Palestine’s New Freedom Fighters

Resistance is the choice of the masses.

Palestinians in the West Bank are taking up their guns once again. A sea change is happening.

For about two decades, the Gaza Strip has been the headquarters of Palestine’s armed resistance to Israel. This resistance has only grown since 2005, when the interior of the Strip was liberated, with the evacuation of Israel’s settlers there under Palestinian fire.

Led by Hamas, Palestine’s Islamic resistance movement, the armed factions in Gaza have become increasingly sophisticated, developing their own rocket technology to the point where they are able to strike targets over practically the entire territory of occupied Palestine (present day Israel).

Although fenced in at Gaza’s boundaries (and thus still occupied by Israel) the Gaza Strip is governed internally by Hamas (which fairly won the last Palestinian Authority elections). The resistance’s rockets combined with a vast network of underground tunnels mean that Israel now finds effective ground invasions of Gaza impossible. It is reduced to pummelling civilian targets from the air.

Aided by the “Axis of Resistance” powers (Iran, Syria and Lebanon’s Hizballah), the resistance in Gaza has become a beacon of hope for all Palestinians. For the first time, in May last year, the Gaza-based resistance was able to successfully prevent Israeli ethnic cleansing in Jerusalem. A massive show of support for the resistance all over Palestine led to a new spirt, a movement which is sometimes called “the Unity Intifada.”

And now the West Bank has taken inspiration from Gaza and resumed the armed struggle. This year, there has been a large increase in the number of military operations against Israeli forces in the West Bank.

New armed groups have emerged, and there has been a large upswing in the number of military operations against Israeli soldiers and settlers.

It started in September last year, with the escape of six Palestinian prisoners out of a high security Israeli prison in Gilboa.

Although all were re-captured, the success of the daring, six-month tunnel operation (added to the fact that they then spent a fortnight on the run) was a massive morale boost to the entire Palestinian people.

The escapees’ hometown of Jenin has subsequently been a hotbed of armed resistance to Israel’s colonial occupation.

The same goes for Nablus, a second city in the north of the occupied West Bank, where, since August, a new group has emerged called the Lions’ Den.

The Lions’ Den began simply as a group of youths with rifles defending the city from Israeli incursions. One of its founders was Ibrahim al-Nabulsi, murdered by Israel during a violent rampage in August, which also resulted in the deaths of two other Palestinians, including a child.

Martyred at the age of 18, al-Nabulsi has already become a legendary name among the Palestinian masses. “Protect the country after I am gone,” he famously urged in a voice note recorded shortly before his death, urging the people not to lay down their weapons.

While the six escapees represented the last generation of armed resistance (they included Zakaria Zubeidi, a renowned fighter during the second intifada of the early 2000s) there is now a new generation taking up arms, willing to lay down their lives for the people.

Another young legend was Udai Tamimi, a 22-year-old from the Shuafat refugee camp near Jerusalem. He escaped after carrying out a daring strike on an Israeli military checkpoint last month.

Armed with nothing more than a pistol, Tamimi single-handedly killed one solider and injured several others. Video of the operation shows him pulling up in a car, calmly walking up to a group of soldiers, opening fire at point blank range and escaping on foot.

Israel can kill revolutionaries, but it can’t kill the Palestinian revolution.

“I am Udai Tamimi, a wanted man from Shuafat refugee camp,” he wrote in a widely circulated hand-written message. “My operation against the Shuafat checkpoint is a drop in the raging sea of the struggle. I know that I will attain martyrdom sooner or later. I know that I will not liberate Palestine with my operation but I want to encourage hundreds of youth to pick up their guns after me.”

He evaded capture for 11 days and was even able to carry out a second attack, before being killed by a settler security guard. Video of the attack shows him battling to the end.

Tamimi’s celebrated Shuafat operation came immediately after a series of Israeli army invasions in the West Bank, which snuffed out the lives of four teenagers, including three children.

For exactly this reason, the new wave of armed resistance in the West Bank has overwhelming popular support. Massive demonstrations have come out to support the Lions’ Den in Nablus and all over Palestine — including even in the 1948-occupied territories (“Israel”).

The Israeli murder of four teenagers no doubt played a part in the motivation for Tamimi’s successfully military operation against the Shuafat checkpoint. But it is only one part of the wider picture of death and destruction caused every day by Israel’s colonial occupation of Palestine.

This year has been the deadliest year for Palestinians since the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs began counting in 2005. Last month on average, Israel killed one Palestinian per day. This is the everyday violence of the occupation which never makes “mainstream” media headlines — until Palestinians fight back.

Settler attacks have become more frequent and are taking on an increasingly pogrom-like character, openly aided and abetted by Israeli soldiers.

Roi Zweig, an Israel colonel, said it plainly earlier this year: “the army and the settlements are one and the same.” Liberal Zionist distinctions between “Israel” and “the occupation” have always been a lie. The first settlements in the West Bank were established by a “Labor” Zionist government, not by Likud, and were always intended to be military outposts.

Yet despite Israel’s depraved colonial brutality against civilians, the Palestinian resistance aims its guns at military targets — checkpoints, soldiers and settler security guards.

The right of occupied peoples to resist military occupation using armed self-defence is enshrined in international law.

The Lions’ Den is a new phenomenon in the Palestinian body politic. It is aligned to no one political faction, yet it includes fighters from all of them. One of its founders, Ammar al-Killani, was an activist with a Marxist-Leninist group, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. But two of its fighters arrested by Israel’s collaborationist Palestinian Authority last month are supporters of Hamas.

The new spirit of unity is spreading.

As the Palestinian writer Ahmed Abu Artema explained recently, “The driving force of this surge in resistance is young people who did not take part in the first or second intifadas.”

The new generation of resistance fighters are too young to remember the horrors Israel inflicted with its military invasions to suppress the second intifada.

And yet, “they grew up experiencing oppression on a daily basis. They grew up amid the constant humiliations inflicted on Palestinians at Israeli military checkpoints.”

Israel can kill revolutionaries, but it can’t kill the Palestinian revolution. Generation after generation rises up again and again against them. And this generation is putting the political divisions of the past behind them.

This is a point confirmed even by Israel’s defence minister Benny Gantz. “A new generation is growing up in the Palestinian Authority, which does not belong to any organisation,” he said recently, claiming that about two-thirds of the Palestinians who carried out armed actions in the last year were not alive during the second intifada.

The right of occupied peoples to resist military occupation using armed self-defence is enshrined in international law.

Armed resistance is the choice of the Palestinian people.

The Author:

For more than a decade, I have been an investigative journalist reporting on the global battle for justice in Palestine. I spend most of my time exposing the activities of the Israel lobby: a globalised and coordinated network of professional and voluntary groups that support Zionism, Israel’s racist official ideology.

My journalism at The Electronic Intifada and elsewhere is rarely reported by the “mainstream” corporate media.

But you can find it all here in my newsletter, Palestine is Still the Issue.

The Lion’s Den: New West Bank Resistance Strikes Fear in Israel