The recent show of Palestinian unity against the Israeli occupation not only solidified international support but also demonstrated to Tel Aviv that the resistance is taking a new political shape.
After turning the West Bank and Gaza into open-air prisons for several decades, separating Palestinians from their brethren living in the Green Line Israel, dividing families and friends, Tel Aviv was almost certain that it was close to erasing the Palestinian resistance against its occupation.
But in the face of Sheikh Jarrah expulsions, not only Gazans under Hamas control but also Palestinians living under the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority in West Bank and East Jerusalem along with Palestinians with Israeli citizenship living in the Green Line areas have revolted the Zionist state in a simultaneous fashion.
The colonial-era policy of divide and rule, which Israel emulated to entrench its occupation of Palestinian lands, has now been torn apart at the seams.
The recent rebellion surprised the Israeli state, which is yet to form an elected government after holding four inconclusive elections in the past three years. Although Benjamin Netanyahu continues to lead the country as prime minister, he has been struggling to hold on to power with several corruption charges damaging his popularity.
“The Palestinian unity that was showing across occupied territories was a turning point. It brought the Palestinian cause back to the forefront. Israel can no longer divide Palestinians living in Gaza, West Bank, East Jerusalem and the 1948 Green Line areas. All people are united regardless of their political affiliations,” says Yousef Alhelou, a Palestinian political analyst.
Just like in the last days of South Africa’s former Apartheid regime, during recent escalations across the Holy Land, Israel has been forced to face a large Palestinian revolt across several fronts, from Gaza to the West Bank and the Green Line areas, where mixed Jewish and Palestinian populations live.
“That was a surprising development for Israel. It has worked for many years and decades to destine Palestinians to live in 1948 areas inside Israel and and their brethren in occupied territories. But the revolution and uprising we saw flipped the table,” Alhelou tells TRT World.
“The first time that the whole of Palestine is united,” says Kamel Hawwash, Chair of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) and a founding member of the British Palestinian Policy Council (BPPC).
With the united Palestinian revolt, some crucial changes appear to be inevitable for both internal Palestinian political status and Israel’s international standing.
Wind of Change in Palestinian politics
The Palestinian general strike on May 18 observed across occupied territories, Gaza and the Green Line Israel, was a crucial development. “Some observers say nothing like it has been seen since before the birth of Israel and the 1936 Arab Revolt,” wrote David Gardner, a syndicated columnist for The Financial Times (FT).
“That was a great form of popular resistance going on strike en masse in all parts of [historical] Palestine. In fact, there was also quite a lot of support internationally and among Palestinians internationally as well,” Hawwash tells TRT World.
“That momentum needs to be sustained. This is where a [new] badly needed leadership can be built on. This could happen with to revitalise Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) and its Palestine National Council, which is the parliament for Palestinians everywhere,” says Hawwash.
“That can only happen through democratic and open elections for Palestinians living everywhere from Chile to Australia, London and other parts of the world,” he adds.
Alhelou agrees with Hawwash. “I think the next phase has to bring all Palestinians together - whether they are in occupied territories or exile - to say their words. Elections are one of the only means to decide who is going to lead the Palestinian people.”
Recent escalations have also marked an important development: the emergence of “a new generation of Palestinian activists” across the Holy Land with no clear loyalty to any existing Palestinian political factions like Hamas and Fatah, according to Gardner.
Muna el-Kurd, one of the young residents of Sheikh Jarrah, which was the initial seat of the latest tensions, was one of these activists with more than a million followers on Instagram, representing the new nature of the Palestinian uprising. She has fiercely protested against Israeli expulsions from the very beginning.
“Israel was able to divide us. But now, after the events of this month, there are no more borders between us—we are all united as Palestinians,” Kurd said.
“I think they organise at the local level. I think it's striking that they are not necessarily affiliated to any political faction. So they are using social media very effectively to organise and to project their demands,” Hawwash says.
These activists are going against Israel, which is working hard “to close down” the ability of Palestinians to organise and to criticise its policies, he adds. “There have been numerous cases of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram censoring Palestinian accounts. It seems as demanded by Israel.”
“There is a new generation that can connect and organise in very different ways,” says Hawwash, showing how much a new leadership is badly needed for Palestine. “We can’t go back to the status quo that existed before Ramadan or this year when it all started in Sheikh Jarrah. There has to be a fundamental change to [Palestinian] political institutions,” he underlines.
As a united nation, Palestinians need to demand “one program for liberation,” he says. The current Palestinian Authority’s intention to go back to “old negotiations with Israel” would be a futile attempt, he warns.
“Young people are looking for much more. They are looking for a real liberation, not going back to the status quo,” Hawwash observes.
Change in Palestinian political status with the emergence of this new activist breed could create more serious problems for Israel, due to its developing connections with international counterparts and Palestinian diaspora, bringing a new life to the resistance.
Israel’s international standing
Many years after forcing Palestinians to live under a brutal siege, all of a sudden, Israel appears to face political isolation both internally and externally, making pro-Israeli American pundits like Thomas Friedman worry.
Friedman has recently written that if a two-state solution loses its political traction completely, then, the only option available will be a one-state solution where Israel looks like a racist entity in the eyes of the international community.
“If that happens, the charge that Israel has become an apartheid-like entity will resonate and gain traction far and wide,” Friedman wrote. As in the former South African Apartheid regime, Israel has faced intense international criticism and pressure for its recent assault against Palestinians.
The Democratic Party in the US “will be fractured” and an increasing number of American progressives “will insist on distancing the United States from Israel and, maybe, even lead to bans on arms sales”, Friedman also warned as signs of possible near-future Israeli troubles.
Friedman also quoted a leading personality in the Israeli establishment, Gidi Grinstein, the president of the Reut Group, a think-tank. “People need to understand that this issue has been transformed in the past two weeks,’’ said Grinstein.
“The place of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict inside American society and politics — and inside the Jewish community — has morphed from a bipartisan issue to a wedge issue,’’ Grisntein also said, noting that it’s “very bad news for Israel”.
Another serious problem for Tel Aviv's international standing is its incapability “to stop a rag-tag army firing outsized pipe bombs from a blockaded enclave”, wrote Gardner, the FT columnist, referring to Hamas’ rocket barrage toward Israel in the recent escalations.
Israel has the world’s fourth most powerful army equipped with a nuclear arsenal.