The Legitimate Criticisms of the Popular Resistance

Popular resistance, taking place in several Palestinian villages, is the only interruption of today’s status quo. Since Abbas came to power in 2005 and Hamas joined the Oslo political arena in 2006, all forms of resistance were withheld. The factions’ resistance became limited to occasional responses and to an “exceptional” Israeli attack. Popular resistance includes the weekly demonstrations and occasional actions organized by the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee (PSCC), and this became, today, the only consistent form of resistance on the ground. What do we expect from it? What is going wrong, and what is going right?

It is not expected from the weekly demonstrations in Nabi Saleh to overthrow the “Halamish” settlement. We do not also expect the regular popular resistance action taking place in Hebron to open Shuhada Street either. Let us be realistic. If you join the popular resistance with big expectations for tangible results, you will soon become frustrated and turn against it. That does not take away from the extreme importance of these actions. Without the constant popular resistance, the occupation would find it easier to annex more Palestinian land, demolish more homes and carry on the ethnic cleansing of Palestine. The popular resistance has become the solid defense against such plans.

Despite its marvelous work, the PSCC faces much criticism, and they are legitimate criticisms and concerns. It is essential to generally address questions and concerns raised regarding the popular resistance. Criticism does not weaken our resistance; on the contrary, it makes it stronger. I am glad to see that the PSCC is well aware of all criticisms. They are discussed openly amongst the members in what I believe to be a constructive manner. However, I do believe they still need to make the discussion public.

One of the main issues constantly raised is the source of funding of the PSCC. It is no secret that the committee receives funding from the PA and Salam Fayyad’s office in particular. How could they receive funding from an anti-resistance body? This is a perfectly logical and legitimate question, but I might not be a legitimate questioner. PSCC uses the funding to bail out dozens of arrestees detained from the protests. Bails could range between 2,000 NIS and 70,000 NIS. PSCC also pays for lawyers who defend the arrestees. The day I will be able to provide an alternative source of funding, I will definitely stand up and ask “Why Fayyad’s money?” For activists participating in weekly protests, it is essential for them to be aware that if they get arrested, someone out there will bail them out. It makes a big difference to know that when you are in prison, someone is following up with your case. On the other hand, Fayyad is not doing the PSCC any favors. The funding he allocates to the PSCC is from the Palestinians’ tax money. It is the people’s money; it does not come from Fayyad’s pocket. It would not be fair to ask PSCC to decline that fund when we cannot provide an alternative. All Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) factions receive monthly funds from Mahmoud Abbas, and nobody ever discussed that.

The cost that the arrested bare is more than the lawyer fees and bail money. If an activist was sentenced to time in prison, he or she will need support, mainly for the ‘canteen’ money. In many cases, prisoners who come from a different social class are completely ignored by us. The group of Jewish activists, mainly anarchists, who hold Israeli citizenship sponsor many of those ignored prisoners. They regularly raise funds to provide money for the prisoners’ ‘canteen’ allocation in prison. This group of activists takes part in the weekly protests organized by the PSCC. As it is clear that relations with so-called “liberal Zionists” is unacceptable, Palestinians have not reached a clear consensus on the relations with the anti-Zionist Jews. Some Palestinians claim that the Jewish activists who carry Israeli citizenship should exclusively work within their community. What is their community? Is it the Israeli community? If so, are you including 1.5 million Palestinians holding Israeli citizenship to your definition? If not, does your definition exclusively include Jews? Are we advocating sending back the Jews to the Tel Aviv Ghetto? Let us remember that a lot of these anti-Zionist Jewish activists built their anti-Zionist views when they left that ghetto.

The Israeli government pressured the PLO to change their definition of a Palestinian during the Oslo Accords. PLO defined the Palestinian as every person lived in Palestine prior to UN-Partition-plan in 1947 and their descendants. That included all the Jews living in historic Palestine. The Jews who lived in Palestine prior to November 1947 held Palestinian citizenship. We are also forgetting that some Jews are now in Israeli prisons for their role in the Palestinian armed resistance. Examples of Jewish participation in the Palestinian struggle against Zionism are unlimited. Even Fateh Revolutionary Council has a Jewish member, Uri Davis. Although the majority of the Jewish activists do not define themselves as Israelis, it is time for them to make a clear definition. Who are they? Are they Palestinian Jews? This should be cleared up amongst them, and that will be the key to help Palestinians come to a consensus on that matter.

Some arguments against the participation of the anti-Zionist Jews are that they are privileged. Many of the non-Jewish Palestinians are also privileged. I am privileged. It is correct that Jews who hold Israeli citizenship have a lot more privileges. They can take advantage of the apartheid laws practiced by the State of Israel. Nonetheless, these activists constantly give up a lot of their privileges. I have personally witnessed the brutality of the Israeli Occupation Forces militants against the anti-Zionist Jews. The only thing stopping the state of Israel from declaring the anti-Zionists as non-Israelis is that they will be contradicting their own rhetoric. They will be pulling the trigger that will blow their rhetoric that “Israel is the home of all the Jews.” This will be the start of the end.

Some Palestinians argue that the participation of those anti-Zionist Jewish activists beautify the face of the State of Israel. How is that true? Those activists publicly advocate for Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS) in every forum. They advocate for the dismantling of the State of Israel. How is this beautifying the face of Israel? If anything, they are doing exactly the opposite. They are exposing the ugly face of the Zionist state. Those anti-Zionist Jews participate in the Palestinian resistance because it is also their struggle against the Zionist state. We cannot ask them to stay in the ghetto. It is worth noting that they have a clear understanding of all these sensitivities. They never try to dictate the agendas of these protests. They have always taken all criticisms and attacks targeted to their participation with open heart. But let us remember, they are human beings, with feelings and dreams. They are hanging in the middle and they deserve to be accepted somewhere. They will certainly not be accepted in the Zionist community; however, to be accepted in the Palestinian struggle completely they should make a clear definition of who they are.

Many Palestinians criticize the participation of International activists in the weekly protests. It is true that in many of the demonstrations, the international activists outnumber Palestinians. It is not because the international activists participate in hundreds. It is simply because Palestinians do not participate enough. The solution is easy. Instead of criticizing the outnumbering of Palestinians, go down and participate in the protests yourself. Only then, we will easily outnumber them. The number of Palestinians criticize the participation of internationals outnumbers by far the number of international activists who take part in the weekly protests.

All these criticisms and concerns are legitimate, but in most cases they just remain as negative criticism. A lot of people criticize the use of the term “unarmed resistance,” but what is the alternative? Stay home and do nothing? No one is stopping anyone from practicing any type of resistance. It is important to note that most of the Palestinians leading the popular resistance have always affirmed our right to every type of resistance, including armed resistance. When you carry your gun and go down to resist, only then can we have a discussion. Meanwhile, you are not doing anything, but criticizing.


  1. Mohammad says:

    All Palestinians can resist in a way or another. Existing in the land is a type of resistance. Demonstrating, filming, writing and discussing are all different ways of resistance. If you do one thing, you cannot claim that you did your part. Supporting the prisoners financially is a good thing but it is not enough. The prisoners that strike for weeks and months are the ones that can claim they did all they can. Others are able to do more. Lawyers, doctors and teachers can work overtime for free. Everybody can boycott the occupation and its products. Officials can do much more. They are not doing the least they should do. At least, they should not oppress their people. They should represent all Palestinians in the world even if they have other nationalities. They should care about hunger strikers from the first day. They should demand the end of administrative detention. Can they at least stop detaining people without a charge or trial?

    • Dear Rev Willems:I don’t know why you include the Negev in this list of teiterorirs that you wish Israel had not occupied. It’s been part of Israel since at least 1949.As for establishing a religion with a state, shouldn’t you suggest that Islam be disestablished from virtually all 22 Arab states, not to mention Iran? But this conflict is really ethnic and national, between the Jews as a people (one of the oldest nations in the world read your bible) and the Arab peoples.There generally is a kind of segregation between Arabs and Jews in Israel, but unlike under apartheid, it is not a legally-mandated separation and it is not total. Also unlike apartheid, Arab and Jewish citizens of Israel (as opposed to the Occupied Territories) equally have the right to vote and to run for public office.

  2. “When you carry your gun and go down to resist, only then can we have a discussion. Meanwhile, you are not doing anything, but criticizing.”

  3. Anne Roberts says:

    I have seen the Isreali activists run to put themselves between a rifle butt or gas cannister and their Palestinian friends, and I have seen the army shoot one of them in the head in sheer hatred. I was also told by an Isreali representative in DC that the Anarachists and Breaking the Silence gave Isreal a bad name. In fact they are the fairest face.I doubt anyone who has spent much time in the demonstrations lacks respect for the leadership, the Internatinals or the Isrealis who take part.

    • There are two sides,yes, but they are not at all equal. The State of Israel should not have ocpcuied the Negev, the Gaza, the West Bank, the Golan Heights. I’ve been to Israel, Lebanon, the West Bank. It is in many, many ways comparable to South Africa during apartheid. The tragedy is that no Mandela has arisen so far to make a real peace for both sides. The real question that needs to be asked at this time is this: Should the government of any state give an established status to religious practice of any religion, i.e. Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism? Is there not ultimately a profound contradiction between the existence of a State and the operation of a religion? I think the ultimate answer may be in not giving an established status to any religion, but using government to simply express a peoples physical/economic needs and leaving religion to personal practice. I know this is not an easy subject, and I state this with ambivalence, but the comments already here reveal a deep division, and I feel a pain for which I don’t have an answer.

  4. What do you mean by ‘Tel Aviv ghetto’ and ‘the ghetto’? Is this an expression in the Israel-Palestine discourse I’m not aware of? If you’re just using it to refer to Jewish community in general I’d say that’s pretty racist.

    • I think Palestinians should unreatlially declare their statehood. In small ways and always nonviolently act as though they are a nation looking to be recognized. They should state 3 things:1. Agree that their nation encompasses all the land proposed in the 2 state solution. They can add that there are areas in dispute, but both sides agree on this starting point.2. State clearly that in order for Palestine to exist Palestine must recognize their neighbor Israel and its negotiated borders and sovereignty. (can’t have one without the other). Along with this statement they offer a nonaggression pact with Israel for 3 years until all the details can be worked out. (peace will help heal both sides)3. State that Just as the Jewish people felt they had a right to return to their ancestral lands Palestinians feel this same right to lands currently within Israel’s borders. This will be a focus during the 3 year truce. Maybe Palestinian individuals who want to live in their ancestral homes will have to immigrate into Israel, even if these spaces remain within Israels borders and controlNow go out and write a constitution and make it official!

  5. conchovor says:

    ‘The Israeli government pressured the PLO to change their definition of a Palestinian during the Oslo Accords. PLO defined the Palestinian as every person lived in Palestine prior to UN-Partition-plan in 1947 and their descendants. ‘

    Not true.

    a) The 1968 charter only allowed

    ‘Article 6: The Jews who had normally resided in Palestine until the beginning of the Zionist invasion are considered Palestinians.’

    In the normative discourse of the time ‘the Zionist invasion’ usually meant ‘1917’, as in the case of this 1947 article by king Abdullah of Jordan:

    b) the discourse of the Palestinian Arab leadership of the time, that of the Arab Higher Committee, was openly expulsionist or transferist, In 1937, to the Peel Commission, Haj Amin Al Husseini had clearly indicated that most Palestinian Jews could not remain. In 1946 he had stipulated to the Arab League conference in Amman that Palestinian Jews could never comprise more than 1/7 of the population i.e. levels comparable to those of 1917.

    You accuse the Palestinian Arab leadership of treachery through compromising with Israel. But it was precisely the extreme nationalist uncompromising stance that the Palestinian Arab leadership took towards Palestinian Jews that led to their threatening or executing war or violence against Palestinian Jews that led to their defeat i.e. the Nakbah.

    ‘That included all the Jews living in historic Palestine. The Jews who lived in Palestine prior to November 1947 held Palestinian citizenship’

    I am afraid that is a complete rewriting of Palestinian Arab national history in general, and P.L.O. history in particular: the Palestinian Arab national leadership did +not+ regard most Palestinian Jews are properly Palestinian nationals or worthy of permanent residence in Palestine in 1947, quite the reverse. The P.L.O. unfortunately continued in that view, for the most part. It was only changed, in practice if not word, in 1988, what you call their ‘betrayal’.

  6. Dear Rev. Willems,Your understanding of the facts is falwed. The Negev belonged to Israel after the armistice agreement that ended the war of 1948. About 80% of Israel’s population is considered Jewish. The Arabs of Israel have three political parties that are predominantly Arab, and at least two or three Arabs have served in the Cabinet (but not enough). And there is a big difference between the rights enjoyed by Arab citizens of Israel as opposed to those of non-citizens who live under occupation. About half of Israel’s Jewish population originates from the Arab world, from which about 800,000 were expelled in the 1950s and 1960s. The European-origin population of Israel are survivors of centuries of persecution or discrimination in the Christian world, not to mention the Holocaust. (Intermarriage between these two segments of Israel’s Jewish population is high.) Europe did not fight for Israel’s survival in 1948, 1967, nor in 1973. The problem began with European antisemitism, but it has gone far beyond the time of colonialism. The solution voted back in 1947 by the UN (not just Europe) of two states for two peoples with protections for minorities is still available, if only both parties would fully grasp it.

  7. I’m Lebanese.I have no polbrem with Israel or Israelis. My only polbrem is with the government. I wish I could say that I don’t care about politics but after meeting so many people whose homes were demolished in front of their eyes by bulldozers, whose family members and friends were slaughtered in the hundreds, who are being detained for years and years without charged, who can barely move within their own country because of the check points and who have had to live in terror of Israel attacking all their lives, I simply cannot ignore them. They know that where power and money is involved, no amount of international law, which Israel repeatedly violates on a daily basis, can save them.I would not have ignored South African Apartheid were I old enough to experience it (I’m 21). I would not have ignored Nazi, or British India, or British America or Fascist Italy, or Fascist Spain etc. and I cannot ignore Israel. It would be unfair and immoral of me to simply ignore those being slaughtered and those suffering from an on-going eradication and simply say let’s love each other everything will be fine.I have no hatred towards Israelis and, contrary to popular, beliefs, I’ve rarely met any Anti-Semite from Lebanon. Let me remind you that Lebanese and all Arabs are Semites themselves. We are all Semites. I have met many Islamophobes within Lebanon (fundamentalist Christians). The Anti-semites that people think Lebanon has are actually Anti-Zionists. And how can you blame them? We’ve all met at least one Palestinian refugee.Palestinians are told over and over again that they are the polbrem. That there pathetic rockets and sticks and stones are the ones causing the conflict. Not Israel’s tanks, missiles, nuclear and chemical weapons and their countless ammunition. No, sticks and stones.Most Palestinians I’ve met are filled with so much despair in a world where some of the most powerful nations view them as pests, rather than human being.I repeat. I have no polbrem with Israel. I’ve love to visit Tel Aviv someday but to say that somehow the polbrem we have is simply because not enough people love is very naive. Israel’s government has to stop treating Palestinians like Pests, enclosing them in an open-air prison.


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  2. […] The Legitimate Criticisms of the Popular Resistance in Palestine by Maath Musleh […]

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