A comprehensive and detailed work, “Popular Protest in Palestine: the uncertain future of unarmed resistance” (Pluto Press 2015) provides a historical overview of Palestinian activism and popular resistance. It weaves the narrative up to the present and portrays the cycle which has contributed to the spasmodic visibility which, unfortunately, has resulted in fragmentation, despite the common anti-colonial struggle embodied by Palestinians.
In the introduction, authors Darweish and Rigby quote a Palestinian activist: “We came alive in the first intifada. Then we died in the second. Maybe now we are being reborn.” The quote summarises the book succinctly, while shedding light upon the dynamics of Palestinian popular resistance, its challenges and pitfalls.
The book incorporates both interviews and analysis, providing an excellent balance in its explanation and dissemination of popular resistance dynamics. Departing from the premise that popular resistance denies “the occupier’s claim to legitimacy, while waiting for eventual liberation”, Darweish and Rigby expand into a dearth of categories that shape and define Palestinian resistance, taking into account the diverse colonial ramifications as well as the multitude of experiences that form part of the Palestinian narrative and, as a consequence, the fragmentation and difficulty in establishing a common departure point for activism.
Through categorising the conditions for collective resistance, the conditions for collective non-violent resistance and the conditions for sustainable civilian struggle, the authors clarify that organisation, unity and recognition of the struggle’s legitimacy are necessary in order to create an imbalance that escalates costs for Israel. However, as is pointed out earlier, since the 1980s, Palestinians have experienced a perpetual cycle of hope and decline regarding the prospects of popular resistance.
Historically, the colonisation of Palestine which started in the 1880s resulted in an awareness of dispossession which to this day is a prominent feature of Palestinian popular resistance. The organisational efforts that started with the articulation of the Balfour Declaration in 1917 and continued during the first decade of the British Mandate in Palestine can be perceived as the initial efforts of Palestinian mobilisation against colonial oppression. However, the fragmentation of Palestinian society can be observed as early as that period, where efforts at symbolic and polemical resistance were thwarted by what the authors term the timidity of the Palestinian political elite, the absence of national leadership and the accommodation to “occupation”. Between 1936 and 1939, unarmed resistance evolved into armed struggle, while further divisions exacerbated the prospects of unity for Palestinian society. With the establishment of the state of Israel on colonised Palestinian territory, divisions were cemented further as the struggle was increasingly diversified, depending upon the forms of oppression inflicted upon the indigenous population. Read more.