Palestinians and desensitization: is it the time for a third intifada?

Palestinian refugees queuing at UNRWA to receive subsidies.

Lara Aburamadan

The more I tread through Gaza’s roads, the more I get trapped into a web of complexities. “Do not be too political” I whisper to myself. I try too hard but I fail. Cars, buses, food; all stamped with Hebrew calligraphy. To me, given my Hebraic illiteracy, the stamps represent one thing: a calligraphic occupation.

It is me grappling with a bunch of irritating realities in a city of over-expressive details. Even the few coins I tucked into my pocket this morning are stamped. Israel’s warships continue to dot the sea and there at the far end of my sight lies the untouchable: my mother’s ethnically cleansed home of origin, Almajdal (Ashkelon nowadays). Ashkelon is a glowing Israeli city that is close enough for the people of Gaza to see, yet, never to reach. When it comes to us, the inferior demographic bomb, Ashkelon is nothing better than a kill-on-the-spot zone.

I was fourteen years old when Israel “disengaged” from Gaza in 2005. At the time, I was too naïve to fathom the reasons behind and consequences of such political move. Years later, I would conclude that it only helped desensitize us to the occupation by reducing the level of direct physical interaction between us, the people of Gaza, and Israel’s facts on the ground. The people of the West Bank, on another hand, paid the price; house demolitions soared and new settlements were built up to redeploy thousands of rooted-up settlers.


International agencies, especially those concerned with the refugees such as the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), are, deliberately or not, helping keep us from being in flagrant touch with the injustices of Israel’s occupation. The majority of Gaza’s refugees depend on the UNRWA for subsidies, work, even medical treatment and schooling for their children.

A year ago, during the Gaza-based Israeli Apartheid Week, we hosted a Palestinian refugee known as Hajj Abu Hezaima. Hajj Abu Hezaima witnessed the ethnic cleansing of his village, Zarnouga in 1948. Tears rolled down the old man’s face as he told us his story. Like many refugees, the Hajj had worked at the UNRWA for several years, and in the end, he made an important remark: “The refugee problem could be solved; but the UNRWA is cementing it.”

The UNRWA, just like any other UN-controlled agency, is dominated by Israel’s most powerful ally: the US. More than a year ago, when John Ging was still in charge of the UNRWA, he told me that in order achieve a lasting peace with Israel, we must opt for and fully support a solution based on diving Palestine into two states. When I asked him about the fate of refugees, he said that we must “sacrifice” in order to achieve peace.

Now, close your eyes and imagine Gaza, without the UNRWA.

Palestinian refugees, whether inside Palestine or in the Diaspora, constitute the vast majority of the Palestinian population everywhere. Those who continue to live in refugee camps in Lebanon, Syria or elsewhere are those who suffer the most due to the harsh conditions under which they are forced to live. Now if the UNRWA and UNRWA-like agencies disappeared, the majority of the Palestinian population, the refugees, will lose the last straw. They will suddenly be exposed to the untamed brutality of Israel’s Aryan-akin practices. With no subsidies, clothing or appropriate schooling to speak of, Palestinian refugees everywhere will flood the streets realizing that the time has come for the long-awaited return. A third intifada?

Everyone is doomed

But everyone in the Palestinian society seems to be doomed. The non-refugees are highly dependent on foreign aid and the fate of their families is hanging at the PA’s “appropriate” handling of what Israel deems as its “security.”

Now that Saeb Erekat is back to the table, he, once again, is placing us in a falsified context where the oppressor and the oppressed project themselves as equal parts. This settlement-expansion process i.e. peace process, is further expanding the gap between the Palestinians and their leadership.

Ma’an News Agency presented a poll on its website wherein 68.7% regarded the current Amman negotiations as “pointless” with only 20.3% regarding them as “a positive step toward peace.” Eleven percent voted for “harmful to national reconciliation efforts.”

Negotiations have more than once proved to be useless. In fact, they proved to be damaging to the very essence of the Palestinian popular struggle i.e. the Right of Return.

A third intifada

I was born to a Gazan father and a refugee mother who has never experienced life in refugee camps. My grandfather was a lucky man; when Zionist gangs expelled him from Ashkelon, he took everything he needed to start a life in Gaza without being convicted to any of the thousands of UN-distributed tents. I have always been ashamed of myself finding it embarrassing not to have been raised in a refugee camp, or, at least, of not having a touching story to share and write about.

There in the folds of three-room shacks, in the eyes of barefoot kids weaving through stench-smelling alleyways, in the angry melodies of the first and second intifada, lies, in utter anguish, the third intifada.

In every non-refugee house, deprived of representation, constantly looked at as the “spoilt” who sacrifices “the least” shrieks the bitterness caused by a life of uncertainties.

People everywhere are born to be free. Enslavement is not only illegal because it causes human miseries, but because it essentially opposes the sound human nature that views fellow human beings as brothers and sisters not as slaves or second-class citizens. Unfortunately, Israel is singling itself out of this category.

Since the 1993 Oslo Accords, more Palestinian land has been expropriated and the Nakba never ceased. The Palestinian leadership, whether in Gaza or the West Bank, proved to be politically disabled; a broken record at best. Israel’s Apartheid is breaking new grounds passing new racist laws every day. World leaders are becoming more biased than they have ever been turning a blind eye and a deaf ear to the atrocities committed against the Palestinian people on a daily basis. Isn’t it the time for a popular Palestinian revolution in the form of a third intifada?




Probably about time but the western governments will side with Israel which will cause the problem and be horrendous for the Palestinians....and don't the Israelis know it.
We all need to lobby our western governments hard to try to enable this to happen and support this in any ways we can from our countries in the west.
I support the right of return as that is the only just conclusion, nothing less. Israel must take their settlers to live in Israel as they are "their chosen people" therefore there is no reason for them not to.
This must be resolved soon but I do not see "peace talks" resolving this for the reasons stated in the article.


Rana, in your intelligence, passion for justice and literary gift lies hope for a third intifada that is birthed ( being birthed) in the internet with Palestinian youth connected to youth around the world. Perhaps noone in the Palestinian government should be over 35 years of age, then there would be no humiliating compromises on land, right of return and peace.


I realize that you are burning with a sense of injustice. At the same time the question is: what did 5,000 dead and 30,000 injured Palestinians in the second intifada accomplished? The disengagement from Gaza? You yourself can see that it only cemented Israeli control over the rest of the territory and effectively removed 1.5 million Palestinians from Israeli and international balance books. There are more settlers, more settlements, more oppression of Palestinians than ever before.

The only reason why the Palestinian cause is getting the sympathy that it gets right now is because there has been nearly no violence from the West Bank in the past few years. It allows the Palestinians to present themselves as peaceful and demanding of their rights via the PA government. Were there to be a return to violence there would be a reversion to the existing stereotype of Arabs - irrational, violent and uncompromising.

You can pretend that a 3rd intifada would not be violent but I doubt that Hamas and Islamic Jihad will sit on their guns and bombs while Palestinians are getting shot by snipers. Fatah, the PFLP and the rest will join in the violence to not let Hamas/IJ have all the attention.

You are going to have to be patient and reasonable if you actually want any kind of justice. The violent alternative will only give Israel the reason/excuse/impetus it needs to implement the next set of minor alterations on the ground that make the rest of the enterprise sustainable. It is entirely unclear what a 3rd intifada can possibly accomplish for the Palestinians, except put them into an even weaker position.


The Palestinian people have been patient for decades, while Israel has continued the violence unabated. Until the Palestinians started to resist Israeli terrorism the world didn't seem to know Palestine existed at all. Now there is a bright light shining on Gaza and all of Palestine, and the world can no longer turn away and allow Israel to continue along its path of violence, murder, land theft, ethnic cleansing, apartheid and crimes against humanity. We will never give up the struggle for human rights in Palestine. Israel is and always has been the aggressor, successfully portraying itself as the victim for decades. That day is past, and Israel has been exposed as the victimizer. That genii will never go back into the bottle. Free Palestine!


Very little light shines on Gaza's residents as it is too densely packed for that to take place. The only pressure Israel faces vis-a-vis Gaza is to ease up or remove the increasingly ineffective blockade. While dumping Gaza, Israel lost 360sqm - 1.2% of 28,000sqm of Israel+WB+Gaza - and 1.5M Palestinians - 30% of the Arabs in Israel+WB+Gaza. Within the options available to make a Jewish state sustainable this is a completely obvious move that was only spurred into action by the internal Israeli response to Palestinian violence. More Palestinian violence will bring about similar measures of increasing the sustainability of the Jewish state and decreasing the likelihood of a real Palestinian one. Only those blinded by fantasies can believe the Palestinians are in any position to change the situation via violence.


The bright light doesn't yet extend to Gaza, unfortunately, so long as Israel continues to deprive the people of sufficient electricity. The bright light to which I refer is the one that at long last seems to be shining in the paths of all those millions of people around the world who for so long bought into Israel's victimhood hasbara. After Lebanon, after Cast Lead, after Free Gaza and the flotillas, the people of Gaza, while still suffering under Israel's heavy boot, know now that the world cares about their plight. We will never forget Gaza or any part of Palestine until the Palestinian people receive justice.