rights of both peoples living in Jerusalem should be fully recognized; both peoples should enjoy complete enfranchisement. In a future settlement, Jerusalem could be the capital of both the Palestinian state (East Jerusalem) and the Israeli state (West Jerusalem). In order to keep it open and undivided we must work jointly on the local municipal level. It is in this context that the idea of Palestinians participating in elections should be understood.
The Shultz Initiative In order to have peace there has to be Palestinian involvement in the peace process and so far the initiative of U.S. Secretary of State Shultz does not mention Palestinian national rights. Peace is possible when there is credible Palestinian representation of Palestinians from not only the territories but the diaspora. Palestinian representation means only one thing: the participation of the PLO. The Palestine National Council, the highest Palestinian legislative body, accepted a peace plan in 1983 which called for some of the same terms Mr. Shultz is calling for today: an exchange of territory for peace and recognition of the state of Israel. This plan had previously been adopted by the Arab world in 1982 at Fez, Morocco. It is the basis of the present peace initiative of the Palestinians. Moreover, in 1987 the PNC endorsed negotiations with the government of Israel under the auspices of an international conference. Thus, the Palestinians are not opposed to any peace initiative. The reason for not meeting with Shultz is that, if the Americans want credibility among the Palestinians, they must talk to the Palestinians directly, and the Palestinians are represented by the PLO. There has to be a dialogue between the PLO and the United States. Instead, not only are the attempts to bypass the PLO continuing, but the U.S. has closed the PLO's information office in Washington and has made clear its intention to close the PLO's UN observer mission in New York as well.
The Palestinians and the PLO want to talk with the U.S. and want its recognition. Indeed, one of the most important preconditions for Israel's talking to the PLO is for the U.S. to talk to the PLO. And the PLO is flexible in this regard. It is willing to use a formula suggested by the secretary of state himself in 1985: to nominate a delegation representing Palestinians inside and outside the territories. Such a dialogue has not taken place since the "Kissinger Edict." Currently, the Palestinians are receiving nothing but negative signals from the U.S. administration. To have peace, you must have credible representation. The U.S. and Secretary Shultz himself should have learned this lesson from their experience in 1983 with negotiations between Israel and Lebanon. Although those negotiations led to a peace agreement, the agreement was never implemented because, on the Lebanese side, the real parties to the conflict were not present at the negotiating table.
Palestinians yearn for peace, but in order to achieve it we must have credible representation capable of implementing the major concessions that the Palestinians will have to make as the price for peace.
The Palestinians want to find a way of living with their adversary, Israel. But at the same time they insist on their national rights: they want to live in peace but also in dignity. They are calling not for the destruction of the state of Israel, but rather for an end to the Israeli occupation of the territories seized in the 1967 war and for a Palestinian state: in other words, partition, a two-state solution. Peace is within reach. It is achievable, but only if the rights of both peoples are recognized.
Hanna Siniora is the editor of al-Fajr newspaper, East Jerusalem.
† See Special Document, "The Palestinians' Fourteen Demands," below.