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Palestinian Popular Struggle

West Bank (Israeli-Occupied Palestinian Territory): a grassroots movement known loosely as the popular struggle or the popular resistance (المقاومة الشعبية) has been striving to build local and global solidarity against the Israeli occupation.

(The following account is brief and simplified; see chapters 4-6 of my dissertation for fuller treatment)

The movement is comprised of a shifting network of popular committees, based primarily in rural areas, such as the villages of Nabi Saleh, Bil’in, Ni’lin, al-Ma’sara, Kufr Quddoum, al-Tuwani, Beit Ummar, and al-Walaja, with some committees from East Jerusalem neighborhoods such as Sheikh Jarrah, Silwan, and Abu Dis. The committees often work in partnership with a network of independent youth activists based in Ramallah and have also developed institutional and informal ties with global civil society and international organizations.

The popular struggle has shown signs of growth and achieved some victories over the last decade, but it has not become a mass movement among Palestinians, nor received sufficient attention and support from international parties.

Yet every Friday, dozens of communities across the West Bank continue to march in defiant protest, chanting slogans of freedom, equality, justice, dignity, peace, and human rights. Dedicated Israeli and international activists march in solidarity with Palestinians. Protests are unarmed and generally nonviolent (some communities celebrate their youth who throw stones at occupation forces). And every Friday, the demonstrations are violently repressed by Israeli forces, with teargas, rubber-tipped bullets, sound grenades, skunk cannons, arrests and detentions, and sometimes lethal live ammunition.

The popular struggle has also practiced a variety of other creative direct actions across the West Bank. For example, in front of local and international media: they have staged demonstrations inside illegal Israeli settlements and on top of Israeli military bases; they have broken the concrete separation barrier around East Jerusalem on anniversaries of the fall of the Berlin Wall; they have blocked settler roads and highways; they have established protest camps to prevent the expansion of illegal Israeli settlements; they have reclaimed lost villages in the Jordan Valley; among many other direct actions.

Complicating the movement’s efforts, the police forces of the Palestinian Authority have harassed and repressed the activists when they have tried to expand into the larger population centres of the West Bank, which fall under the jurisdiction of the PA, such as Ramallah, Nablus, and Bethlehem. The popular committees, on the other hand, are based almost exclusively in the rural areas and East Jerusalem — where the PA’s jurisdiction does not exist.

The movement traces back to 2002/2003, at the height of the Second Intifada, when Israel began constructing a massive separation barrier through the West Bank. The barrier divides Palestinian communities from Palestinian communities, cutting many off from their fields and livelihoods. Many towns and villages responded by forming popular committees to lead resistance efforts. Popular committees are open, informal, community-based organizations. In some cases, villages succeeded in preventing the barrier’s construction on their land or caused it to be dismantled and scaled back, most famously in Budrus and Bil’in. Now many of the committees aim to expand their unarmed and participatory movement across the occupied territories and globally, by working with groups and movements around the world, from Black Lives Matter to Standing Rock. Palestinian civil resistance, however, is often unknown to Western audiences.

Today, popular struggle offers a promising alternative to decades of top-down leadership and failed negotiations. It offers a realistic alternative to the conventional notion that armed force is necessary to challenge injustice and oppression. It offers an accessible way for ordinary people to get involved in a struggle for Palestinian rights and global social justice.

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Learn more about Palestinian popular resistance:

From scholarly books:

Mary Elizabeth King, A Quiet Revolution (2007)          Julie Norman, The Second Palestinian Intifada: Civil Resistance (2010)           Maia Carter Hallward and Julie M. Norman eds.), Nonviolent Resistance in the Second Intifada: Activism and Advocacy (2011)          Mazin B. Qumsiyeh, Popular Resistance in Palestine: A History of Hope and Empowerment (2010)            Maxine Kaufman-Lacusta, Refusing to be Enemies: Palestinian and Israeli Nonviolent Resistance to the Israeli Occupation (2011)           

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From firsthand accounts:

Bil'in and the Nonviolent Resistance

Iyad Burnat, Bil’in and the Nonviolent Resistance (2016).This self-published book is written by a leader of the popular resistance in Bil’in. Please consider supporting the author by ordering a copy (contact the author or contact me for a copy).

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From NGO reports:

Non-Violent Popular Resistance In The West Bank: The Case Of The Popular Struggle Committees,” by Ala Alazzeh, Novact, Birzeit University, and the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee  (2011)

Under Repression,” Popular Struggle Coordination Committee (2010)

Repression Allowed, Resistance Denied,” Addameer and Stop the Wall (2009)

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From social media:


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Janna Jihad, the Youngest Journalist in Palestine,” Vice News on YouTube (Apr. 19, 2016). Janna covers the protests in Nabi Saleh. See her Facebook page.

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Nabi saleh 28 8 2015,” Bilal Tamimi YouTube (Aug. 28, 2015). A particularly remarkable Friday in Nabi Saleh. The events at the end of the video went viral, viewed many millions of times across various news and social media outlets. Some observers and commentators could not understand what they were seeing, and believed the video was a hoax.

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Resistance in the West Bank,” Vice (2013). A Vice reporter documents a day of direct actions – a series of roadblocks disrupting Israeli settler traffic across the occupied West Bank.

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From documentary films (trailers):

5 Broken Cameras, Emmy-winning, Academy Award-nominated:

Thank God It’s Friday:

Even Though My Land Is Burning:

Radiance of Résistance:


Bil’in Habibti – Bil’in My Love:


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My work in the West Bank:

I spent three months in the region (Dec.-Feb. 2014) conducting field research, including 21 semi-structured interviews (focusing mostly on Nabi Saleh, Bil’in, Ramallah, and Budrus), and 200 surveys (focusing mostly on university students). I was also there for three months in 2010, when I was first exposed to and reported on the popular resistance.

While in the West Bank, I volunteered for The Palestine Monitor, a small English-language human rights organization funded by the Palestinian Authority that provides international volunteers no-cost accommodations in Ramallah (just outside of Jerusalem). The Palestine Monitor is not a ‘neutral’ news organization; its mission it to show the Palestinian perspective, exposing life under Israeli military occupation, so the publication covers home demolitions, land expropriations, soldier and settler attacks, and many other daily human rights violations. The publication also covers the unarmed popular resistance movement that began about ten years ago among villages and communities impacted by the separation barrier and expanding settlements on Palestinian land.

A few of my posts for The Palestine Monitor, related to my research:

The siege of Ein Hijleh, Palestine Monitor (Feb. 3, 2014)

As popular resistance committees and other activist groups across the West Bank mobilized to revive a depopulated village near an Israeli military base, the army set up checkpoints and began denying the entry of food and water supplies … Hundreds of activists and supporters—men, women, and children—moved into the abandoned village, called Ein Hijleh, near Jericho in the Jordan Valley on Friday 1 February …

Lessons and legacies of the First Intifada, Palestine Monitor (Dec. 17, 2013)

What was the Intifada? How was it waged? What were its goals, and what did it achieve? Most relevantly, what does it tell us today about the prospects for finally ending the occupation and achieving an independent Palestinian state? …

Commemorations, new strategies, and clashes in West Bank resistance village, Palestine Monitor (Dec. 10, 2013)

On Saturday, 7 December, the Palestinian village of Nabi Saleh hosted a special event commemorating several important milestones and a new beginning for the Popular Struggle against the Israeli occupation of the West Bank … The day was marked by speeches, traditional dances, demonstrations, and a barrage of teargas and rubber bullets from the Israeli army stationed outside the village …

Silwan continues struggle for human rights in East Jerusalem, Palestine Monitor (Jan. 27, 2014)

Amid expanding Israeli settler development projects, mounting demolition orders on Palestinian homes, and ongoing night raids to frighten and detain children, the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan remains resilient, launching a new creative protest on Wednesday, 22 January …