From the Editors

by The Editors
published in MER157

For well over a year now, the Israeli state has confronted the Palestinian uprising with what Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin calls “the iron fist.” The army’s goal is to restore order, Deputy Chief-of-Staff Ehud Barak said recently, “so that the Israeli government can pursue political initiatives from a position of strength on its own schedule.” In the first month of Year Two, the army’s schedule included, by its own count, 2790 “violent incidents” -- an average of precisely 90 each day. At least 26 Palestinians were killed, many with the “non-lethal” plastic and rubber bullets that Israeli troops now routinely employ.

Palestinian Expression Inside a Cultural Ghetto

by Kamal Boullata
published in MER159

During the summer of 1986,1 spent a month in the West Bank, keen to learn for myself about the effects of Israeli restrictions on Palestinian forms of expression, particularly in the visual arts and local crafts. A quick look at different cultural products indicated that traditional aesthetic values have for some time been rapidly eroding. Alternative aesthetic values were more often than not crudely colored by the reactive rhetoric intrinsic to the cultural ghetto created by the occupation. I set out to explore for myself the process that brings into being products which stir a sense of pride among Palestinians living under occupation, and to understand the components that endow these cultural products with their uniquely Palestinian character.

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Points of Stress

Israel and the Intifada

by James Paul
published in MER154

Eight months into the intifada, Israel’s occupation appears as unyielding as the rocky hills of Palestine. Bolstered by arms and funds from the United States and supported by a rightward-leaning public, the Israeli political establishment stands utterly intransigent, opposed to any political compromise with the Palestinians. Chances of a settlement appear extremely remote.

Such intransigence fits a historical pattern. This is always the first reaction of an occupying regime to the outbreak of insurrection: The only problem, they are sure, is that they have not used enough force.

The Significance of Stones

Notes from the Seventh Month

by Joe Stork
published in MER154

Visitors to the West Bank and Gaza get a very immediate, sensory grasp of the significance of stones. In the West Bank, the main cities and towns and many larger villages lie along the ridge of hills and plateaus running north to south and forming a sort of geological spine between the Mediterranean coastal plains and the Jordan rift valley. It is a land made of equal measure of stone and soil. The inhabitants and their ancestors have used the stone to hold the soil to the hillsides in order to provide rooting ground for their olive and fruit trees. The hill country of the West Bank is a subtly sculptured landscape of terraces that testify to uncounted generations of unobtrusive settlement, rows of rough stones piled patiently and mended every several seasons.

Mediations

by
published in MER161

Intifada Chic We’re not really sure what this tells us about the present state of the Israeli Jewish psyche, almost two years into the intifada, but here are some of the designer T-shirts being sold these days in Jerusalem:

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Enduring Intifada Injuries

by Rania Atalla
published in MER161

The nightmare started when 24-year-old Ahlam, from the village of Ya’bud in the Israeli-occupied territories, joined a march to commemorate the martyrdom of a fellow villager.

“The situation was so tense that the Israeli army could not enter the village,” she recalled from her hospital bed in Amman. “A helicopter started throwing tear gas onto the 8,000 or so peaceful demonstrators.”

One of the canisters landed close to Ahlam. She attempted to kick it away, but within a minute she lost consciousness from tear gas inhalation.

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Prison Text, Resistance Culture

by Barbara Harlow
published in MER164

The Israeli prison apparatus is a critical and contested site in the manifold struggle to control communication and information in the Palestinian resistance to Israeli occupation. During the two decades of occupation before the intifada, prisons in Israel and the Occupied Territories housed an average of 4,000 Palestinian political detainees at any one time. Since the start of the uprising this number has increased dramatically, with over 40,000 arrests. This put great pressure on the prison facilities and necessitated the opening of new prison camps such as Ansar III (Ketsi’ot) in the Negev desert, and detention centers like Dhahriyya, just outside of Hebron.

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Eyeless in Judea

Israel's Strategy of Collaborators and Forgeries

by Salim Tamari
published in MER164

One of the major problems confronting the Israeli security forces during the Palestinian uprising was the disintegration, by June 1988, of Israel’s system of penetration and control over the clandestine national movement. First, the apparatus of the military government received a considerable blow with the wholesale resignation of the local police force and tax collectors during the first months of the intifada; second, in March and April 1988, the popular upheaval compelled many collaborators to recant publicly and surrender their weapons. These developments contributed to the paralysis of two major Israeli instruments of control over the Palestinians: the institutional and the coercive.

Women, the Hijab and the Intifada

by Rema Hammami
published in MER164

Many accounts have suggested that the intifada has enabled Palestinian women to make great strides toward their social as well as political liberation. While some positive developments have occurred, it is also true that the intifada has been the context for a vicious campaign in Gaza to impose the hijab (headscarf) on all women. The campaign included the threat and use of violence and developed into a comprehensive social offensive. Social acquiescence, political inaction, family pressure and a concurrent ideological transformation created a situation in which only a few committed women in Gaza, one year into the intifada, continued not to wear a headscarf.

"The PLO Is Still Waging a Struggle for Recognition Rather Than for a Solution"

An Interview with 'Ali Jarbawi

by Penny Johnson
published in MER164

‘Ali Jarbawi, an associate professor of political science at Birzeit University, is the author of The Intifada and Political Leadership in the West Bank and Gaza Strip (Beirut: Dar al-Tali‘a, in Arabic). MERIP contributing editor Penny Johnson interviewed him in Ramallah in late February 1990.

You have criticized the “Western analysis” of the uprising which posits that a new, youthful leadership here has changed the balance of power with the PLO outside. This line of thinking views the uprising as a massive social rebellion that has transformed the roles of youth, women, workers and camp dwellers. Do you think such fundamental change is underway?

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