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Chronicle of the Middle East and North Africa

Outcomes of Armed Resistance

Palestinian militant speech
A masked Palestinian militant gives a speech in a press conference during a military drill by Hamas and other Palestinian armed factions on a beach in Gaza City on December 29, 2020. MOHAMMED ABED / AFP

Majed Kayali

Palestinians have lived for a long time on slogans like political theory stems from the barrel of the gun. Other slogans include all power is for resistance, my rifle is my identity, and guns are the source of authority. Palestinians were legitimately preoccupied with the revolution against their reality and hunger to regain their usurped rights. However, they neither paid attention to their weak capabilities nor to the surrounding political systems. Palestinians did not realize that armed resistance is not an easy, accessible, or permissible act for them or others. Such a thing needs a political decision and calculations related to investing in the Palestinian cause, both internally and externally. Such a thing becomes especially relevant in a region where regimes dominate their citizens and deny their rights, freedoms, and political participation.

The existence of such resistance requires regimes that provide it with financial support. Those regimes have to cover budgets and allocations of thousands of full-time employees. Moreover, such a resistance needs other governments that supply it with weapons and constantly replenish its arsenal. Finally, it requires regimes that allow having military bases for resistance on their soil, given all the consequences and repercussions that result from that.

Now that we are talking about regimes, these certainly neither operate as revolutionary groups nor as charities. Therefore, the leadership of the Palestinian national movement has had to engage in the game of states. Such games include calculations, conflicts, and utilization. Even if this acceptance stems from leadership’s bet on the possibility of expanding its margin, counting on such gambles was not always successful. It does not come with no strings attached as well. It brought the Palestinian factions into sensitivities, conflicts, and embarrassments that wasted or marginalized resistance. More importantly, it costs Palestinians too much of their lives and stability. This matter ended with the Palestinian national movement relying on foreign resources rather than establishing itself using its people.

Perhaps it is not a coincidence that the Palestinian armed resistance was not ignited by the Arab citizens of Israel (1948 Palestinians), nor by Palestinians of the occupied territories in 1967. These two groups did not adopt armed resistance but the forms of popular resistance, including the Intifada. Moreover, this resistance did not arise due to a political movement among refugee gatherings in Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon. Instead, it started at that time according to certain Arab equations that enabled resistance factions to exist with their armed bases. Such equations provided resistance groups with their needs and requirements.

As a result of all this, the Palestinian national movement went to armed resistance directly, in one go and without political preparations. Such a thing happened before building national institutions and legislative frameworks, even without adopting the natural progression of its militant forms of action. That is first.

Secondly, the Palestinian leadership got stuck into armed action before any other act, regardless of Palestinians’ readiness and ability to carry this form of struggle.

Thirdly, the Palestinian resistance did not produce its own experience based on a critical review. This issue is due to how resistance started and the sanctification notion of the armed struggle. In other words, sanctification is based on faith, and it contradicts accountability.

Fourthly, the outcome of all this was manifested in the armed resistance overwhelming the entirety of Palestinian work structures, discourses, and relations. That outcome played even a vital role in shaping the national and political entity of the Palestinians. By this, it affected how Palestinians see themselves as a people.

Under all these determinants, it seems natural for the resistance to transform into authority wherever it exists. From the beginning, Palestinian resistance emerged as an authority project in its communities. It looked like the existing regimes. This concept explains why the legacy of this resistance in the Palestinian refugee camps of Lebanon was confined to mere militias. These camps are subject to various tensions and exploitations, given that there are no cultural, educational, or civil institutions there.

We have witnessed the transformation of the resistance into a security apparatus whose aim is to protect the existing authority and control society in the West Bank and Gaza after acknowledging its inability to fight the enemy. The problem is that all of this is taking place while factions continue to praise armed struggle. Such a thing happens in a form that still occupies the political consciousness of the Palestinians.

This discussion also includes the resistance experiment in Lebanon, exemplified by Hezbollah. This party monopolized the resistance and reduced its national sphere. Hezbollah deprived the Lebanese resistance of allies like the Syrian Social Nationalist Party. It even refused to discuss its legitimacy. In other words, Hezbollah uses this resistance for authoritarian and sectarian purposes in Lebanon. It serves the regional policy of Iran, which stands behind it. Nowadays, the party exerts its surplus power in Syria to defend an authoritarian regime that deprived Syrians of freedom under the pretext of resistance. Ironically, this very resistance came to a halt 14 years ago, except for the kidnapping of the two Israeli soldiers (2006), which necessitated a devastating war for which Lebanon has paid dearly.

There are still those who chant the slogan All Power to Resistance. Those refrain from any discussion over this matter, even though resistance has ended and has become a mere authority. Most importantly, it has become a restricted authority under the occupation!

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written by
Mattia Yaghmai
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