Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Remembering the First Intifada, thirty years on

By Rhiannon F. - December 11, 2017
Section: [Main News] [Features]
Tags: [nonviolent resistance] [Nabi Saleh] [Jayyous]

Three days into the First Intifada, on December 11, 1987, the first three Palestinians of Balata Refugee Camp, near Nablus in the West Bank, were killed. One was a girl, 18 years old, a child of 10 years old and a woman in her 60’s, as remembered by Balata resident, Khalil Yousef. “The woman was shot by Israeli soldiers while she was trying to help the child shot before her,” Yousef told Palestine Monitor. “Every family here in the camp has a martyr, some families have more than one,” Yousef spoke of the entire community being touched by death.

The First Intifada started after an Israeli army truck ran into a civilian car in the Gaza Strip, killing four Palestinians. Mohammed Othman, just nine years old at the time, said the uprising slowly spread out of Gaza and into the West Bank. “People started to wake up and say, 'ok, this is too much,’” Othman explained. “The [Israeli] occupation deals with Palestinians with no conscience, we face a lot of difficulties, the intifada is the result,” Yousef added.

Yousef himself was arrested in the First Intifada, in August 1988, at 18 years old. He said he faced investigation for six days. “It was a very difficult situation, physically and psychologically,” he said. Yousef said the interrogation sessions would last 48 continuous hours, with different Israeli police officers. “I had to sit on a chair without a back, holding my arms behind my back, for several days. I also had to hold pencils in between my fingers and then they squeezed the fingers together with their hands,” Yousef said, demonstrating the technique.

During the First Intifada, there were a number of new prisons built, in order for the IDF to detain large amounts of Palestinians, participating in the uprising. From the start of 1988, Megiddo Prison, Camp Ktzi’ot and Camp Ofer were expanded. Newly built in the West Bank were Shomron, Etzion, Efraim, Menashe and Binyamin. Yousef was in prison for one year during the First Intifada, for throwing stones and molotovs. “I don’t let it affect me, I continue to resist the occupation,” he said stoically. “It’s our belief Palestine is our country and our land, nothing will make us stop resisting the occupation, even if they open new prisons or there are martyrs every day.”

Othman believes the First Intifada was a positive thing for Palestine. “It was the first time the world heard about Palestine, due to the way everyone joined together,” he said. “In the Second Intifada it was more about Hamas and Fatah, and the division between parties, as well as suicide bombing, guns and militant rule. I don’t see this as the way [to] free a country, the right way is the non-violent way. Throwing stones I see as non-violence, not bombing yourself in Israel or shooting civilians,” Othman explained.

In the First Intifada, there were no guns, Othman reiterates, only stones to throw and block the roads with. There were also less IDF checkpoints across the West Bank. “When they built the wall in Jayyous (where Othman grew up), they cut the village in half. When the army came we used to run into the bushes to escape them, now we have to be inside the village, we can’t get out.”

Pushra Tamimi of Nabi Saleh believes the First Intifada was especially difficult for women who wanted to be involved. “Our family was afraid of the girls going out and fighting the soldiers. They [often] didn’t allow the girls to participate in the clashes,” Tamimi explained. Instead, Tamimi, 16 years old at the time, and two of her female friends worked together to teach the children of the village. “They closed the schools [at one point] and the children stayed at home. So we took responsibility of teaching the kids, for three months.”

Another role Tamimi took on in the First Intifada was collecting olive oil to send to the prisoners. “It was beautiful work,” she remembered. They would collect oil from various farms and pass it onto the Red Cross who would then send it to three different prisons. At times, Tamimi also went out to throw stones and helped block the roads. “There was around 20 of us, throwing stones. I was never scared. We were only scared for our families, but not of the soldiers.” Tamimi, like Yousef and Othman, believes stone throwing is non-violent resistance. “The stones are a symbol that we refuse the occupation. When the soldiers come to the village, it’s not their place, they must leave. But they think we’re threatening their security,” Tamimi said.

Today, many of the same tactics can be seen in popular resistance. Stone throwing is still the only weapon Palestinian youth can wage during clashes with IDF soldiers, as can be seen in recent events following Trump’s reckless declaration of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. According to Defense for Children, today, throwing stones at a moving target can result in a maximum prison sentence of 20 years, under Israel Military Order 1651. Defence for Children Accountability Program Director, Ayed Abu Eqtaish echoed the belief of stone throwing being an expression of opposition and refusal of the occupation. “But, Israel wants to quash any resistance to its policies through harshly targeting the [people] who are participating in stone throwing,” Eqtaish said.

This harsh reflex from the IDF can be seen through their response to stones with tear gas, rubber and live bullets, as once again used in the demonstrations of the last week, coincidentally the 30th anniversary of the First Intifada. Even though thousands of people across Palestine have been participating in clashes since the night of Trump’s announcement, numbers have definitely waned, quicker than what a lot of media were expecting, as many announced it was the start of a Third Intifada. With there already being not only one, but two intifadas with little or no positive outcome or resulting change for the Palestinians, the amount of energy left to resist may be draining. Though of course a lot of the Palestinian youth are still ready to carry the fire. As 11-year-old Janna Ayyad told Palestine Monitor before leaving Nabi Saleh; “we cannot live our childhood so of course we’re going to fight to let the next generation live theirs.”


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