Academic journal article The Middle East Journal

Speaking Stones: Communiques from the Intifada Underground

Academic journal article The Middle East Journal

Speaking Stones: Communiques from the Intifada Underground

Article excerpt

Speaking Stones is primarily a collection of leaflets distributed by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)-related United National Command (UNC) and by Hamas, during the Palestinian Intifada (uprising). The leaflets are translated by Shaul Mishal of Tel Aviv University and Reuben Aharoni of the University of Haifa. Mishal and Aharoni contribute two introductory chapters: The first explains impressively the reasons why the Intifada began in 1987, and not earlier, and the second analyzes the content of the leaflets. There is also a short conclusion comparing the treatment of key issues by the UNC and Hamas.

The authors emphasize that a set of demographic, economic, and educational developments-notably the spread of education without corresponding job opportunities-intensified the radicalism of the Palestinian youth. (Apparently they do not mean to suggest that providing jobs would guarantee acquiescence to oppression.) And they note that the uprising also required the "participation of the merchants and the whitecollar group," whose natural "caution" gave way as a result of (1) "the absence of an effective local leadership to shield them from the pressures exerted by the young radicals," and (2)"the growing erosion in Jordan's standing in the West Bank, weakening its ability to offset radical influences" (p. 6).

Mishal and Aharoni depict a pre-Intifada pattern of three-way collaboration among influential pro-Jordanian elements, the Israeli occupiers, and the PLO. They note that "the PLO was willing to acquiesce in Israel's continued occupation of the territories, assisting it to ensure normalization in day-to-day life" (p. 13), while the local leadership preferred "simultaneous reliance on the PLO and Jordan, followed by cooperative relations with Israel" (p. 14), which allowed PLO funds to be funneled in to the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The authors trace the roots of the uprising back to Ariel Sharon's campaign in the early 1980s against local leaders. This included the dismissal of pro-PLO mayors, with Israel then failing to find an alternative leadership able (in the case of the Village Leagues) or willing (in the case of proJordanian figures) to fill the vacuum produced by such removals. Mishal and Aharoni say that this culminated-following the suspension in 1986 of the `Amman Agreement of the previous year for joint PLO-Jordanian participation in peace talks in a situation in which the position of the PLO was consolidated and "nothing could contain the violent activity of the young generation" (p. …

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