As Palestinian frustration grows, young man considers armed struggle

Hakem* believes that armed struggle and the strategic use of violence is the only way to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He calls BDS ‘silly’ and says Hamas has gone soft. He calls Israel ‘the entity’ and says it must be dismantled. After that, Hakem adds, Jews are welcome to stay.

The situation in the West Bank is increasingly hopeless. The cost of living is spiraling out of control. Steady work is hard to find. Israeli settlements keep growing. And with the West Bank carved up by the Oslo Accords and Gaza under blockade, a Palestinian state seems more out of reach than ever.

While the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement seems to be picking up steam worldwide–and the nonviolent protests against the separation barrier have captured the international media’s eye–some Palestinians are calling for a renewal of armed struggle. In this context, I decided to publish excerpts of a lengthy interview I had with a young Palestinian man who is considering becoming a militant.

Like all Palestinians, Hakem’s life has been touched by the occupation. Because I promised him anonymity, I can’t give too many details. The wound is so deep that, Hakem says, “I have the ability to kill now…” And while he has yet to pick up arms, Hakem comments that he could “go the extremist way just to feel that I’m not under the control of somebody.”

Hakem would join the armed struggle against Israel “if only there was an organization to join.” Fatah means the Palestinian Authority and, like many Palestinians, Hakem sees the PA as “a branch” of Israel: “The PA is a project of the Israeli government. [It has been] since the beginning, and it’s not changed… it facilitates the Israeli job within the Palestinian society.”

He is cynical about the peace process in general, and the Oslo Agreement in particular, saying that it has just enabled Israel to do what it likes with the land.

Like many Palestinians, he’s given up on all of the Palestinian factions–“there’s no big difference between them”–including Hamas. Hakem points to Hamas’ recent move to the Gulf, remarking, “Now they are playing with Qatar and it’s about money. ” That places Hamas firmly within the American-Israeli-Gulf axis, according to Hakem, turning it into yet another group that is beholden to Western interests, like the PA.

It’s not just the Palestinian political parties that are frustrating to Hakem, “I’ve started to feel anger [towards] the Palestinian people because there is no soul or energy to do something against [Israel]. Rise up, yaani, come on. Rise up. We’re all under the feet [of the occupation].”

The Palestinian people, Hakem adds, have “no alternative project” and “need to develop something new.”

When asked about the Boycott Divestment Sanctions movement, which some activists consider crucial to the Palestinian struggle, Hakem answers, “By default, by default. It’s the simple duty you can do… It’s not a big thing. The silly thing is to boycott.”

As for the non-violent protests against the separation barrier, they are “bullshit,” Hakem says. “[Israel’s] violence needs a violent reaction ….Without showing them that you are strong and that you are brave they will continue humiliating and attacking [Palestinians].”

Hakem asks to emphasize, however, that armed resistance does not mean harming civilians and that he doesn’t take issue with Jews.  The issue, for him, is that the Israeli government and military separates people and privileges the Jews over all other groups. “The problemvis with the racist system.”

So the state of Israel must be dismantled and the land must “go back to its people…”

But what about the people who live in Israel now? Will the Jews be free to stay?

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” Hakem’s voice is excited. “It’s not a problem of their language [Hebrew] or the religion. “ He points to the Samaritans as a group that speaks multiple languages and straddles multiple identities. Palestinian Jews, Hakem says, could do the same.

“The Palestinians are generous, they will welcome anybody…. If you want to come to stay with me and to live with me: ahlan wasahalan. But if you want to come to control me and to [put me on] the street, then no, there is another answer for that.”

*”Hakem” asked to remain anonymous and is identified by a pseudonym