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.

The occupiers of the last 21 years have quarried the same stone to build their fortress suburbs that stand over this land. These constructions do not blend; they dominate. They are no more a part of this landscape than the many tent encampments set up outside towns and large villages to garrison the tens of thousands of troops now needed to confront the stones.

It is fitting that this uprising has reclaimed these stones to sling at the army, and to barricade the roads against their armored vehicles. The road winding up to the small village of Kufr Nama, west of Ramallah, the day we visited, is broken for about 30 yards with rocks, some the size of small boulders. Our perspective staring out of the dusty windshield straight ahead gives a sharp, three-dimensional intensity and separateness to each stone. In the late morning light each rugged chunk has its own specific gravity, balancing one another as if this were a belt of asteroids separating us from them, visitors from inhabitants, city folk from country and, at crucial times, army from people.

Gaza’s terrain is flat and sandy. Here the youngsters find their weapons in the cinderblocks that their parents have used for 40 years to build their shelters in the camps.

The word intifada has a connotation of “throwing off” which the translation “uprising” only partially captures and which perfectly suits the militant form the Palestinian youth have chosen for their war of independence. The chief target for this “throwing off” is the Israeli military occupation. In the process, though, the youth have also thrown off the Palestinian leadership embodied in the older generation of “personalities” and notables. They have thrown off the unequal relations that had characterized the role of the outside PLO leadership. They have thrown off the condescension and complacency of King Hussein and other rulers throughout the region.

Changing Gears

“How long can this go on?” is the question not just outsiders but people here in the West Bank and Gaza ask. And the response they are finding within themselves suggests that it could be for a very long time. The dynamic of resistance and rebellion has spread to include almost all sectors and generations of Palestinian society. As this insurrection has spread, so has it changed.

Any impression that it is waning seems decidedly mistaken. True, Israeli military tactics and large-scale arrests have helped diminish the spectacular confrontations of early 1988. Western media coverage has diminished as well. But the uprising, Palestinians here insist, is a whole spectrum of activities. Only part of it is militant demonstrations and Molotov ambushes of military patrols. It is the impressive discipline of the merchants’ strike, now more than half a year old. It is the agricultural self-help committees, the day care centers and the “alternative schools” that the women’s committees and other long-standing mass organizations have set up. The present stage of the uprising reminded us of an engine: after ignition and the loud energy of transforming a state of rest into a state of motion, it has now passed into a higher, quieter gear.

This quiet side of the uprising gets stated forcefully each day at noon as the metal shop shutters come down and the bustling streets suddenly empty and fall eerily silent. Street confrontations, some of them, have taken on an almost ritualistic quality. At a Ramallah intersection shortly after noon we see schoolgirls, most not yet teenagers, quickly throw up a barricade of stones and burning tires on their way home from school. Just a long block away, in the center of town, teams of three or four Israeli paratroopers (red berets) were patrolling the main market area, and on the roof of the tallest building military spotters with binoculars and radios scanned the streets.

The girls are not quiet; they shout their sing-song PLO rhymes. Some older boys join their brigade. After they’re sure they’ve attracted the soldiers’ attention, they move up a side-street hill and pull more rocks into the road, between them and where they expect the soldiers to come from. We move up with them. Even we had already learned to distinguish the loud pop of tear gas and rubber bullet canisters from the sharp crack of “live” ammunition; soon the air starts to irritate our eyes and lungs. Within a few minutes we’ve run between some houses and gardens to circle back down and around behind the soldiers who are now commandeering male passersby to pull the barricade down and douse the burning tires. Some schoolgirls in their uniforms nonchalantly walk by. We’re sure we recognize some who had just been building the barricade not ten minutes earlier.

Another day we are walking through one of the narrow streets of the casbah of Nablus, where the intifada hours of business are 8 to 11 am rather the the usual 9 to 12. It is about 10:30, and the small shops and passageways are crammed with shoppers and sellers. We stop at a small shop to meet Abu Faris. Suddenly we hear nationalist chants accompanied by some small makeshift percussion instruments. Down the narrow street comes a team of seven young men, their heads completely wrapped with kaffiyas except for small eye slits. One in front carries a very large Palestinian flag hung from a long pole. He and another lad are carrying small hatchets which they brandish theatrically. Abu Faris identifies them, with a smile, as “Fatah’s strike force.” The Israeli military spokesmen say the “strike forces” are thugs, enforcing the strikes and other Palestinian actions on a reluctant populace, but this was not the sense we got. All are draped in black tunics, in some cases a plastic trash bag with arm and head holes. They are reminding the merchants of the approaching hour of closing. After they pass, vendors bellow out prices to sell off their produce: “Two and a half shekels before the cannon fires.”

Just after 11, all the shops now shut, we wander out to a street on the perimeter of the old city, and into half a dozen soldiers. After inspecting our press credentials, the ranking officer tells us we are not allowed back in the old city. We circle around to another entrance. All but one of the back streets leading out of the old city has been sealed with concrete-filled tin drums stacked three high across the road, just like the entrances to the refugee camps. Inside, by the Great Mosque, what bustled noisily 20 minutes earlier is now very still. A jeep patrol this time finds us and orders us out of what is now a closed military area. Not five minutes later, the same jeep commander finds us still walking away, apparently not fast enough, and now orders us out ofNablus altogether. When we observe that these restrictions do not speak well of the democracy Israel claims it practices, Capt. Eli replies, “Yes, but this is not my country. Not yet, anyway.”

Balata, just outside Nablus, is the largest refugee camp on the West Bank. Here, with its crowded, congested alleys and confined rage, was where the uprising happened first in the West Bank, the day after it had started in Gaza. Our escort, Hamid, a 19-year old in nondescript jeans and T-shirt, rattles off the names of the 17 neighborhoods of the camp: Haifa, Sabra, Damur…. The streets have been renamed for Balata residents killed by the Israelis. There have been quite a few of these since the December 10 and 11 demonstrations that started the uprising in the West Bank and left four dead. Hamid refers to the alleywise kids of Balata as “geniuses” for their ability to stay out of the clutches of the Israelis and the Palestinian mukhbirun (informers) who work for them.

The uprising has not been good for some collaborators. Hamid tells us a story which may be apocryphal but captures the mythic stature that the particulars of this uprising have taken on. The head collaborator of the camp, the mukhtar, had outlived many assassination attempts over the past several years. Recently, while he was away in Amman, some young men managed to break into his well-fortified home and in the bathroom they hung a portrait of Arafat and a noose. When he returned home and entered his bathroom, he had a heart attack and died on the spot.

Jalazoun, a large camp of 6,000 north of Ramallah, was under curfew for five solid weeks in March and April. Kamal tells us how the collaborators used to function there. He estimates that they were once about 20 in number. In return for informing on political activities and activists in the camp, they would be allowed to extort “fees” for securing permits, licenses and the like. To go to Egypt last year, Muhammad had to pay almost $600 in permit fees, including some $120 to the Palestinian mukhbirun, Huda Munir, nine months, from Jabalya, lost her eye to a rubber bullet on May 30.

In many camps and villages, collaborators have gone to the mosque to turn in their sidearms and renounce their traitorous behavior. Those who have not, we are told, remain isolated and fearful. “Now they just sit in their houses all day doing nothing,” we heard in the village of Idna. In other cases they have left for the relative anonymity of Jerusalem. Even in the case of collaborators, it seems that people have largely counted on unspoken — certainly unenforced — moral suasion to get such people to rupture their ties with the military regime. This seems to be especially the case in those villages, like Idna, where nearly everyone is related in some close or far degree to every one else. “Now is not the time to have wars between ourselves,” one villager in Idna told us. “The intifada is more important.”

Not Spontaneous

People in villages, camps and neighborhoods have been helping one another, especially those victimized by the army — a house destroyed, a husband or father seized and arrested. Most of the Palestinian casualties of this uprising, those shot dead, severely beaten, incarcerated without charge or trial, come from the camps and the poorer neighborhoods of towns and villages. We sat in many of their homes, we spoke with their mothers and sisters, their husbands and children. Our most difficult moment, probably, was in the Gaza hospital where we visited Huda Munir, the nine-month-old girl from Jabalya camp whose left eye had been destroyed by a rubber bullet. Her grandmother could not contain her anger at us; for her we were part of that world that allows Israel to get away with such outrages.

We also spoke with doctors, engineers, other professionals, people of property — people who tend to find some conservative accommodation with authority. They, too, now found themselves in a posture of confrontation with the military regime. Some are now doing their first prison stints — six months, renewable, without charges — in the sweltering desert concentration camp of Ansar III. We spoke with lawyers and human rights activists who are fighting as best they can the arbitrary rule of the occupying army. The army has imprisoned some 10,000 Palestinians since December, mostly for “thought crimes.”

People have set up local committees to handle distribution of foodstuffs in curfew and siege conditions, to organize guard duty in villages, to promote local agricultural projects. Women working in one Ramallah neighborhood committee told us that one of their first steps was to conduct a house-to-house survey to learn special needs — elderly or infirm, number of school-age children, professional and manual skills that might be needed. One project was to compile people’s blood types; this proved immensely useful as casualties mounted in the spring. They also collected donations to build up a fund for community needs.

Many of these projects, like the intifada gardens that are everywhere, are brand new, emblems of the uprising’s scope and breadth. But their rapid appearance owes to the last dozen years of “training” in student organizing efforts. This is what one Popular Front cadre meant when he described the uprising as “not planned, but not spontaneous.” There is, of course, a strong streak of competition that characterizes relations among the four major political organizations — Fatah, the Popular Front, the Democratic Front and the Palestine Communist Party. Each has its “grassroots” organizations. Only in the case of the women’s organizations has there been aserious effort at unifying or at least coordinating activities. The women’s committees and the Medical Relief Committee have nearly a decade of organizational experience. Medical Relief, for instance, was started by five doctors in 1979. Today it has a membership of some 800 health professionals, according to founder Mustafa Barghouti, including 315 physicians. In 1982, its mobile clinics saw 2,000 patients; in 1987 the figure was 50,000, and 28,000 during the first five months of the uprising.

The rivalry between the organizations to enlist new recruits seems muted, at least by contrast with the situation in the trade union movement a few years ago. The main competition for recruits, we were told, is in the dense refugee camps. Some of the fiercest rivalry, apparently, occurred in the first few months of the uprising. Perhaps not surprisingly the Communists and the Democratic Front, whose platform and ideology are very close and who therefore compete most directly for the same constituency, were most heatedly at odds. The situation seems to have improved, largely by popular demand, though many here worry that rivalry may again reach destructive proportions. “It is our national disease,” one young university teacher said.

By some accounts, the main competition in the current phase comes chiefly from Fatah, whose broad street support has in the past seemed to exempt it from the need to work through such grassroots organizing. Now, in the new conditions created by the uprising, some activists affiliated with the other organizations say Fatah is trying to muscle in with its greater material resources and its weight of popularity without doing the hard, slogging organizing work that the others have put so much time and effort into. On the other hand, Fatah has very impressively mobilized youth and students through its Shabiba organization. Fatah thus provides a focus and channel for popular energies that otherwise might go untapped, or that would be under the diffuse direction of the Muslim Brothers or other Islamist elements.

Leadership Composition

This is the scene in the West Bank, as we could discern it. In Gaza, the left groups and Islamic Jihad, along with Fatah, comprise a regional Unified Leadership. In Gaza both the Communists and the Islamists have more militant reputations for confronting the Israelis in the streets than their counterparts in the West Bank. The impression we got was that the Islamists were going off on their own a bit in places where they were particularly strong, such as Khan Yunis, calling demonstrations and the like. On the West Bank the Islamist current seems more diffuse and lacking cohesion and organizational competence.

Related to the dynamics between the various organizations and tendencies is the unevenness of the mobilization process. The neighborhood and village committees tend to be concentrated in the central part of the West Bank (Ramallah-Jerusalem-Bethlehem and the camps and villages in these districts) and in Gaza. In Balata and Nablus, for instance, local organizers told us that the frequency and duration of curfews and sieges and the constant threat of army attacks had kept them occupied with more pressing duties. One young activist in Balata even used the word “luxury” to refer to the committees that had so impressed us further south. The disparity, though, may also reflect the relative strength and organizing history of the left organizations in the central region and in Gaza, and the prominence of Fatah in the north. The most organized villages seemed to be those where at least two, and often all four, of the major organizations have a presence, in just about every case going back several years before the uprising.

The structure of the uprising’s leadership is not publicly known or widely discussed, and secrecy has doubtless been one factor behind its success. The Unified National Leadership appears to be located physically in the Jerusalem/Ramallah area, if several seizures of freshly printed leaflets are any indication. All that is known is that each of the four major organizations is represented, probably by one delegate each who rotate frequently. This is one reason the military regime has resorted to indiscriminate, mass arrests. One military raid came to the home of a Gaza man who had died two years ago. These roundups — one human rights lawyer characterized the tactic as “trolling” — have probably nabbed a few high-level cadre, but have clearly failed to put the Unified Leadership out of business.

In the cities, camps and villages the cadres of the major organizations are responsible for interpreting and implementing the bayanat (manifestos) of the Unified Leadership. The composition of this local leadership thus reflects the balance of political forces in that area. In Gaza, the Islamic Jihad is represented; in Nablus, it seems, the higher committee consists essentially of the local Fatah leadership. Both in Nablus and Gaza there have been instances where the local leadership has issued its own directives elaborating the instructions of the Unified Leadership for local conditions. This local leadership appears to be fairly unstructured. We encountered one village where local Communist Party cadre said there was a village “higher” committee consisting of one representative from each of the major organizations. From what we could ascertain, though, this local leadership generally functions more informally.

This means that the left organizations have significantly coequal weight with Fatah at the key juncture of the Unified Leadership. Their weight on the ground is variously distributed, though generally speaking it is greatest in the central Ramallah-Jerusalem-Bethlehem area. The uprising has provided opportunities for these groups to extend their influence. One undisputed achievement of the past seven months has been the quantum extension of mass organizing. Yet the uprising has also engaged massive numbers of people who remain politically unorganized. The Palestinian street by and large belongs to Fatah. One of the most interesting questions today is how the insights and organizational experience of the left groups will influence the street in any long-lasting way, and reciprocally how the weight of Fatah (and the Islamists) in the street will inform the decisions of the Unified Leadership.

Dual Power

Although there have been occasional lapses (reflected in the simultaneous appearance of more than one “genuine” bayan), the requirements of consensus decision-making have kept the leadership’s demands realistic, things that people can accomplish. It is unrealistic to demand that all Palestinians stop working in Israel immediately. Instead, there are total strike days, once or twice a week, when people should not travel to Israel to work. This enables the Palestinians to retain the initiative.

The clandestine Unified Leadership represents legitimate political authority today in the West Bank and Gaza. It is precisely this protracted condition of dual power which constitutes the uprising’s main achievement, and the main target of the Israeli military regime. This dual power is manifest everywhere — the merchants’ strikes, the tax resistance, the local organizing. The existing Palestinian police force is no more than a vestigial attachment to the regime. The Israelis have literally had to reconquer villages, often more than once, using hundreds and in some cases many hundreds of troops. In May, when Maj. Gen. Amram Mitzna, the commander in the West Bank, was asked if there were “still any so-called liberated villages,” he replied that there were still “a few villages, which I would not call liberated, but places that we enter more infrequently.”

Perhaps the most impressive evidence of the authority of the Unified Leadership has been the widespread unity and discipline around methods and tactics, and in particular the decision not to take up arms. In the first six months, anyway, the Palestinians have largely maintained the political initiative. The military regime was unable to force its will on the merchants, and has given up this front. There is now talk of abandoning the different-colored license plates marking off Gaza and West Bank vehicles, so as to make it less easy for the young stone throwers to discriminate against Israeli ones. Of course, this would remove one small tool the occupiers had invented to establish such discrimination for their own purposes.

The military can command that the schools open or close, but they cannot determine which serves their purpose: when open, they provide points of assembly for demonstrations and the like; when closed, the children take up subversive subjects such as Palestinian history and geography in the classes set up by the local committees. Likewise, the prisons have long served as schools for militants who are more skilled and organized when they leave than when they entered. So the tactic of mass arrests also has a "downside" from an Israeli point of view. Not that it is a “mistake.” Rather, it illustrates the dilemma Israel faces in trying to impose its rule on a thoroughly hostile population.

The Israeli military regime sees as its main task to beat down these efforts at establishing a parallel, competing political authority. This is why the soldiers shut down the agricultural committee in Bayt Sahour and arrested the local agronomist and civil engineer who had helped organize it. This is why the military regime closed down the Society for the Preservation of the Family in Ramallah. This is why military patrols shoot to shreds makeshift Palestinian flags that youths hang from utility wires. This is a struggle for political control, not matters of military security. Avishai Margalit has accurately translated the military regime’s commitment “to restore law and order” as a determination “to erase the smile from the face of Palestinian youth.”

The Israelis still enjoy an enormous capacity to enforce their rule, of course. The Unified Leadership had declared June 19 as a day to boycott totally the military administration: no permits, no licenses, no paying taxes, no contact at all. That day outside the Ramallah district headquarters there were exceptionally long lines of Palestinians. Israel Radio crowed as to how this showed the limits of the Unified Leadership’s authority. It did, but is also showed the limits of Israeli authority. For several days before, military checkpoints in the Ramallah area stopped cars and liberally confiscated licenses and IDs, and told their owners they would have to appear that day to reclaim them. In such ways the military regime drives home what all Palestinians are well aware of: that they are not yet capable of throwing off the control that the IDs represent.

The Israelis set up the same sort of contest when they decreed that all Gaza residents would have to get new IDs of a different color. The Unified Leadership fell into the political trap by calling on Gazans to boycott this order. When we visited Gaza, Palestinian friends told us that most Gaza City residents had gotten the new IDs; those who did not were mainly people who were wanted for questioning anyway. It was now the turn of Jabalya camp. On June 12, we walked over to the Gaza military administration headquarters around 6:30 am. An enormous line of men, five to eight wide, stretched back up the road and then around the corner for several more blocks — perhaps two to three thousand. Back at the corner there were clusters of men around makeshift street corner photo studios, getting their Polaroid portraits, and others around men with old typewriters perched on stools or chairs filling out requisite forms. Some of the men in line told us the soldiers had brought them in buses a few hours earlier from Jabalya. Most of them faced a long day in the sun, and even at this early hour it was clear that tempers were short. There were surges forward that moved down the line like a wave. As the crowd spilled out into the roadway, a military jeep would roar up the road along the edge to force them back into some semblance of a line. When the soldiers saw us, this became a "closed military area." We moved around for a while longer, and eventually left. After we got a few blocks away, out of sight, we heard the loud pop of rifles firing tear gas and rubber bullet canisters. We later learned that there were a number of injuries, but no fatalities. Again, the Israelis had imposed their military and administrative will, but had they convinced these thousands of men that their future lay with the occupation and its new, red identity cards?

The Gaza ID issue nevertheless points up a real problem for the uprising leadership. “You cannot ask people to do things they cannot do,” said one activist who was critical on this matter. “Now the people read the bayanat. They do the things they can do and they leave the rest. But if you accumulate ten or a dozen setbacks like this, you will lose the people.”

Virtually everyone we spoke with saw the present phase as one of consolidation of the achievements of the first six months, a transition to a new phase of struggle. All characterized the coming period as one of “civil disobedience,” meaning the severance of all links to the military authority and the Israeli economy. At issue, though, is how complete the rupture should be, and in what time frame. Popular Front cadres argue that groundwork has been laid, that key sectors of the population are ready to make a radical break. It would be an error of historic proportions, they say, to remain in this transition stage for very long and risk wasting the enthusiasm and determination that the uprising embodies. Most other cadres feel that much more patient, low-profile organizing needs to be done, that the Palestinians need to choose carefully the time and circumstances for the next upsurge of activity. The Palestinian leadership and organizations cannot provide the material support for a campaign of total civil disobedience at this time. Such a step now would be irresponsible. The Popular Front people argue that this errs on the side of caution, that the only way to establish the conditions for a total break with the military regime is to precipitate situations that build up people’s capacity to endure and to do without. Others respond that people’s limits are already being tested, especially in the villages and camps where days and weeks of curfews, sieges and beatings take a steady toll while feeding resistance.

Declaring Independence

Most Palestinians will not hesitate a minute if you ask what they think they have achieved. In the first place, they say, it has had a profound impact on their own lives, on the way they see the world, on the way they relate as individuals to one another. The uprising has done a lot to bring Palestinians together, to close the gap of experience between Gaza and the West Bank.

There is enthusiasm for breaking down the patterns of consumption that has helped make the occupied territories such a large market for Israeli manufactures, an enthusiasm for doing without and for sharing. There is a kind of euphoria that tends to minimize the problems and difficulties they face, that exaggerates the effectiveness of their popular authority against Israeli repression. But it seems undeniably true that the uprising has completely marginalized pro-Hashemite elements, leaving absolutely no basis for the “Jordanian option” favored by Washington and the Labor party.

Besides their own, Palestinian, society, they see the greatest impact on their adversary, Israel. The uprising has deepened the crisis of the occupation and raised its costs across the board. We encountered some very creative efforts by Palestinian leftists to link up with Israeli opponents of the occupation — for instance, having weekly tours for Israelis to different West Bank villages or camps, and encouraging Israeli groups to “adopt a village” or camp and be responsible for providing material aid when needed and for protesting army sieges, curfews and the like. In the immediate aftermath of the Bayta incident in early April, a joint Palestinian-Israeli Committee for Bayta was formed to head off the campaign of the Israeli right and the settlers’ movement to raze the village and expel all its inhabitants. “Bayta was a very close thing,” one of the Palestinian organizers told us. “[The settlers] came very close to precipitating an atrocity that would have had a very bad effect.” Palestinian morale would have suffered greatly, and the intifada might have degenerated into violent outbursts that would have led to more atrocities and more mass expulsions. The function of the joint committees and the programs bringing Israelis into contact with the Palestinians is not only protective; it is also part of a strategy to combat Palestinian anti-Jewish chauvinism, and to force Israelis to confront the settler movement and isolate it.

We found a surprising degree of unity among people from all tendencies regarding Palestinian demands. The Unified Leadership has lately issued several specific lists of immediate demands, such as release of prisoners and pulling troops out of populated areas. We heard no criticism of those demands from the Palestinian side; the Israeli government rejects them out of hand.

With respect to more ultimate goals, we also found remarkable Palestinian unanimity around the two-state formula. Even before the now-famous memorandum of PLO spokesperson Bassam Abu Sharif surfaced in mid-June, when we asked what would be the most important contribution the PLO leadership outside could make to the uprising, the most frequent response we heard was this: to state unambiguously that the PLO accepts a two-state arrangement, Palestinian and Israeli, as the basis for a political resolution of the fundamental conflict. The one organizational demurral, not surprisingly, comes from Popular Front cadres, who somewhat tepidly endorse this as an “interim” solution. “Interim to what?” we heard others scoff, who saw this reluctant endorsement as an important step in the Popular Front’s move away from its rejectionist position.

Most of the people we spoke with endorsed the contents, and certainly the gist, of the Abu Sharif document, though they were critical of its clumsy debut. “I want them to say it very clearly, not in the manner of Arafat,” said Birzeit University teacher Azmi Bishara. “Not because this will change Israeli policy any time soon,” Bishara continued, “but for one reason: because it’s a golden opportunity for saying to the Arab world and the rest of the world that this is what we Palestinians want: no more, but no less. Not what Jordan wants, not what Syria wants, but what the Palestinians want. The Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza have given the PLO leaders another opportunity to change their strategy, to stand apart from Syria, from Jordan, from the rest. It is a chance for the Palestinians to declare their independence from the Arab states as well as from Israel.”

Since we left in late June, the confrontations and casualties have escalated again. To complement Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s policy of “force, might and beatings,” Israel’s military regime has embarked on a widespread campaign of sieges, curfews and economic restrictions — collective punishments outlawed by the Geneva Conventions — to try to smother the uprising.

Bayt ‘Umar, a village south of Jerusalem, was chosen for “model” treatment: the military command summoned some 50 farmers and told them they would not get the usual permits to market their produce — mainly plums, now ready to harvest — in Gaza, Tel Aviv and Jordan. The mukhtar says this will cost Bayt ‘Umar about $5 million, or 90 percent of its annual income. “Bayt ‘Umar looks harsh,” says Clinton Bailey, an Israeli-American “expert” on Arab affairs at Tel Aviv University who advises the Defense Ministry, “but when you are confronted with an overall uprising and a challenge to government, you have to decide how to deal with it.” For Bailey, options are limited: “Your choice is to either club them over the head or get the society itself to come to some kind of modus vivendi.”

Israeli and American commentators lament that “the quality of life” has become hostage to the uprising, at the insistence, of course, of the Palestinians. For most Palestinians “quality of life” is not something that can be measured exclusively by indices of purchasing power. Even Mitzna, the West Bank commander, acknowledged in June that there has been an “irreversible” rise in political self-confidence. Yet in practically the same breath Mitzna asserted that “we want the Palestinians not just to fear when they see an Israeli soldier, but to respect an Israeli soldier.”

We found the observation of one Palestinian activist to provide the best summary of the present stage. “The main question,” he said, “is now this. How much violence can the Israelis deploy, and how much can the Palestinians endure? If the Israelis could use all the means of violence at their disposal, they could surely wipe out the uprising. If the Palestinians could endure any level of violence it would just be a matter of time before they won their independence. There is an equilibrium here we must work to preserve, and to change in the Palestinians’ favor, by limiting the Israeli recourse to violence and providing support that will enable the Palestinians to survive.”

How to cite this article:

Joe Stork "The Significance of Stones," Middle East Report 154 (September/October 1988).

For 50 years, MERIP has published critical analysis of Middle Eastern politics, history, and social justice not available in other publications. Our articles have debunked pernicious myths, exposed the human costs of war and conflict, and highlighted the suppression of basic human rights. After many years behind a paywall, our content is now open-access and free to anyone, anywhere in the world. Your donation ensures that MERIP can continue to remain an invaluable resource for everyone.


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