Computing Intifada: When Will Palestinians Revolt?

When will the Palestinians revolt?

The answer, according to an Israeli official: not this year (as quoted by Agency France Press).

An internal Israeli Foreign Ministry report last month also concluded that a third Palestinian intifada or uprising was ‘unlikely’ this year. According to the unnamed official, “This report, which is more than 100 pages long, judges that an explosion of generalized violence in the form of a third intifada is unlikely.”

Instead, it was resolved that Palestinians would “continue to seize all opportunities to isolate Israel on the international stage” (AFP, Feb 28).

After six decades of occupation, Israeli government strategists are yet to realize that the Palestinian people are not a singular body of blind followers who can be easily manipulated and controlled.

The erroneous Israeli perception defines the very fundamentals of Israel’s political discourse and subsequent policies towards Palestinians. A famous statement by former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in March 2002 signifies Israel’s official and reductionist view of the enemy: “The Palestinians must be hit and it must be very painful: we must cause them losses, victims, so that they feel the heavy price” (Znet).

Although the phenomenon of official Israeli reports attempting to predict – and thus preempt – Palestinian rebellion is not a new one, last month’s report is particularly odd. ‘Palestinians’ – as a political actor – are all lumped into one group, juxtaposed and conveniently tossed about in their constant scheming along with ‘Arab regimes’.

It’s difficult to imagine how such incongruous and ahistorical thinking has allowed Israel so much dominance over the political discourse of the conflict.

Genuinely popular events in human history are not instigated by politicians, regimes or calculating factions. The keyword here is ‘genuine.’ Israeli leaders describe their conflict with Palestinians using a grand terminology with and unabashed ethnic classification. In his speech before the UN’s 66th session of General Assembly last September, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke on “behalf of Israel and the Jewish people,” as he extended his hand to the “peoples of North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.” He ranted against Iran and theorized on ‘political Islamists’ and the free world.

This is what he had to offer to justify the illegal annexation and continued occupation of East Jerusalem: “Jews in Spain, on the eve of their expulsion; Jews in the Ukraine, fleeing the pogroms; Jews fighting the Warsaw Ghetto, as the Nazis were circling around it. They never stopped praying, they never stopped yearning. They whispered: Next year in Jerusalem. Next year in the promised land” (Haaretz, Sep 24, 2011).

Such a selective narrative might be discounted as intentionally sentimental; the self-aggrandizing is somewhat expected of a state that was constructed, and continues to operate on a base of supposed racial supremacy. But there is more to the Israeli narrative than clever phraseology and the exploitation of history. Israel’s depiction of itself as the ‘Jewish state’ allowed it to explore other people’s identities in terms of collectives as well. ‘Palestinians’ or ‘Arabs’ are constantly and opportunely moved about to further cement Israeli claims. This handy managing of large groups, peoples and collectives is not just dangerous at an intellectual level, but politically and militarily perilous as well.

Former Israeli president Moshe Katsav said of his enemies: “There is a huge gap between us (Jews) and our enemies? Not just in ability but in morality, culture, sanctity of life, and conscience. They are our neighbors here, but it seems as if at a distance of a few hundred meters away, there are people who do not belong to our continent, to our world, but actually belong to a different galaxy” (Jerusalem Post, May 10, 2001).

This might be a transition from Golda Meir’s wholesale denial of the existence of the Palestinian, or of other Zionist leaders depicting Palestinians as animals, beasts and cockroaches. It is also a more advanced and conscious form of dehumanization. Palestinians here are essentially ‘people’, yet devoid of every shred of humanity; they are temporarily elevated, to be fully destroyed. Worse, they are like aliens from another galaxy; ‘our enemies.’

Within the confines of this logic, everything that is obstinately frowned upon by the law, ethics or morality, becomes effectively good, expected and embraced: from the ethnic cleansing in 1947- 48 to the war on Gaza (2008-09), the continued state siege, the so-called Separation Wall, the daily violent practices of the Israeli occupation army, the unlawful, arbitrary imprisonments, the torture, the humiliation, the discrimination.

When Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich declared last December that Palestinians are “invented” people, he was simply reaffirming his allegiance to his pro-Israeli financial backers, who required the regular restating of tired Israeli assertions. But this becomes all the more bizarre when one looks at the political implications of the language. Gingrich’s position “could be seen as putting him at odds with the US push for a two-state solution in the Middle East” (CBC, Dec 9, 11).

Grand narratives can be convenient, serving as an easy swindle to forge alliances and demonize one’s enemies. Their greater danger lies in the fact that they have no boundaries. In the case of Israel, it has abused the discourse pertaining to its conflict with the Palestinians to the extent that the false narratives now define the very mainstream society, not only in Israel, but also in the US and other parts of the world. Even the Israelis are now buying into their own pretenses, reaching the point of trying to predict the breaking point of the Palestinian people through data fed into some computer and subsequently analyzed and summarized.

The Israeli report on the ‘unlikely’ revolt of the Palestinians in 2012 took 100 pages to articulate. I was present in 1987 at the first mass protest in Gaza which sparked the First Palestinian Intifada, the people’s revolution that took Israel and the whole world by surprise. And I can testify it took very few words to pronounce and articulate this revolution: “With our blood, with our souls, we will sacrifice for you, Palestine.”

No official analysis could ever predict such a moment.

Ramzy Baroud is an author and a journalist. His latest volume is The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People's Struggle (Pluto Press, London). He can be reached at ramzybaroud@hotmail.com. Read other articles by Ramzy.