24 years ago, on the 8th of December 1987, the first intifada started and it spread like fire in dried wood. It was the first episode of what is known these days as the “Arab Spring”. The Palestinians have risen up as a whole body, unified, and from all aspects of life, to say no to oppression, and no to the occupation. It all started with the policies Israel adopted so as to deter the Palestinians from resisting against their occupiers, that included house demolitions, building settlements, and the confiscation of land. The intifada was very much like we see today in the Arab countries – civil movements without heads but with extreme force.
The PLO had already lost it’s glamor, due to their “tactic withdrawal” from Beirut in 1982, and subsequent residence in Tunis, and they were even more furious that such a powerful movement had developed and they had no hand in it. To the heads of the PLO that was unacceptable, and soon enough the PLO presented itself as the leader of this movement. The Intifada in its composition was formed from all parts of the Palestinian society – those in the front-line were the Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza, and Jerusalem. Nonetheless, ’48’ Palestinians had their share. They were direct supporters with money, food, and clothes. Palestinians from all corners of society participated and were all unified. Men and women, young and old, they stood up courageously against Israel with all its brutality, armed with their rights and the stones of this land.
Israel practiced what was later to be known as the “bone-breaking policy”, which consisted of extreme brutality towards the Palestinians and treating them as subhumans. Those arrested were tortured on the spot with no regard for age, sex, or religion, they were all treated “equally”. At the same time the Palestinians fought a brave battle for 4 years, starting with mass scale riots, to long term strikes. I myself was born during the Intifada and I remember all the stories I heard from my parents and my grandmother about that era, the longest strike was 6 months, during which not a store was opened.
24 years later and everything has changed
24 years later a martyr dies and no one cares, homes are still demolished and yet not a single voice is raised. The PLO managed to ride on the wave of the Intifada and crossed everything that was ever marked as a red line. Settlements have multiplied so much that there’s no word yet to describe it, and us? Well we cheer for less than 20% of historical Palestine, we don’t think the right of return is applicable so we’ll just drop it. We do think that Hamas-Fatah unity is going to change everything and make our lives a little bit better, we have decided to become very peaceful and take tips from our oppressors on how to become better people. We think that people like Abbas or Saeb Erekat are those who should represent us, why? Because they have been doing this so long that they have become good at it! A bid in the UN is the way to solve all our problems, we still believe Yaser Arafat is the best leader we have ever had and refuse to admit that our failure to progress is because of his arrogance, and because he was in fact nothing more than a demagogue.
Maybe we should wake up and try to follow the Arab Spring we’ve started, maybe we should start caring again, maybe it should not be ordinary or routine if a martyr falls, or a house is demolished, or a citizen arrested. Maybe we should start loving each other again, and just hate those who hate us and those who claim to represent us for their own benefits. I hope that we wake up before its too late, I also hope that we free our movement from those who hijacked it. I hope that we free ourselves from these false hopes and poisoned thoughts we filled ourselves with.