Disenchanted with their official leadership, Palestinians in the Occupied Territories, Israel, and the diaspora are increasingly redefining their struggle away from what they believe is the two-state mirage and toward resisting the one-state reality. Rather than settling for symbols of statehood and pockets of Palestinian autonomy, their starting point is Israel’s exclusive sovereignty over all the land from the river to the sea, and their focus is the Israeli government: the fact that it provides civil and political rights to Jews that are withheld from Palestinians, in varying degrees depending on their location.
The experience of Gazans over the past fifty-two weeks has been another grim reminder of how easily popular mobilization is crushed and how staggering the cost can be, with lethal force unleashed on Palestinian civilian demonstrators. What thus started as a social movement with genuine grassroots support in Gaza, the Great March of Return, one year later risks being subsumed into the nihilistic closed-loop system of episodic belligerence that characterizes relations between Israel and Hamas. Yet the rightward trajectory of Israel’s politics and the growing consensus behind Israel’s de facto annexation of the West Bank are unwittingly beginning to transform Palestinians, formerly fragmented into territorial and political silos, into a single collective entity facing different aspects of the same oppressive power: an Israeli state that discriminates in favor of Jews over Palestinians across the entire land.
The dense smoke, burning tires, and the masses of people huddled under gunfire is what, at this moment, the recalibration of the Palestinian struggle looks like. The images coming out of Gaza are an indication of Palestinian disenchantment with the political process and with their leaders. In a deeper and more significant way, we are also witnessing a revival of the core principles that always animated the Palestinian cause but that were displaced in the tangled maze of political negotiations. Israel rightly fears the power of such popular mobilization.