Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Popular Struggle clashes with Israeli forces

Juicebox Gallery

By Emily Mulder - July 10, 2013
Section: [Main News]
Tags: [popular resistance] [popular struggle] [road closures] [Mustafa Bargouthi] [Palestinian Authority] [Hamas]

Photos by Eugene Peress

Demonstrators gathered last week, July 3, in an attempt to gain access to a road closed to Palestinians for over two years by the Israeli Defense Forces.

The demonstration was organized through the collaborative efforts of Palestinian NGOs, the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee, and leaders of the popular struggle movement, including Dr. Mustafa Barghouti of the Palestinian National Initiative (Al Mubadara).

The road in Beitin, outside of Ramallah Palestine, was closed to Palestinians in December 2010, restricting the movement of residents in the region. During the demonstration Israeli soldiers prevented the advancement of activists with tear gas, sound bombs, and rubber coated steel bullets.  A middle-aged Palestinian man was shot in the thigh with a rubber coated bullet.

Checkpoints and road closures in the West Bank are detrimental to Palestinian movement and economy, and are often built to meet the security demands of Israeli settlers

Checkpoints and road closures in the West Bank are detrimental to Palestinian movement and economy, and are often built to meet the security demands of Israeli settlers. Settlements Beit El and Ofra are located on either side of the village of Beitin, and movement restrictions in this area are part of Palestinian daily life. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported that every month an average of 445 physical obstacles are in place restricting Palestinian access to roads.  

Layered demonstration

The goal of Wednesday’s demonstration was twofold. According to an organizer of the demonstration, Saleh Khawaja of Al Mubadara, the first goal was to send a message to both Israel and the international community of what the road closures mean for Palestinians.  In the case of Beitin, hundreds of Palestinians are punished due to the closure of one road, with travel time and expenses nearly tripling.

The second goal of the demonstration was part of a continual effort to develop non-violent responses against the Israeli occupation through what is often termed the “popular struggle.” 

Due to limitations imposed by the occupation, as well as Palestinian skepticism towards U.S.-brokered peace talks, leaders of the popular struggle movement concentrate on methods of resistance that Palestinians have power over. These methods include the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction campaign within the occupied Palestinian territories and abroad, hunger strikes by political prisoners, and demonstrations like the one that took place in Beitin last week.  

Emphasizing that the utilization of these methods opens the possibility for Palestinians to gain leverage against Israel, Khawaja told Palestine Monitor, “We need to work, not to speak.” 

Attempts towards solidarity

The presence of Dr. Mustafa Barghouti at the demonstration garnered international media attention. While international media outlets falsely reported physical injury to Barghouti during the demonstration, their emphasis on his presence highlights that Barghouti is often the face of the popular struggle movement.  This is due in part because of his leadership role in Al Mubadara as well as his efforts to speak internationally about non-violent resistance in Palestine.

In an interview with Al Monitor, Barghouti reiterated his belief that methods of nonviolent resistance are more effective than military action in response to the failed peace processes and Israel's expansionist policy.

"When we go, we speak for one flag, for one voice: the voice of Palestinians"

“Israel has clear military superiority and non-violent resistance provides a challenge Israel is unable to meet as it exposes the real nature of the conflict, that Palestinians are the victims. Second, because it allows us to have what we need so much for the success of our struggle, which is moral integrity. And third, because it is a form of struggle that allows everybody to participate.”

Al Mubadara was officially established as a political party in 2002 in order to provide an alternative for disillusioned Palestinians.  The party recognizes the harm caused to Palestinian people by the divisions between Fatah and Hamas in 2006, and calls for improved democratic governance by the Palestinian Authority. 

As explained by Khawaji, leaders of the popular struggle view methods of nonviolent resistance as a unifying force for Palestinians, utilizing methods available to all regardless of political affiliation, gender, or age. 

Khawaji stated, “When we go, we speak for one flag, for one voice: the voice of Palestinians.”

Palestinians arrived in buses and cars from all over the West Bank to protest the road closure. Before departing to Beitin, leaders of the demonstration reiterated several times to activists gathered in Ramallah the necessity for the demonstration to be non-violent.

Popular struggle 

The best course of action in the face of continuing occupation is disputed among many Palestinians.  Earlier this month in the village of Anata, Palestinians gathered at a local demonstration and expressed to the Palestine Monitor that Palestinian political leadership, regardless of affiliation, has fallen victim to desire for power rather than commitment to promoting the interests of the Palestinian people.

As one resident of Anata told Palestine Monitor,“They reach a high position of power, and they forget about where they came from.”  

For this reason, deciphering the effectiveness of the popular struggle movement becomes muddled when politicians act out of self-interest rather than the interest of their people.  

Deciphering the effectiveness of the popular struggle movement becomes muddled when politicians act out of self-interest rather than the interest of their people

Regardless of debates over the effectiveness of popular struggle versus armed resistance, weekly demonstrations like Wednesday's protest in Beitin continue to take place across the West Bank. This year, villages such as Bil’in and Nil’in mark the anniversaries of eight and five years of demonstrations respectively.  Advocacy of popular struggle by both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority suggest an acceptance of these methods as a necessary piece to the larger puzzle of confronting Israel.

The organizers of the Beitin demonstration are dedicated to developing new non-violent strategies as a means to gain power in an asymmetrical conflict, and plan for more demonstrations in the future.  When explaining the search for a new approach to confronting the occupation, Kahwaji told Palestine Monitor, “if you want to make a plan for the future, you must use the messages from the past...if you use the same method, you get the same result, but if you change the method, you’ll have a new result.  We want to change.”


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