As the Fatah-Hamas rift slowly closes amid backlash from Israel’s recent strikes on Gaza, the stirrings of a third Intifada have begun to emerge in Palestine in the wake of the slaying of an unarmed Palestinian youth.
Mel Frykberg , last updated: December 19, 2012
Inter Press Service
A new Palestinian group called the National Union Battalions (NUB), comprising Palestinians from across the political spectrum, has called for a third Palestinian uprising or Intifada. Simultaneously, Israeli intelligence is warning that conditions on the ground in the West Bank are ripe for another Palestinian revolt.
These warnings come as protests and clashes between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian youths broke out across cities and towns in the West Bank over the weekend, sparked by 17-year-old Muhammad Salayma’s untimely death at the hands of an Israeli border guard in Hebron.
A video distributed over the weekend by NUB members from Hamas, Fatah, Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) announced the establishment of their organisation as a means of consolidating the struggle against Israel.
“This is the beginning of a third Palestinian Intifada, which is erupting from the heart of Hebron and will spread to all of Palestine,” according to the video.
The members further threatened to kidnap Israeli soldiers if the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) didn’t stop arresting Palestinians, adding that if Israel continued to kill Palestinians with impunity, the group would retaliate in kind.
The Battalions’ demands include removing all IDF checkpoints in the West Bank, the release of all Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails, an Israeli withdrawal from all occupied Palestinian land, and the transfer of all tax revenues Israel has been withholding from the Palestinian Authority (PA) since the U.N. voted on upgrading the Palestinians’ status.
The NUB also demands the opening of all border crossings, and the supply of water and electricity to the besieged Gaza Strip.
The group released their statement on Friday, the day following the fatal shooting of Salayma, after Israeli soldiers claimed he had threatened them with a plastic gun. However, when IPS spoke to members of the Salayma family a very different picture emerged.
“I doubt Muhammad had any plastic gun. I believe the Israelis planted that gun near him in the aftermath of the shooting,” the dead youth’s uncle Muhammad Salayma Sr., a policeman with the PA, told IPS.
“It was his birthday and he had gone out to buy a celebratory birthday cake. To get to the shop he had to pass through an Israeli military checkpoint and then pass through it again when returning home. If he had a replica gun on him the x-ray machine would have detected this,” Salayma told IPS.
“He was a happy and intelligent student, and represented Palestine’s wrestling team in France. He was returning home with his birthday cake and we are meant to believe that he suddenly tried to overpower a group of heavily-armed and well trained Israeli soldiers with a plastic gun? He wouldn’t have been that stupid,” Nasim Salayma (22), a cousin of the late Muhammad Salayma, told IPS.
Israeli, Palestinian and international human rights organisations have documented numerous cases over the yearswhere Palestinians were shot dead by Israeli soldiers under highly disputed circumstances.
What is undisputed, however, is the mass anger this latest killing has sparked – hundreds of Palestinian youths took to the streets in Hebron on Thursday to vent their anger against Israeli troops, throwing stones and burning tyres. Dozens were injured in the subsequent clashes, some seriously, by live ammunition, rubber bullets and teargas. The protests then spread to other West Bank towns and cities.
IPS witnessed further clashes in Hebron the following day as a large rally of Hamas supporters marked the 25th anniversary of the organisation’s establishment.
This was the first time in years that the PA has allowed Hamas rallies to take place in the West Bank; it follows recent steps towards rapprochement between Hamas and the PA-affiliated Fatah, Palestine’s two main political factions and, hitherto, staunch enemies.
The baby steps towards unity follow Hamas’ growing political strengthin the wake of the most recent Gaza war, which united Palestinians from all factions. Security forces from both sides have also drastically reduced the number of arrests of opposition members.
As a result, Hamas’ strength in the West Bank is growing. This, coupled with Israel’s forthcoming transfer of a number of Hamas prisoners from Gaza to the West Bank, will further consolidate the Islamist organisation’s presence here.
Also preparing the ground for another uprising against Israel’s occupation is the possible collapse or dissolution of the cash-strapped PA as Israel continues to withhold more than one hundred million Palestinian tax dollars.
The PA is a source of livelihood for several hundred thousand Palestinians and their dependents, leading experts to predict that mass unemployment, which will surely arise from the dissolution of the PA, will make Palestinians more desperate.
Israeli-Palestinian peace talks are frozen. Palestinian outrage has been aggravated by the increase in Israeli settler attacks and the continued expropriation of Palestinian land. Furthermore, following growing international recognition, Palestinian dreams of statehood have been emboldened.
Meanwhile, the Shin Bet, Israel’s domestic intelligence agency, says widespread unrest in the area could foster the development of the kind of infrastructure that could potentially support a third Intifada, according to Israeli media reports.
Mel Frykberg is a contributor to Inter Press Service.
Ben Wattenberg is an author and demographer who was based at the American Enterprise Institute for many years. He was also the host of Think Tank, a PBS talk show that aired during 1994-2010. A veteran of the Coalition for a Democratic Majority and the Committee on the Present Danger, Wattenberg was part of a vanguard of neoconservative figures who in the 1970s drifted from the Democratic Party to the hawkish right. Alongside his foreign policy advocacy, Wattenberg has written numerous alarmist tracts on social issues, including worrying about declining birth rates in the U.S., Europe, and Asia, and warning that “Divorce, legalized abortion, and easy-to-use contraceptives have all contributed to the numbers of ‘never-born babies,’” creating a “social deficit’ that plagues nations across the world.”
Brigette Gabriel, a Lebanese-born anti-Islamic activist and founder of the right-wing group ACT! for America, is notorious for making fear-mongering claims about terrorism and Islam. She has called the Islamic faith “not compatible with Western civilization” and insisted that a practicing Muslim “cannot be a loyal citizen of the United States.” At a Heritage Foundation event earlier this year, Gabriel drew scrutiny after she verbally attacked a Muslim American law student, questioning whether the student was an American. More recently, capitalizing on right-wing hysteria over immigration and extremist groups in the Middle East, Gabriel alleged that ISIS members were crossing into the U.S. from Mexico, citing reports from unnamed “members of the Department of Homeland Security.”
As a director of the Project for the New American Century in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Gary Schmitt helped spread inaccurate information about Saddam Hussein's alleged weapons of mass destruction and promote the invasion of Iraq. Schmitt subsequently supported U.S. intervention in Syria, whose own civil war was directly linked to the fallout from Iraq. Schmitt has also been a vocal advocate of NATO expansion, which many observers think has contributed to the current tensions between the West and Russia. Schmitt has also advocated revoking U.S. security guarantees for Western European countries unless they increase their military budgets and adopt a more controversial approach to Russia.
AIPAC’s failed efforts to force U.S. intervention in Syria’s civil war and to scuttle U.S. nuclear negotiations with Iran, along with its increasing alienation from younger Jewish Americans on the Palestinian issue, have led many critics of the lobby to conclude that its formidable influence is slowly eroding. “Today, a growing number of American Jews, though still devoted to Israel, struggle with the lack of progress toward peace with the Palestinians. Many feel that AIPAC does not speak for them,” reported The New Yorker in a lengthy profile last August. On the other hand, the group was still able to push through emergency funding for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system, prompting one GOP Senate aide to complain, “The worst part was having to vote for this at a time we are all so upset by the killing in Gaza. It's as if AIPAC knows how angry we are so the whole Senate has to take their test. They will make us cast a totally symbolic vote, just to show who's in charge.”
Despite the origins of the terrorist group ISIS in the fallout of the Iraq War, leading Iraq hawk Bill Kristol has no qualms about potential blowback from sending U.S. troops back to the country. “Intellectuals overthink things,” he said in August. “We got involved in Afghanistan to bring down the Soviet Union and probably helped create, indirectly, some of what came about in Afghanistan and ideas that led to 9/11. That’s life. Maybe we could have been cleverer in all these cases, but often, when you mess around in the real world, you have unintended effects and some of them are bad.” Seeming to forget his previous point, Kristol concluded by wondering, “What’s the harm of bombing [ISIS] at least for a few weeks and seeing what happens? I don’t think there’s much in the way of unanticipated side effects that could be bad there. We could kill a lot of very bad guys.”
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