How the Resistance of Palestinians Has Been Defying Israel’s Ongoing ‘Nakba’

The military power of Israel has failed to curb Palestinian resistance. Palestinians are convinced that the might of Israel’s colonialist-apartheid structure will, one day, crumble, due to its lack of moral legitimacy.

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It is, perhaps, crucial to define two terminologies at the very outset that defines the ongoing struggle for justice in Palestine-Israel.

‘Sumud’ – which implies ‘steadfast perseverance’ – is a Palestinian cultural value, ideological theme and political strategy that first emerged among the Palestinian people through the experience of oppression and resistance in the wake of the 1967 Six-Day War.

By discrepancy, the ‘Nakba’ (Arabic for ‘catastrophe’) which ‘Sumud’ seeks to confront through multiple forms of resistance, represents the Jewish intent of the permanent displacement of a majority of the Palestinian Arabs.

Recapping the Israel-Palestine conflict

On the ‘Nakba’ of May 15, 1948, 750,000 Palestinians, two-thirds of Palestine’s Arab population, were forced to flee their homes to accommodate Israel’s creation.

Seventy-five years later, the number of Palestinian refugees is over eight million. These agonising figures make Palestinians the largest and oldest unsettled refugee population in the world.

Israel’s direct repression of Palestine began with the ‘Nakba’. Often referred to as the “original sin” of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the refugee crisis is one of the core status questions that define the unsettled Israeli-Palestinian peace process. The remaining issues include the status of Jerusalem, Israeli settlements, borders, security and water rights, and Palestinian freedom of movement.

On November 29, 1947, the United Nations General Assembly adopted Partition Resolution 181 that would divide Britain’s former Palestinian mandate into Jewish and Arab states in May 1948. It was patently discriminatory. Palestinian-Arab leadership rejected the partition measures as unacceptable, given the inequality in the proposed population exchange and the transfer of one-third of Palestine, including its best agricultural land, to new Jewish arrivals.

The UN partitioned Palestine into Arab and Jewish states, with Jerusalem internationalised. Israel proclaimed its independence and in the 1948 war that involved neighbouring Arab states, it expanded its territory of mandate Palestine to 77%, including the larger part of Jerusalem. Over half of the Palestinian Arab population fled or were expelled. Jordan and Egypt controlled the rest of the territory assigned by a UN resolution to the Arab state.

The Six-Day War in June 1967 was fought between Israel and the Arab countries of EgyptJordan, and Syria. The war was decisively calamitous for Palestine and its neighbours. Following the war, the territory held by Israel expanded significantly and Israel captured more territory that is still deemed occupied. Israel still does not show any intent to return the land occupied under hostilities. The war brought about a second exodus of Palestinians, estimated to be at half a million.

A Security Council Resolution formulated the principles of a just and lasting peace, including an Israeli withdrawal from territories occupied in the conflict, an appropriate settlement of the refugee problem, and the termination of all claims, and of hostilities.

The 1973 Arab-Israeli War, called the Yom Kippur War/Ramadan War, the Fourth Arab-Israeli War, was an armed conflict fought from October 6 to 25, 1973 between Israel and a coalition of Arab states led by Egypt and Syria.

The UN Security Council called for peace negotiations between the parties concerned. In the next year, the General Assembly reaffirmed the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination, national independence, sovereignty, and to return to their home.

It also established the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People and conferred on the Palestine Liberation Organisation the status of observer in the Assembly and in the UN conferences.

Meanwhile, Israel persists in ceaselessly grabbing Palestinian land. It has fought and won eight recognised wars with its neighbouring Arab states, including two major Palestinian Arab uprisings known as the First Intifada and the Second Intifada, (Intifada in Arabic means  ‘rebellion’) and a series of armed engagements in Palestinian territories.

After the 1948 Arab-Israeli War came the Palestinian Fedayeen (Fedayeen means someone who redeems himself by risking or sacrificing his life), when Palestinian militants engaged in insurgency (1950s-1960s) to which there was furious retaliation by the Israel Defence Forces.

Other uprisings included the First Intifada (Arabic for “uprising”), the first large-scale Palestinian uprising against Israel in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip from 1987-1990. This Intifada was a robust display of the militancy and muscle of the Palestinian youth. It led to the Oslo Accords which held out a mirage of peace. The Oslo Accords lacked political construct, and therefore, collapsed. Its failure led to the Second Intifada (2000-2005), a period of intensified violence, which began in late September 2000.

Later, multiple vigorous clashes occurred such as the three-week armed conflict between Israel and Hamas during the winter of 2008-2009. Israeli forces attacked military and civilian targets, police stations, and government buildings. The uninterrupted airstrikes, artillery shelling and ground operations resulted in the killing of 1,383 Palestinians, including 333 children and 114 women, and injured over 5,300 people.

Israel’s appetite for killings seemed unquenchable. By November 2012, it launched an operation in the Gaza Strip. Two years later, it launched yet another war in Gaza in response to the collapse of the American-sponsored peace talks, and attempts by rival Palestinian factions to form a coalition government. This led to an increase in rocket attacks on Israel by Hamas militants.

In May that year, there were riots between Jews and Arabs in Israeli cities. Hamas in Gaza sent military rockets into Israel, and Israel viciously retaliated.

Since the first five months of 2023, the number of people killed by the Israeli forces have tripled as compared to the figures in January and December 2022.

Amjad Mitri, a human rights lawyer, points out: “Millions of Palestinians worldwide live in forced diaspora and are cut off from their homeland by Israel’s colonial practices and policies. The Zionist movement and the army has displaced more than half of the Palestinian population and in turn created numerous laws, regulations, and military orders such as the Prevention of Infiltration Law and military orders to prevent Palestinians from returning to their homes and properties.”

“Israel marks Palestinians who try to do so as “infiltrators”, and has deported or even shot at them on sight. Israel has created a privileged colonial status, which in all facets of life, including the political, social, and cultural levels, is superior to that of non-Jewish Palestinians. Whether this system is labeled as apartheid, colonial rule, or Zionist state ideology, it is a manifestation of control and domination of one people over another that leaves no room for alternative interpretation,” he added.

The Israeli mindset seeks to erase Palestinian identity and history and wipe Palestine off the map. Israel makes the fictitious claim that Palestinians and Palestine never existed; they were simply scattered groups of people living in the area before 1948.

David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first Prime Minister, believes that the new generation of the dispossessed and displaced indigenous population will self-erase their heritage and sense of belonging to their land. Israel must obstruct them from making their claim that they have the right to return.

Palestinian resistance

The military power of Israel has failed to curb Palestinian resistance. Palestinians are convinced that the might of Israel’s colonialist-apartheid structure will, one day, crumble, due to its lack of moral legitimacy.

‘Sumud’ captures their resilience and fearlessness.

As mentioned earlier, ‘Sumud’ means collective determination and resilience of the Palestinian people in the face of ongoing challenges, including displacement, occupation, and discrimination. It encompasses maintaining their cultural identity, preserving land and property, upholding their rights, and sustaining a sense of community.

Dheisheh, a Palestinian refugee camp located just south of Bethlehem in the West Bank, typifies ‘Sumud’. Established in 1949, after its inhabitants were dispossessed by marauding Zionist forces, the population fled seeking safety for their lives.

In 1948, these families originally came from 44 Palestinian towns and villages from the borders of today’s Israel. They established a camp in 1949 located along the main street in Bethlehem. The camp, originally built to serve 3,000 refugees, now has a population of roughly 15,000. It has strong civil society organisations whose resistance is vigorous.

As Palestinians commemorate the 75th anniversary of the ‘Nakba’ in 2023, Palestinian refugee camps like Dheisheh continue to be subjected to exclusion, an acute lack of basic services and unyielding marginalisation and habitual military assaults by Israeli forces.

Dheisheh has been the centre of constant Israeli raids, resulting in the loss of young lives. This year started with the killing of two teenagers by Israeli forces during military raids. They were aged 14 and 15, middle-school classmates and friends. They had something else in common: they both carried farewell letters in their pockets – they were prepared to die.

Many Palestinian teenagers carry farewell letters in their pockets. It is not a symbol of resignation; rather an assertion of the right to resistance against an illegal and racist colonisation of Palestinian lands. They know they may die anytime at the hands of a sharp shooter atop a building, or even a deliberate face-to-face murder by an armed soldier or Jewish settler.

In January this year, Israeli forces arrived at the Jerusalem-Hebron road that connects the north of Bethlehem to its south. Military vehicles stopped at the road, unloaded dozens of foot soldiers, armed and trained for army-to-army combat. As Israeli forces withdrew news began to flow from house to house that one of the youngsters was killed during the raid.

Adam Ayyad was only 15. In his pocket, his friends found a wrinkled notebook paper, with 11 lines of scribbled hand-written text. The letter read:

“I had many things that I dreamed of doing, but in our country, one cannot realise one’s dreams. I want to send my message to the entire world, I want all the people to wake up, and direct all your compasses towards the occupation.”

“Adam was a normal boy, playful and helpful to all people around him,” his mother mourned. He had wanted to continue his studies and become a lawyer.

Manaa, a 22-year-old young man, was killed in an earlier Israeli raid in December. According to Ayyad’s mother and aunt, the death of Omar Manaa impacted him so much that he began to spend hours on end by his tomb at the Dheisheh cemetery.

“We only thought that Adam was sad for his friend, but never thought at the beginning that he was entertaining the idea of death himself.”

He witnessed an occupation raid for the first time when he was five, and grew up seeing people in the camp and neighbourhood being arrested or killed.

Countless families welcome mourners into their house. The open-house ritual usually lasts for three days, but it had been a week since 14-year-old Amer Khmour was killed by Israeli soldiers during their last raid into Dheisheh, and mourners kept pouring into his family’s house.

Khmour didn’t talk a lot about politics, or about the situation in the camp, as he was mostly having fun with his friends, like all boys his age.

Colonialism

Israel’s stealth and occupying presence on Palestinian land, employing militaristic strategies rooted in colonial-racist ideologies, results in assaults targeting children and youngsters. It even targets the elderly who only ask for their right to liberation and dignity.

When Britain abandoned their mandate and handed it to the United Nations, it was clear that the US and Europe would choose sides and advocate for an uneven resolution in favour of Zionist demands, rather than addressing the concerns of Palestine.

Zionism is an ideology which shoves Palestinians to the margins of political space. It is aligned with the movement to establish a Jewish homeland in Palestine during the 19th and 20th centuries. Its history and significance are a matter of contention.

The Balfour Declaration was the direct outcome of a sustained effort by the Zionist Organisation to establish a Jewish state in Palestine. It meant that Palestinians faced the prospect of being outnumbered by unlimited immigration, and of losing control of Palestine to the Zionist drive for sole sovereignty over a country that was then almost completely Arabic in population and culture.

In order to achieve justice, it’s imperative to put an end to the misrule of Occupied Palestinian territories, which are subjected to Israel’s racist laws, colonial practices, and an apartheid regime.

The two-state solution, as a means to end the Palestine-Israel conflict, appears to be no longer viable. By clinging to this impossible solution, the international community prolongs Palestinian agony.

With some 750,000 illegal settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem the principle of separation of the two communities is an absolute non-starter. Achieving lasting peace in Palestine-Israel requires an innovative solution, which must prioritise justice above all else.

Ranjan Solomon is a political commentator, writer, and human rights activist. His work for solidarity with Palestinians began in 1989 and continues to this day through global and national networks.

Originally published in The Wire

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