Palestinian popular resistance

Page last updated, 16 June 2018


Resistance in Palestine has taken many forms over time, including armed incursions from Palestinians in exile or occupation, armed resistance and attacks from Hamas in recent years and a wave of suicide bombings in the early part of this century. And not only Hamas. Sometimes armed groups from Fatah were also involved. But these days it is generally smaller groups that feel Hamas has compromised too much, and occasionally fire rockets from Gaza as much in protest at Hamas as against Israel.

Resistance has, however, for the most part, taken the form of less well noticed and largely non-violent civil disobedience with some stone throwing on the fringes. The Israeli response has been savage with unarmed demonstrators regularly being tear-gassed and shot at with rubber bullets, sometime with fatal consequences. The murder of foreign peace activists like Rachel Corrie, Tom Hurndal  and Vittorio Arrigoni, still reverberate. But their cases became well-known precisely because they were foreign. Palestinians on the receiving end of what is often murderous violence tend to remain anonymous, at least to the outside world.

It is worth remembering that, in international law, the Palestinians in the occupied territories have a right of resistance. However, while the right to use armed resistance is not in question but the wisdom of using it most certainly is.  The strategic question is – what kinds of resistances will be effective? And being effective is not simply what will make the Israelis sit up and listen, but what will help win the wider struggle for world sympathy and support. The ongoing non-violent resistance movements against the Wall at Bil’in, Budrus and elsewhere have long provided a beacon. The spirit of this resistance is well captured in award-winning films like Budrus and Five Broken Cameras.

The desperate attempts by Israel to crush non-violent resistance are also chronicled below via the (in)judicious use of violence by the IDF and border guards to try and provoke a violent response, and the persecution of key non-violent popular resisters like Abdallah Abu Rahmah of Bil’in. And more.


1. The right to resist in occupied Palestine: denial and suppression
Poorna Mishra, openDemocracy, 16 Mar 2015

The right of Palestinians to resist their occupation is enshrined in international and customary law, a fact that is denied and violated by Israel and wilfully overlooked by the rest of the world.

2. 2014 produced a diverse and determined Palestinian resistance
Ramzy Baroud, Palestine Chronicle, JfJfP 2 Jan 2015

Despite the terrible toll of dead, injured and traumatised in Gaza, Ramzy Baroud finds hope in the lively Palestinian resistance and the increasing international recognition of the justice of the Palestinian cause. Here he picks out what he regards as the five most clarifying developments of the year.

3. Bil’in’s non-violent resistance infuriates Israel
Roy Wagner, +972, JfJfP 31 Oct 2014

Israel reacts no less furiously to non-violent resistance as it does to rockets. For such resistance gives the lie to Israel’s accusation that all Palestinians are terrorists, shaming it in front of the world. So the village of Bil’in, still demonstrating every week after more than five years against the illegal theft of its land, and joined by a handful of Israelis and internationals, is subject to increasing harassment and physical violence.


4. The inner syntax of Palestinian stone-throwing and The right to throw stones – and the need to say so
Amira Hass, Ha’aretz op-ed, JfJfP 4 May 2013; Mairav Zonszein, intro to Democracy Now interview, +972, JfJfP 16 May 2013

An uncompromising Ha’aretz op-ed, in which Hass says that “Throwing stones is the birthright and duty of anyone subject to foreign rule” and argues that “It would make sense for Palestinian schools to introduce basic classes in resistance”. In an intervew on Democracy Now in which she is described as “one of the greatest truth-seekers of them all”, Hass defends her views. “The main thing” she says “is to concentrate on the violence of the ruler”.

5. Let’s pretend – no Israeli violence, no Palestinian right to act for themselves
Noura Erakat, Jadaliyya, JfJFP 27 Mar 2014

The ‘let’s pretend’ of the headline is the prevailing tone of the American debate on Israel/Palestine. The violence of dispossession is ignored, the significance of BDS – to resist is to exist – is grotesquely twisted into an antisemitic, delegitimisation campaign. The only arguments heard are those centred on Jewish, or American, interests. Noura Erekat analyses how it’s done.

6. Homage to Eyad El-Sarraj
Lynne Segal, New Formations, JfJfP 15 Aug 2015

In a piece in New Formations magazine, “Resisting despair: non-violent resistance in Israel Palestine – A homage to Dr Eyad El-Sarraj,”, Lynne Segal reflects on how people in Israel /Palestine find ways of continuing to survive, endure and resist in the face of overwhelming odds.


7. Non-violence more effective because everyone can take part
Elsa Rassbach with Mustafa Barghouti, +972, 16 Apr 2012

Mustafa Barghouti, a doctor and co-founder of the Palestinian National Initiative, talks to Elsa Rassbach about the potential and advantages of non-violent resistance to the violent Israeli occupation. He is trying to expand the political space between the colluding PA and the sectarian and violent Hamas leaderships to allow a popular non-violent movement to come through.


8. Resolving the Israel-Palestine Conflict: What we can learn from Gandhi
Norman Finkelstein, JfJfP 13 Aug 2009

The links in this posting no longer work. It’s worth looking at for an introduction to the topic and then go to Finkelstein’s Tans lecture which is available here on the Gandhi Foundation website.


9. IDF raids Stop the Wall, seizes computers and records
JfJfP composite posting 11 May 2012

More on Israeli fury at non-violent resistance…

Stop the Wall is an organisation that promotes non-violent resistance to the Wall and defends its resisters (1). In the early hours of last Tuesday, the IDF raided their Ramallah offices (with or without PA connivance? – 4) and removed valuable computer equipment and records (2). While most see this is as an attack on civil resistance, the IDF says the raid was to prevent ‘terror’ activity (3).


10. Italian Peace Activist Murdered in Gaza
Richard Silverstein, Tikun Olam, JfJfP 15 Apr 2011

Hard on the heels of Julian Mer-Khamis’s murder in Jenin we have the equally tragic killing of Vittorio Arrigoni, an Italian Peace Activist in Gaza. Richard Silverstein rages and weeps at this latest development. And Jared Malsin remembers.


11. Palestinian non-violent resistance
Joseph Dana, Huffington Post and Ofer Neiman, Mondoweiss, composite posting on JfJfP 12 Jul 2010
Israel’s hatred and fear of non-violent resistance
Jeremiah Haber, Magnes Zionist , JfJfP 24 Aug 2010

Two posts about the persecution of Abdallah Abu Rahmah, the internationally-known organiser of the Bil’in protest were similarly titled:  Dana’s “Another Palestinian Gandhi Crushed by Israel” and Haber’s “Israel Convicts Another Palestinian Gandhi”; and Neiman’s on the subject of Sheikh Jarrah was that “Palestinians don’t need Israeli tutelage with nonviolent protest”


12. The new Israeli protest movement
Joseph Dana and Noam Sheizaf, The Nation, JfJfP 11 Mar 2011

Two writers and activists from the new Israeli left tell the story of its emergence in the joint struggle of Palestinians with Israelis against the wall at Budrus, Bil’in, Nil’in – and now with Solidarity Sheikh Jarrah, against the expulsion of Palestinians from their homes in East Jerusalem, and against the expulsion of Bedouin from their villages in the Negev.
“We are going to places where the occupation and expulsion actually take place, and we do it together with the local community,” says Avner Inbar, an activist with Solidarity Sheikh Jarrah. “We are not that interested in large rallies in Tel Aviv, where Jews stand on their own and declare that the occupation is wrong. We want to confront racism and discrimination where they happen. This joint effort, together with the local Palestinian communities, is something new for everyone involved in it, and for many people it becomes a transformative experience.”


13. Palestinian bravery vs. IDF cowardice
Amira Hass, Ha’aretz, 17 June 2015

Had it not been for the cameras, the eyewitness reports about the armed soldiers who beat a Palestinian protester would have been dubbed as dubious ‘allegations’…

“The standard media reports range from presenting the Palestinians as victims to presenting them as aggressors, between wretchedness and dangerousness. But the real story is their courage.”


14. We Must Speak Up Against Israel’s Slaughter in Gaza

Jamie Stern-Warner and Muhammad Shedaha, Vice, 14 May 2018

“For over a decade, the Gaza Strip has been subjected to a brutal, medieval-style siege. Imposed by Israel after the election of the Hamas government in 2006, the stated objective of the siege was “economic warfare“: to block all economic activity in Gaza and thereby turn the civilian population against its leadership.”…

“Palestinians are often lectured from abroad on the merits of Gandhi. The current effort in Gaza will inevitably be viewed as a test case of the efficacy of a nonviolent approach; its success or failure will help determine the character of future efforts to bring the occupation to an end. But as a Guardian headline succinctly put it, “Palestinian non-violence requires global non-silence“.



Contents of this section


a) Negotiating for peace
b) Palestinian popular resistance
c) Boycott, divestment, sanctions

Some early history
The campaign against settlement goods and institutions
Arms boycott
Boycott of companies profiting from the occupation
Academic and cultural boycott
Sanctions: the EU and Israel-Palestine

d) Israeli social movement opposition
e) Solidarity with Palestinian and Israeli campaigns and activities
f) Hamas’s strategy
g) The call for equal rights
h) Using International Law

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