What Is The Driving Force Behind An Imminent Third Intifada?

by
Jessica Renae Buxbaum
A wave of violence has emerged between Israel and Palestine once again, prompting speculation a third intifada is underway.

Palestinian activist

A wave of violence has emerged between Israel and Palestine once again, prompting speculation a third intifada is underway.

The Israeli government has administered a domineering takeover, deploying thousands of soldiers in Palestinian neighborhoods and at checkpoints in response to a series of stabbing attacks by Palestinians on Israelis. Eight Israeli citizens have been killed by the knife attacks while 41 Palestinians have been shot dead by Israeli forces in response to these attacks or in clashes over stone-throwing, and even one Eritrean migrant was mistakenly killed because of the chaos. The increased tensions have led many in the media to suspect a third intifada is imminent.

Palestinian shot dead after stabbing attack

While the knife attacks and previous uprisings by Palestinians have labeled the nation group terrorists, this ignorant notion misinterprets an intifada as an upscale tick in terrorist violence when it is really a rebellion, a resistance by a group stifled from long-term suppression and a seemingly endless occupation. With no real solution in progress, violence, unfortunately, feels like the only way for the Palestinian voice to be heard.

“And so, what we are seeing now is protest. We’re seeing people who are fed up with living under Israeli military rule and who are demonstrating and demanding that they be free,” Diana Buttu, a Palestinian attorney and former adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, told Democracy Now!

The current clash stems from violence erupting at the al-Aqsa mosque, one of Islam’s holiest sites but also the location of the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism. In September, Israeli forces raided the site injuring dozens of Palestinian worshippers with stun grenades, tear gas and steel bullets. The destruction of holy sites coupled with ongoing settler violence has motivated Palestinians to rise up in retaliation. 

The violence is emerging from a group of Palestinians who have only known unrest, occupation and persecution – the so-called Oslo generation. They have little memory of previous intifadas and have lived under negotiation promises and peace processes that have all consistently failed. The youth feel a sense of urgency from the unrest with unsuccessful resolutions leaving them with a sense of hopelessness.

“This generation feels completely deprived from their rights; they suffer from poverty, unemployment and an utter lack of opportunity,” Mustafa Barghouti, leader of the center-left Palestinian National Initiative party, told the Middle East Eye. “I think the people in the streets feel they’ve crossed into a whole different stage. After 22 years of completely useless negotiations, they are taking things into their own hands.” 

Palestinian activist throwing rock

Palestinian activists and scholars are hesitant to label the recent protests as a third intifada. The movement lacks organized political leadership and until a unified voice comes together — the dissent might fizzle into oblivion.

“It’s too early to say this is the third intifada, because we don’t yet see an organized political leadership that can coordinate the various Palestinian pieces of this and can articulate political demands,” Khaled Elgindy, a fellow at the Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, told Al Jazeera.

“We have to keep a very close eye on Palestinian political leaders and how they respond because that will be the first clue as to how this might unfold.”

Yet Palestinian leadership has remained relatively silent with the Palestinian National Authority quelling the demonstrations in an effort to maintain security thereby (in their minds) helping the peace processes.

Political leadership or not, the Palestinian youth behind this uprising have lost faith in their government, negotiations and even humanity in general. They don’t see compromise or peace in the near future so they are taking matters into their own hands to relieve themselves of the occupation.

“These protests and clashes are occurring because the Palestinian people have lost all hope in their leaders, in humanity even. We’ve found that peaceful solutions are not going to end the occupation — so we have to keep resisting,” Fadi Salah Al Shaik Yousef, a Gazan professional, told Al Jazeera

Palestinian throwing rock

This generation is fed up with poverty, high unemployment (Gaza’s youth employment reached 60 percent in 2014) and the danger of being killed by Israeli soldiers or settlers. Palestinians are taking their personal experiences — what is endured every day —and humanizing those events on an emotional level and subsequently challenging them on a physical level. 

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“The Third Intifada — if it’s appropriate to call it that, it’s still a bit early to determine — it will be a kind of personal one, rather than the kind of organized terrorist attacks and Israeli retaliation that marked the Second Intifada,” Martin Indyk, former US ambassador to Israel and vice president and director for foreign policy at the Brookings Institute, said in an interview with the Public Radio International. “I say that because of the incidents of personal violence, using knives and daggers by Palestinian youth, combined, of course, with demonstrations. It’s an engagement on a very personal level.”

Justice remains dismissed, absent even. With a bleak future set forth, Palestinian youth are envisioning something powerful, personal and with the capability of providing concrete change — not empty promises.

"We need to give them a good reason to live," security columnist Nahum Barnea wrote. "On this matter, both Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) have failed. Both have offered the masses of youths who have grown up in Gaza and the West Bank only one option: Despair. Things have reached an apex in recent years: No expectations, no future, no hope."

Palestinians are tired of caving into their prolonged oppression, instead they’ve found solace in resistance — the question remains whether this resistance will become unified and swell or fall short like all of those peace talks. 

Read more: Israel Kills Palestinian Teenager In West Bank Confrontation-Medics

Banner photo credit: Reuters

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