Tension and violence is escalating in the Palestinian Occupied Territories, and it has got many asking whether we are witnessing the beginning of a third intifada.
Violence in the West Bank and East Jerusalem has lead to growing fears of a new intifada. Since last Thursday, four Israelis and four Palestinians have been killed in different incidents. One of the latest victims is a 13 year old boy, who was shot in the chest by an Israeli soldier in Aida refugee camp near Bethlehem. 500 Palestinians have also been injured in confrontations with the Israeli occupation forces, a third of whom were shot by live ammunition or rubber coated metal bullets.
Last week Israeli authorities demolished the homes of three youths which Israel claims they committed hostile operation in Jerusalem. Amnesty International has called on Israel to halt house demolitions and collective punishments which are being used as a deterrent against innocent people in deep violation of fundamental human rights.
Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian peace negotiator, said he was reminded of the first days of the intifada:
These events are reminiscent of September 2000. Experience shows us that Israel cannot prevent Palestinian freedom by forceful measures.
However, most analysts say Palestinians today lack the strong leadership that in 1987 started the spontaneous stone-throwing to an organized movement leading to the Oslo Peace Accords and orchestrated the campaign of suicide bombings against Israeli buses and cafés in 2000. The deep trauma of the second intifada, which claimed the lives of about 3,000 Palestinians and 1,000 Israelis over five years, scarred both societies. Avoiding a repetition of those years has defined much of their politics since.
Palestinian Authority Leader, Mahmoud Abbas, has called on the Palestinians to avoid escalation with Israel. In a statement to the Palestinian Liberation Organisation executive committee in Ramallah he said: ‘We do not want a military or security escalation between us and them, we want to reach a political solution by peaceful means and not any other way at all.’.
On the other hand, the dissatisfaction felt by some Palestinians currently should not be taken lightly. A recent poll by the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey research have found that 57% of respondents believe that an armed struggle is the only to achieve statehood, with 60% wanting Mahmoud Abbas to step down. Mahmoud Mansour, a young Palestinian, says: ‘The Palestinians have waited very patiently with our government and have realized that the concept of popular peaceful resistance, as our leadership wants, will get us absolutely nowhere’.
So is this a new intifada? Currently it is too soon to tell. However instead of worrying of labelling the ongoing situation in Palestine, it is more important to focus on the current reality, which is that Palestinian rebellions have been rising for the past couple of years against the Israeli regime.