At a West Bank University, in a class on the writings of Michel Foucault, one student said that every time she goes through checkpoints, she presents her identity card to the soldiers upside down. She makes use of the little space she can to make the sovereign decision not to be the automaton that the soldier, and the system, expect her to be.
Perhaps it’s an unusual example, but she is a reminder that the Israeli control of the Palestinian people always prompts reactions and creates a constant state of awareness and alertness. Even obedience is a response. Obedience and attempts to disrupt Israeli activity, as the entity that revokes their freedom and independence, are always on the minds of the Palestinian people.
The ethos of mass opposition remains a frame of reference for those who are not active, or are no longer active.
A culture of resistance is not just an empty slogan in Palestinian society; it’s assumed, and apologies must be made when one does not stick to it. Currently, it seems there are more people apologizing than resisting.
The most prominent apologizers are senior PLO and Palestinian authority bureaucrats as well as the urban middle class. In the villages, and the refugee camps, no one needs to apologize: their very existence is constant resistance.
But both the activists and the apologizers can take comfort in the fact that like in the past, at some point, a moment will come where “people can’t take it anymore,” and join in.
But what is that point? People who think in terms of struggle, and people who want to take advantage of the situation to make a name or a career for themselves, are in a race against time. At some point, the bubble of normality under occupation will burst – that’s a basic assumption that we hear all the time.
The question is whether the bubble will burst before enough of a foundation has been laid to deal with a new conflict, in the form of a grassroots uprising, against the Israeli occupation, Even the PA people feel the way of negotiation, which has been followed for 20 months, is bankrupt.
The American tendency today to artificially engineer an agreement reminds one of its insistence on holding the Camp David summit in 2000. The newspaper al-Ayyam hinted on Friday that the proposed American framework agreement does not designate East Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state; it also ignores the refugees. The American effort to force an agreement (or punish the Palestinians for refusing it) could be the breaking point. That would be bad for advocates of unarmed resistance.
In recent years, various popular-resistance committees were formed, and they are trying to improve coordination among themselves. After years of isolated responses to the separation barrier in various villages and Hebron, the committees decided that the time has come to take the initiative. Blocking major roads, erecting tent encampments like Bab a-Shams and volunteering in villages, are only some of the initiatives that can be seen as preparation for more comprehensive efforts.
The boycott movement continues to spark imaginations. Its establishment in the West Bank roughly ten years ago forced the Palestinian Authority to declare a boycott on products manufactured in the West Bank. Enforcement of the boycott was spotty but now, informal organizations are considering boycotting goods from the other side of the Green Line as well.
“Boycotting 10% of Israeli goods is likely to increase Palestinian production by 10% and create tens of thousands of jobs,” said one activist. “When we call for boycott, we think not only of nationalist concerns, but also for the personal benefit of many unemployed people.”
Activists are in touch with other thinkers too: Palestinians elsewhere in the world and Palestinians with Israeli citizenship are also part of the unarmed resistance. One demand that arose out of the blue in the past – to dismantle the PA – is gradually ceding to thoughts about morphing the PA from a “contractor” of the Israeli occupation into a resistance authority. That would begin, says the activist, with canceling cooperation on security, as – “the police and top officials are also under occupation.”
Also, human rights organizations are pushing to take advantage of the opportunities created when Palestine was defined a non-member observer state by the UN. Popular resistance, as discussed by the activists, would include all of these things.
One activist points out that Palestinian society is very young: roughly 50% are under 18, and 75% under 35. Activists are placing their hopes on the youth, not the older generations.