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The second focused on the need to draw the proper lessons from the seeming irreversibility of Israel's mode of control over the territories. Both trends emerged from the determinism mentioned above, and more particularly from the assumption of dependency and socioeconomic subordination to Israeli control. Both were permeated by pessimism: the first, by a political pessimism informed by the inability of the Palestinians as well as the Arab regimes to change the prevailing balance of power in the Middle East in the foreseeable future; the second, by a pessimism of structural determinism whereby the conditions of economic and infrastructural dependency created by Israel during the two decades were seen to be historically entrenched.

The first trend can be gleaned from the theme of the most ambitious of these meetings, "Palestinian Development under Prolonged Occupation," held at Oxford University. In response the participants suggested a number of survival strategies that would help Palestinians cope with the protracted period of struggle necessary to create new favorable conditions for the reversal of Israeli hegemony. Yusif Sayigh expressed this view most succinctly:.

Given present constraints, the viability of the economies of the West Bank and Gaza Strip can only be maintained at a low level of economic performance, even assuming the same volume of external financial support. But even this is predicated on the surrender of vital economic, sociocultural, and political desiderata. Until those political conditions on which this dependency is predicated are transformed, it was argued, Palestinians should devise survival programs that would make life tolerable and leave the fabric of community life intact.

Only programs with limited objectives and a reasonable chance of success should be planned.

Israeli Politics and the First Palestinian Intifada

The second perspective presented at the conferences shared the assumptions of this analysis concerning the impact of Israel's economic and logistic control over the territories, but arrived at radically different political conclusions that in essence advocated a kind of binationalism within the Israeli state. This view, while not generally explicitly formulated, was in fact implicit in much of the pre-intifada literature. It found its clearest and sharpest expression in a paper presented by Sari Nusseibeh at the twentieth anniversary symposium organized by the Jerusalem newspaper al-Fajr in June , in which Nusseibeh mentioned the consequences of Israeli integration as "the most salient feature the occupation has unfolded in the past twenty years.

Israel should not be seen as a system of control, but also as the totalitarian adaptation of Palestinian life to the conditions of this control in every person's consciousness-or rather, in the Palestinian unconscious:. Israel is not simply the Knesset. To think this is to be blind to the picture.

Israel is Israel is the business licenses, the building permits, the identity cards. It is the value added taxes, the income taxes, the television taxes Israel is the Tambour [Israeli] paint used to scribble slogans attacking Hanna Siniora on the walls. It could not have been expressed better.

In Nusseibeh's view, the paradox inherent in this new dependency was that it proceeded at the same pace with the heightened articulation of Palestinian self-identity. This intense national- ism was not irreconcilable with the increased assimilation into the Israeli reality, but is seen by Nusseibeh as the appropriate consequence of that integration-"a direct response, at the mental level, to the increased immersion in the system on the behavioral level.

Given the nature of Israel's control over the territories and the dispersal of the Palestinian movement after the Lebanese war, it was more likely that the Palestinians would have to accommodate themselves to Israeli hegemony rather than the other way around. Nusseibeh's solution is a restatement of the notion of democratic secularism, and an inversion, of sorts, of Meron Benvenisti's thesis: to overcome the existing system of apartheid Palestinians must struggle not for two states as was already implicit in the PLO strategy but for total enfranchisement in the context of a better national Israeli-Palestinian state.

Thus, on the eve of the Palestinian uprising the public debate within the Palestinian movement focused on two trends of political thinking, one explicit, the other implicit. The first stressed steadfastness, a development strategy of survival and communal preservation until political conditions allowed for an external intervention. The second, seeing the conditions of transformation to be irreversible, concluded that the search for sovereignty had to be traded for equality within the Israeli polity.

Yet within the occupied territories new forces were emerging on the ground that were to reshape the nature of this debate dramatically. Within a few months, the uprising-unforeseen by most-imposed a new trajectory on Palestinian political discourse in which the notions of steadfastness, survival strategies, and integration the keystones of the debate had to be redefined or abandoned, and an alternative approach, which for the purposes of this analysis I will call populism, became explicit.

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Populism versus Steadfastness. Important social transformations had been affecting the West Bank and Gaza during the two decades of Israeli rule. The most salient of these was the emergence of new social groups and classes that had been generated by the political and economic linkages between Israel and the occupied territories. Three of these are of significance in the contradiction between the modes of resistance-steadfastness and the populism-that became apparent with the outbreak of the intifada. First was a class of urban entrepreneurs who mediated Israeli control over the economy labor contractors, subcontracting businessmen, and wholesale distributors of Israeli commodities, especially in the food, textile, and building sectors.

Second was a class constituting about 40 percent of the Palestinian labor force of proletarianized peasants and refugee camp dwellers whose sole or primary source of livelihood was employment in the Israeli- Jewish sector.

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Third was a substantial grouping of unemployed or underemployed university graduates and dropouts, who, unlike previous generations that had benefitted from the oil boom in the Gulf states, could neither mi- grate nor find gainful employment at home. To these we must add a later, fourth class of energetic entrepreneurs centered on the townships of Nablus, Bayt Sahur, Ramallah, and Hebron who launched a successful campaign in the s to capture the nationalist home market "buy Palestinian" through the loopholes of Israeli control over markets and labor.

Schematically we can speak of the first and second of these classes as the primary beneficiaries of the territories' integration within the Israeli economy, with the third and fourth constituting the political and social basis or the intellectual and bourgeois components, respectively for the revival of Palestinian territorial nationalism in the s. What created the illusion of national unity in response to Israel's strategy of control during the s and the early years of the s was the amorphous ideology of steadfastness sumud -the notion that all Palestinians suffer equally under the yoke of occupation, and that therefore they must postpone resolving their internal conflicts until the stage of deliverance.

But sumud has had a murky genealogy in the idiom of the Palestinian national movement. Behind this notion lies the assumption, as Edward Said has noted, that by merely staying on their land, Palestinians were asserting their nationhood-the natural expected behavior from them being flight and exile.


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Conceptually, stead- fastness was best expressed in a series of studies on the manner by which Palestinians adopted survival strategies to accommodate their traditional social and economic institutions to Israeli control. Sharif Kana'na of Birzeit University, for example, discusses how the extended patriarchal family in the Galilee and by extension in the West Bank adapted itself to the underclass conditions to which Arab villagers have been subjected.


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In the West Bank, sumud also evolved as a form of asserting the traditional virtues of rural society attachment to the land, the fecundity of Palestinian women, and self-sufficiency. Attachment to the land took the form of an idealistic glorification of peasant society that never existed in reality. Fecundity was expressed as a parallel reaction to the Jewish nationalist obsession with Arab demographic growth "the procreation road to liberation".

And the search for self-sufficiency became a search for autarky-a perspective that was blind to the present economic realities of Israeli domination and market forces. Even today in the economic literature of the intifada we see the strong impact of this autarkic perspective in the discussion on the revival of the domestic economy.

The Degeneration of Steadfastness. The net effect of this conception of steadfastness was an assertion of traditionalism, both in the cultural domain and in the reinforcement of political hierarchies that had been hegemonic prior to the Israeli rule notable urban families and rural potentates.

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This reinforcement unwittingly corresponded to the Israeli onslaught against radical political forces of Palestinian national- ism elected mayors, activists, trade unionists, and students , which reached a symbolic height after with the "rule of the mukhtars" exemplified in the collaborationist Village Leagues. On the contrary, traditionalism became a cultural core of Palestinian nationalism. This is indeed a case where conservative national forces played a role in defeating a reactionary collaborative political movement.

Traditional steadfastness also engendered a parasitic tendency, one endemic to a number of Mediterranean societies that have experienced large- scale individual migrations. A considerable section of Palestinian society developed an addiction also witnessed today in Turkey, Egypt, and Lebanon to remittances from relatives abroad Europe, America, and the Gulf.

This continuously undermined the development of the productive sector within the country, most notably in rural society. More important still, it created the psychological milieu for dependence on external aid and supported a lifestyle that exceeded the actual productive potential of society. In Palestinian society these monetary injections affected the lives of a substantial section of the urban population, and during the s a growing proportion of villagers.

It was in this period that a polemical conflict over aid appeared between a "developmental" strategy favored by international agencies and private voluntary organizations and the strategy of "steadfastness," the latter operationally translated as keeping people on the land. International aid to the territories in the s was minuscule, and it was no more "developmental" than Arab funds channeled through the Joint Committee. Sumud money ostensibly was earmarked predominantly for infrastructural activities during the Committee's fertile years , with the bulk of its aid going to agriculture, housing, education, and municipal activities.

But aside from infrastructural investments, these funds served to buttress a most destructive and parasitic pattern of "economic development. The word sumud became a term of cynical self-denigration, often used as a mocking reference to the nouveau riche recipients of patronage money. Populism and Factional Realities.

It was against this degeneration of the ideology of sumud that a populist reaction developed. But populism itself, and the mass organizations to which it gave rise, had its roots in an earlier illusion within Palestinian society.

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This can be traced to the period after , when radical groups and social institutions saw their main task as building the nucleus of the future Palestinian state and society as a parallel power to the occupation authority. This strategy encompassed a wide array of movements and groups, from municipal councils at the top-ready to take power as administrative surrogates of the PLO-to university students and academics who conceived their role as the cadres of a technocratic intelligentsia of the future state.

At the core of this movement were the few thousand members of clandestine Palestinian parties who were building mass, quasi-legal, popular groups labor, student, women's unions, and health groups to widen their political base. This whole strategy was grounded in the perception of a new balance of power in the Middle East following the October war and preceding the Camp David Accords. But the collapse of the political illusion about the imminence of statehood did not end the dynamism of populism within the new Palestinian movement.

On the contrary, it enhanced the populist movement by stripping it of its naive idealism and through the retinue of political climbers who had joined it with the rise of the political and financial fortunes of the PLO. Populism became the ideology of a new radical and grassroots alternative to the elitist outlook of the traditional leadership of the nationalist movement both inside and outside the territories. The appearance of the mass organizations mu'assasat jamahinyya sponsored in the early s by the leftist groups within the PLO and their embrace of a populist ideology was seen as the necessary antidote to the limitation inherent in the nationalist movement.

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Two studies by Lisa Taraki and Joost Hiltermann shed significant light on the nature and structure of these groups. Thus the clandestine movement, as she explains, resorted to widening its political base through extending its network of front organizations. Such organizations would create a semi-legal protective enclave around the movement, while at the same time mobilizing thousands of young people through popular committees- lyan sha'biyya health, volunteer work brigades, women's groups, trade union blocs.

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But it would be a mistake to assess the mass organizations as performing a purely protective or "frontist" function. Their importance lies in carrying the resistance movement to a new critical plateau. They brought into the movement tens of thousands of young people who would have been reluctant to join clandestine organizations.