The Unity Intifada continues

Asmaa Yassin

Mondoweiss  /  June 23, 2022

The most recent wave of resistance in Palestine should be seen as a continuation of the legacy of last year’s unity uprising and of the uprisings preceding it.

As a journalist on the ground covering the tragic events that have unfolded in Palestine in recent months–from the killing of Al-Jazeera’s veteran Palestinian correspondent Shireen Abu Akleh in Jenin, to the mass arrest campaign of Palestinians protesting the violent settler raids of the Al-Aqsa compound, to the repression of Palestinians in Masafer Yatta resisting displacement from their homes, and to the continuing hermetic military siege on Gaza–I have watched on in awe as the Palestinian people have collectively embraced all forms of resistance against the occupation. This wave of national resistance is unprecedented, coinciding with the first anniversary of the Unity Intifada of May 2021.

During that uprising, we saw unprecedented resistance to Israeli colonialism, not only from Palestinians in occupied Jerusalem, but from Palestinian citizens of Israel, who had long been excluded from the Palestinian body-politic. This resistance was also joined by widespread demonstrations in the West Bank calling for an end to apartheid rule and the dismantlement of the separation wall, while the Gaza Strip joined the fray and showed the world once again the steadfastness of its two million people as they endured yet another war of military aggression. 

We live in a time where Palestine has witnessed several moments of collective uprising, from 2015 to the present. These moments of revolt have been fleeting, ebbing and flowing with the tide of colonial provocation. But they have also steadily increased, and have generally tended to become broader and more inclusive with every time, extending to include progressively broader geographical areas and wider sections of Palestinian society. The Unity Intifada of May 2021 was the most notable for bringing Palestinian citizens of Israel back into the fold of direct confrontation with Israeli authorities.

The most recent wave of resistance should be seen as a continuation of the legacy of last year’s unity uprising and of the uprisings preceding it. This Palestinian commitment to persevere is upheld by a national consensus around the belief that “Palestine will be free”–a promise for the future liberation of all occupied Palestinian territories.

The unlawful and monstrous murder of Shireen Abu Akleh as she was reporting on the Israeli raid of Jenin refugee camp came on the back of escalating Israeli crackdowns on the Palestinian presence in Jerusalem. The scene of Shireen’s funeral, as thousands of Palestinians reclaimed the predominantly-Israeli area of Bab al-Khalil, was a clear refusal to bow down to Israeli repression. 

The reason for Israel’s systematic infringement on the rights of journalists, which are guaranteed under international law, is its constant attempt to suppress the truth. Shireen was reporting directly on the occupation’s heinous crimes, with several decades of experience reporting on the military raids, killings, displacement, and demolition of Palestinian homes. That’s why she was silenced.

Nor was Shireen the first journalist to be killed by the occupation. She was preceded by the Gazan journalists Yasser Murtaja and Youssef Abu Hussein. All of them were working towards the same goal–to expose the crimes of the Israeli occupation–when they were assassinated in the line of duty. With this, the occupation has made an enemy of every Palestinian, regardless of profession, age, gender, or circumstance–in other words, an equal opportunity oppressor.  No doubt, the occupation would prefer to silence every Palestinian journalist, to cut off the Palestinians from the outside world and ensure a total media blackout.

After more than seventy years of ethnic cleansing, the Palestinian people are rising up in all of historic Palestine, extending from the Naqab, to Jerusalem, to the West Bank, and to the Palestinian lands occupied in 1948. They defend their lands and their rights through their words, with their bodies, and by force of arms. Universities are carrying out sit-ins, protestors clash with the Israeli army–and yes, even armed resistance is a valid, legitimate right, as has been so clearly illustrated in the war on Ukraine. 

This continuation of the Unity Intifada’s legacy reflects the determination to honor all the sacrifices that generations of Palestinians have made to see the dismantling of the world’s last apartheid regime. 

Palestinian resistance has also galvanized unprecedented levels of international solidarity, whether in the battle over international public opinion, academia, the escalation of the BDS movement, or even through worldwide events like #LoveAqsa.

Much of this outpouring of support is also an expression of the international outcry against inhumane Israeli conduct–the murder of Shireen, the Israeli Police’s attack on Palestinian mourners carrying her coffin during her funeral procession, the illegal squatting of Israeli settlers in Palestinian homes in Hebron, the forced evictions of Palestinians in Jerusalem, and the successive raids on Jenin refugee camp. 

Even though these Israeli measures are nothing new, it is clear that the most recent escalations are an indication of a renewed Israeli determination to impose complete sovereignty over all of historic Palestine, especially in Jerusalem. 

This is the essence of settler colonialism: they kill our people, steal our land, and then play the victim. But as long as the Unity Intifada continues in its dynamic legacy of resistance, we will continue to inch ever closer to freedom and liberation.

I recall watching Shireen’s funeral on TV with my family as tears streamed down our faces. Most Palestinians are denied entry to Jerusalem, as well as the right to attend the funeral to bid her a final farewell. But even so, every generation in my family sat rapt in astonishment, heartbreak mingled with pride as we watched the moment when so many thousands honored Shireen, and Palestinian flags flew over our capital.

Asmaa Yassin is a Palestinian freelance journalist and writer based in Gaza City