The second Intifada: More than just a memory

The second Intifada: More than just a memory
Comment: This week marks the 16th anniversary of the Second Intifada. But commemorations should not neglect the importance of subsequent events, nor of today's status quo, argues Ramona Wadi.
5 min read
28 Sep, 2016
Since the Intifada, the Palestinian Authority has cooperated with Israel to undermine resistance [AFP]

Palestinian tenacity regarding collective memory may well be considered unrivalled, especially given the difficulties they have faced due to widespread dispossession and Zionist colonisation.

In recent years, commitment to this memory has remained formidable. However, Palestinians increasingly face different forms of rupture, as both the semblance of leadership embodied by the Palestinian Authority, as well as Palestinian resistance factions, embark upon several forms of dissociation.

The anniversary of the second Intifada is one such instance. In previous years, its remembrance had already been marred by increased acquiescence to international and, as a result, Israeli demands. It is not the lack of commemoration, but rather the substance of such remembrance, that needs to be addressed.

Increased importance and strategy should be allocated to the commemoration of the second Intifada, particularly due to the similarities it shares with recent history, namely the Jerusalem Intifada, as it was termed by Hamas, which commenced in October 2015 and continues sporadically due to lack of organisation and participation.

Given the direct Zionist provocation which ignited both the Al-Aqsa Intifada and the Jerusalem Intifada, it is distressing to note that historical reference has been eliminated by the PA and Palestinian resistance factions. Both began in response to Israeli provocations and incitement, yet the Jerusalem Intifada was marred by a lack of strategy and pretentious debate. 

It is not the lack of commemoration, but rather the substance of such remembrance, that needs to be addressed

It could be said that Palestinian factions were swift to designate the resistance as an intifada, while analysts debated the definition and applicability of the term, rather than bestowing attention upon the wider framework.

Distorting remembrance

So far, remembrance of the Jerusalem Intifada has been marked by Hamas, which staged a march in Gaza City this week. Speaking during the march, Hamas member Mushir al-Masri declared, "This uprising won't end until the demise of the Israeli enemy, until Al-Quds [Jerusalem] is liberated, and our brothers are freed from Israeli prisons." There was also a statement that the intifada next year "will be even more powerful".

Lacking from the narrative, however, was the issue of direct involvement and participation of Hamas in the Jerusalem Intifada. Rhetoric of support was always expected from Hamas, while immediate support on the ground - in strategy and organisation - was always absent.

Mahmoud Abbas has once again used the platform provided by the UN General Assembly to remind the world of his subservience to external impositions

Arguably, the political landscape has been drastically altered, especially in the two years following Operation Protective Edge, as well as increased security coordination efforts by the PA, particularly when it comes to targeting Hamas-affiliated individuals in the West Bank.

However, the responsibilities of Hamas both as political representatives and as a resistance movement need to be clearly articulated and implemented.

If this clarity is not achieved, Palestinians who have participated in the Jerusalem Intifada will have imparted a message that should be absorbed within political consciousness; that of the people bearing sole responsibility for Palestinian collective memory, even when it comes to remembrance of the second Intifada which was supported by Hamas and resistance factions.

Imparting oblivion at an international level

Meanwhile, PA President Mahmoud Abbas has once again used the platform provided by the UN General Assembly to remind the world of his subservience to external impositions, rather than highlight colonial ramifications and human rights violations.

It is, therefore, equally comprehensible that the Intifada anniversary, as well as the Jerusalem Intifada, would not occupy his consciousness.

Rather, Abbas opted for a mention of the 1917 Balfour Declaration and an insistence upon "an apology to the Palestinian people for the catastrophes, miseries and injustices that it created, and to act to rectify this historic catastrophe and to remedy its consequences, including by recognition of the state of Palestine".

The Palestinians embodying the resistance have not been remembered by Abbas

Meanwhile, the Palestinians embodying the resistance and defending the remaining slivers of territory have not been remembered by Abbas.

Marked by absence

Since the second Intifada, Palestinian history has unfortunately been marked by increased colonial expansion, PA collaboration with Israel particularly with regard to disrupting and annihilating resistance, gross human rights violations at every level which are most prominent in Israel's treatment of Palestinian political prisoners and consistent subjugation to international demands.

The second Intifada was to a certain extent, an expression of autonomous decision-making and the intent to fight against colonial oppression. The Jerusalem Intifada incorporated these elements in its struggle, yet was abandoned by Palestinian resistance factions.

In the absence of unifying factors, last year's uprising delivered a strong message, asserting the return to the roots of popular struggle, even without the participation of resistance movements.

Any commemoration of the second Intifada without tangible support for the uprising that commenced last year would be tantamount to hypocrisy.

If Palestinian factions are to retain a semblance of validity in recent history, they should embark upon constructive measures to reverse the superfluous rhetoric, and replace it with a unifying strategy, in order to avoid the possibility of the Intifada becoming a mere historical artefact.

Ramona Wadi is an independent researcher, freelance journalist, book reviewer and blogger specialising in the struggle for memory in Chile and Palestine, colonial violence and the manipulation of international law. Follow her on Twitter: @walzerscent

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.