In the English language, the Arabic word Intifada means to resist or “shake off,” and for the past three decades, it has been used to define two specific periods of Palestinian resistance to Israeli occupation. The First Intifada took place in the West Bank and Gaza during the late 1980s. The second was mostly within Israel, after the Camp David Summit failed to reach a final agreement on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process in July 2000.
The First Intifada lasted six years and claimed the lives of roughly 2,000 Palestinians and 170 Israelis. The second lasted five years but left 3,500 Palestinians and 1,000 Israelis dead, and is commonly remembered for Hamas’ suicide bombings and Israeli security forces’ massacres.
Today, observers are debating whether Israel’s ongoing campaign of ethnic cleansing in East Jerusalem, settlement expansion in the West Bank, violent raids on al-Aqsa Mosque, and recent bombardment of Gaza – which left 254 Palestinians dead, including 68 children – has ignited a Third Intifada.
If a new uprising is underway, then it is or will be unlike the two that preceded it. Today’s resistance against Israeli occupation and apartheid is being led by a younger generation of Palestinians who have not only lost faith and trust in international institutions, including the United Nations and Arab League, but also domestic political parties and local authorities, including Hamas and the Palestinian Authority.
This younger generation has also learned that while international law affords them the right to resist Israeli occupation using violence or “whatever means necessary,” violent resistance has only brought their parents and grandparents bloodshed, separation barriers, and apartheid walls in the West Bank. This includes a steel fence around Gaza, as well as the expansion and entrenchment of illegal Jewish settlements on stolen Palestinian land.
As such, they’re not taking to the streets of Jerusalem and Ramallah under the banners of political parties or ultra-religious figures, but in the name of unity.
Young Palestinians are not only drawing inspiration from global solidarity movements, such as Black Lives Matter (BLM), but also American civil rights leaders.
This is the “Unity Intifada” (also known as the Manifesto of Hope and Dignity), and it’s taking its cues from Generation Z (those born after 1996). These young Palestinians are not only drawing inspiration from global solidarity movements, such as Black Lives Matter (BLM), but also American civil rights leaders, including Reverend Martin Luther King (MLK), who argued “nonviolent resistance” to be the surest way to bend the moral arc of the universe towards justice.
In a 1956 article, King articulated five points that underpinned his strategy for nonviolent resistance, arguing: civil rights protesters must be “constantly seeking to persuade the opponent that he is mistaken;” “that noncooperation and boycotts are not ends themselves but are merely means to awaken a sense of moral shame in the opponent;” “that the tension is not between white and black but between justice and injustice;” “that to retaliate with hate and bitterness would do nothing but intensify the hate in the world;” and that all must hold “the conviction that the universe is on the side of justice.”
Today, the Black Lives Matter movement, which is often dubbed the “American Intifada,” draws upon King’s legacy by calling upon all underprivileged peoples of all backgrounds to unite in nonviolent protest against racial injustice and discrimination. Hence, it’s reasonable to conclude that the approach of the Palestinian “Unity Intifada” has been inspired by both the legacy of King and the BLM movement.
Not surprisingly, the “Unity Intifada” manifesto echoes King’s “five point” doctrine for nonviolent protest in arguing, “This long Intifada is, at its heart, an Intifada of consciousness,” a universal awareness that social justice cannot be discriminatory. One group cannot maintain brutal and systemic domination over another group of a different religion, race, or ethnicity, and call it “self-defense.”
“This is an Intifada of bared chests and foreheads held high armed with revolutionary goals, deep knowledge and understanding, and the organizational toil and commitment of every individual and collective in the face of the bullets of the Israeli occupation wherever they are fired,” reads an excerpt.
Organizers hope to unite and link arms with global solidarity movements, such as Black Lives Matter, to bring about an end to all oppression and injustice.
The manifesto promises to unite the Palestinian people to take their voices to the “streets of Palestine and streets around the world,” where organizers hope to unite and link arms with global solidarity movements, such as Black Lives Matter, to bring about an end to all oppression and injustice, including their own.
“The plight of Palestinians and Black Americans is the same in a fundamental way,” contends Jewish American columnist Peter Beinart, “Both groups live under the control of a state that denies them equal rights.”
In the United States, African Americans are killed by US police officers with impunity, and in Israel and the occupied territories, the same can be said about the relationship between Palestinians and Israeli security forces.
In a recent article for Vox, Russel Rickford explains how more progressive, youthful organizations have come to embrace Palestinian liberation as a core element of their global agenda. He argues that while “solidarity is never predetermined,” it draws hope “from the scattered evidence that, practically everywhere, an insurgent spirit is spreading.”
He cites groups which have given public statements of condemnation towards Israel’s most recent round of violence against the Palestinians – such as Black Lives Matter of Paterson, New Jersey and its calls to end US military aid to Israel – as evidence for this emerging alliance between US civil rights organizations and the “Unity Intifada.”
Through these solidarity alliances, the Palestinians can exert tremendous pressure on Israel because nothing threatens Israel’s occupation and system of apartheid more than boycotts and erosion of political support around the world, and especially within the United States.
This Intifada promises to be nothing like those that came before it. From an Israeli government perspective, nonviolent protest threatens it far more than rockets and suicide bombs, because it cannot build an Iron Dome against global opinion, solidarity, and goodwill.