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The Lions’ Den of Nablus, embodiment of unified resistance

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Al Quds Mosque

Another resistance group announced its formation in August, the Lions' Den of Nablus. It has issued a stream of statements and has called for a massive mobilization against the occupation.

The Lion's Den showcases a new unity in the Palestinian resistance factions as it includes Fatah, as well as Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Hamas and the PFLP. This is both symbolically and practically important as Nablus is a Fatah stronghold.

We have even seen some Palestinian security personnel engaging in the armed resistance, ignoring and directly challenging the federal and Palestinian Authority leadership. The PA is being pressured into doing the bidding of the occupation. And this is driving more of a wedge between it and the Palestinian people.

Since the emergence of the Lions' Den other parts of the West Bank have followed suit and launched their own Lions' Den groups, or in one case, a Falcon's Nest. In a statement in October, they said: "We bring to you the news of the activation of a Falcons Nest brigade cell in Qalqilya, and what is coming is greater." Qalqilya is also traditionally a Fatah stronghold.

The context of this new unity is that since 1993, the number of settlers in the West Bank has almost tripled. In May, Israel embarked on a new operation to counter the rise of the attacks called "Break the Wave". The operation would focus on repairing the separation wall and fighting the rise of resistance groups in Jenin refugee camps and Nablus through large scale arrest campaigns.

In the first half of October the Israeli military conducted 145 search and arrest operations, detaining 127 Palestinians, including 13 children, across the West Bank. At the same time, Israel faced an increasing number of resistance operations, up from 19 in 2020 to 98 in 2021. This year, as of the end of September, there have already been around 130 attacks.

The Lion's Den has taken heavy casualties, but it also reported that a significant number of occupation force casualties resulted from a raid on Nablus in late October, none of which are referred to in the Zionist press.

The new coordinated generation of Palestinian resistance fighters has forced the occupiers to recognize they cannot simply attack with impunity. The occupiers appear to be panicking. The former head of Shin Bet, the Zionist's internal intelligence agency, stated in the Zionist press on the 22nd of October: "We are on the brink of a civil war".

The Zionist entity is standing on the edge of the abyss and the best of internal social and national disintegration. This is the real existential threat. As said before current events will show who is besieging who.

What is the history of the unification of the resistance and why was the May 2021 Unity Intifada described as such?

Well, what we saw in May 2021, people might remember, is that there was a big issue around access to the Al Aqsa Mosque and, increasingly, the settlers were being allowed access to the mosque. And also there was a lot of pressure on areas in East Jerusalem, the house demolitions, evictions of Palestinians, and that led to an up swelling of of anger and resistance, which cut across normal political divisions.

So people got together and were united in a way which had not been the case for some years prior to that. That's why it was called the Unity Intifada, and we see that spirit today in what seems to be the new Intifada of people acting across the established political factions to work together to resist the occupation.

David Miller, Academic

What's the significance, in your opinion, of this statement saying that there's no political project/process for the Palestinians?

You know, I think that we've seen over the past few years and few decades actually that there is no political process for Palestinians because the peace talks have failed. Israel is continuously building settlements, killing Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank en-mass and there is no accurate political representative that is actually holding Israel accountable.

The Palestinian Authority is not holding Israel accountable, is not representing the aspirations, or the desires, of the Palestinian people. In fact, they are collaborating with the Zionist entity and I think that that's something that we're going to touch up on (sic) more.

But for many Palestinians, we're not seeing any diplomatic or any other way for us to achieve our liberation, for us to achieve rights or even basic human dignity. So the significance of this statement is that, because of all of the oppression that Palestinians have been under for over 70 years, the only political process that we've ever seen be effective is through resistance.

And we've seen the resistance lead us through the Intifada, and get us even a seat at the table to begin with. And of course, Oslo was disastrous. I'm not saying that, you know, these peace talks would have brought us peace, but the farcity of them does not even exist anymore. Israel doesn't even pretend to care about the two state solution or any sort of sort of diplomacy, and we don't have any elected leadership that truly represents our desire for right of return and full liberation of Palestinian land from the river to the sea, except for ourselves, except for, you know, political parties, maybe, that are considered by the US and Israel to be "terrorist groups" and not legitimate government representatives.

Nerdeen Kiswani, Within Our Lifetime - Unite for Palestine

How would you explain the huge increase in resistance operations during the current year?

I think, coming from what Nerdeen was saying, I mean, there is no political process, there is only the possibility of liberation or death. And that's what we see here, we see the huge upswing of operations, operations which are overwhelming the occupation forces themselves, as they have been saying, hugely increased every day in the armed actions across the West Bank, this is not just just about Gaza, this is about the West Bank in particular, and you see a huge increase in resistance, meaning that there's been a lot more fighters engaged than previously, including fighters from Fatah, the faction which runs the Palestinian Authority that has led to significant splits and debates inside the Palestinian Authority.

David Miller, Academic

What you could tell us about the Lions’ Den and how it's emerging, how does it relate to previous innovations like the Jenin Brigades?

The Lions' Den emerged as a form of protection for the Palestinian people, especially, you know, in a city like Nablus, and many other Palestinian cities which regularly face raids, incursions, which are regularly under siege, you know, beyond people's homes being demolished, people are assassinated constantly.

So, The Lions' Den and similar innovations like The Jenin Brigades, as you mentioned, are really a form of protection for the Palestinian people when there is no one to protect us, when the Palestinian Authority doesn't protect us because they are collaborating with the Zionist entity.

So it has emerged because Palestinians are taking matters into their own hands. And we've mentioned the May 2021 Unity Intifada earlier, which really brought Palestinians together in an unprecedented way in recent years. And I think that that was the start of what led to The Lions' Den; this hope and reemergence of self determination, of taking matters into your own hands. As Arab countries continue to normalize around us, we know that nobody's going to give us our liberation, and the main people that are going to fight for it are ourselves.

So, it's emerged as a form of protection for the people of those cities, but also as a form of resistance and not just self defense, actually actively resisting the occupation every day, so I think that this is going to be continuous until all of Palestine is free. Wherever there is oppression or oppression that breeds resistance, and you know, innovations like The Lions' Den, even if it's wiped out tomorrow, as we see Israel continuously assassinating the leaders and members of The Lions' Den, innovations like that will continue to pop up as long as we live under occupation, Siege, blockade, and, you know, all forms of Zionist settler colonialism and apartheid.

Nerdeen Kiswani, Within Our Lifetime - Unite for Palestine

What would you say the significance is of the PIJ statement regarding Fattah when they said: "There's nothing between us and the Fatah that resists, that fights, but the Fatah that constitutes the Palestinian Authority have sold themselves to the American project."?

Well, here's a very clear statement that the Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement is not trying to recruit people from the Palestinian Authority to make their organization bigger.

They say no there is a there is a Fatah which is our ally, which is our comrade, which is the Fatah which fights, which resists, but the Fatah which collaborates with the American project, that is the Fatah which is the opponent of liberation and the resistance.

So there's a clear split going on inside the Fatah family, if you like, and we've seen that with The Lions' Den and with other similar organizations where some of the fighters who have been at the forefront of the resistance have been people from from Fatah. And, of course, what's happened then is that the there's been pressure put on the Palestinian Authority to pressure those people who would formerly have been close comrades of the Palestinian Authority. So there's a really difficult process going on there, of a split of key parts of the authority, of Fatah, people coming over to the resistance.

David Miller, Academic

As a new Intifada rumbles in the West Bank, crucial decisions are being made and actions taken which will affect the likely success of the uprising. A major threat to the resistance is the Palestinian Authority, which collaborates shamelessly with the Zionists.

The PA has been exerting maximum pressure on the resistance in close collaboration with the Zionists. Direct death threats to resistance fighters coming from the occupation with the PA then offering a seeming way out through job offers in the PA security forces.

Meanwhile, footage has emerged of PA security escorting an illegal settler who got lost back to the occupation. Days Later reports also emerged that Mohammed Al Banna, the brother of The Lions' Den leader, Mahmoud Al Banna, was tortured to death by the PA.

A cache of documents has been leaked on the Palestinian Authority, allegedly showing collaboration of elements of the PA in the death of leader Yasser Arafat. The anniversary of his death is the 11th of November. But the more pressure the settler regime puts on the PA, the more the PA may split apart and fighters are recruited from Fatah to the resistance.

As support builds internally, the unity of the resistance is being bolstered by external support. In recent months, the newly unified resistance has overseen rapprochement between Hamas, specifically, and the Syrian Arab Republic, after differences over the western proxy war against the Syrian government.

Syria. Its people and leadership, all of whom embraced the Palestinian people and were supporters of the resistance. In this heartfelt meeting we touched upon the President's determination with firm conviction to provide support from Syria to the Palestinian people and their resistance with all capabilities.

Khalil Al Hayya, Hamas Political Bureau

A crucial additional dimension to support for the resistance is the central role of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

In a major interview with Al Jazeera on October 23, Ziyad al-Nakhalah, Secretary General of the Islamic Jihad movements in Palestine stated "clearly Iran is an ally to the PIJ and the Palestinian people, it shows solidarity and support every faction of the Palestinian people. Iran is clear in its stance against Israel and America; although Iran had the choice to be selfish and think of only defending itself it continuously provides support to our cause.

Iran also provides military support and strategic expertise to the resistance forces and Hamas enjoys the lion's share of their support. Iran only has honest intentions in aiding us with our liberation."

It has been alleged that the Palestinian Authority up to its neck in collaboration with the Israeli regime. Would you say that's a fair characterization?

I'm afraid it is, I mean, the authority itself is deeply involved in Israeli security apparatus and what you've been seeing in recent weeks, in Nablus and other areas, is that the Israelis threaten individual fighters with death.

And then the Palestinian Authority goes and contacts them, sometimes meets with these people, and offers them jobs in the PA security apparatus.

And so it's a coordinated strategy, where there is a very, very, close collaboration between the Israelis and the Palestinian Authority.

And, of course, that's a really problematic issue especially given many of the people in the Fatah faction are joining, and are involved, in the resistance.

David Miller, Academic

How would you describe the role of the Palestinian Authority in the current circumstances?

Unfortunately, the Palestinian Authority continues to collaborate with Israel, as I mentioned earlier, and there have actually been recent reports of members of The Lions' Den surrendering themselves to the Palestinian Authority which, you know, we don't know how that's gonna (sic) turn out.

But we've seen in the past, you know, resistance figures and fighters who were actively fighting for the Liberation of Palestine being undermined by the Palestinian Authority in prison, beaten up and even killed.

So we know where their loyalties lie. They are heavily funded by the US. They collaborate with the US and Israel and they are influenced by that and they wouldn't be in power if they weren't, to be frank, because we know that there's no such thing as actual democratic elections in Palestine, because when the US and Israel and other countries don't like the result, they'll just form a coup. ... we haven't had elections in over 10 years and at this point, the Palestinian Authority is less concerned with actually representing the interests of its people, versus doing what it needs to do in order to maintain power and maintain survival (sic) and stay on the side of the US, of Israel; that allows them to exist in this current form.

So, unfortunately, many Palestinians feel betrayed by the Palestinian Authority. And I've even heard stories of people who say that they would rather be arrested and killed by the Zionist enemy than have their own people place them in the line of fire.

So we've known that the PA has delivered Palestinians to be jailed in Israeli jails, has delivered Palestinians that have been on hunger strike.

So you know, even though Palestinian people who are actively taking on this resistance are getting popular support from the people of Palestine, I don't have trust in the Palestinian Authority to actually reflect that and respect these people for putting their lives on the line for our collective liberation.

And I just see them continuously collaborating with the Zionist project moving forward, even if they pay lip service sometimes, here and there, you know, to the broader Palestinian struggle.

Nerdeen Kiswani, Within Our Lifetime - Unite for Palestine

What is the significance of the meeting in Damascus with President Assad?

It's hugely significant because Hamas had fallen out quite badly with the Syrian government. They are now back in the fold.

And it means that the there's a unity there with Syria, Iran, Hezbollah, Ansarullah in Yemen, and the Popular Mobilization Units in Iraq.

It means a unity across the whole of the resistant community in West Asia.

David Miller, Academic

The interview with the leader of the PIJ is interesting in that it claims that Iran is selfless in supporting the resistance. What do you make of that?

Well, there's a lot of feeling in the West, of people who think that Iran and Syria are not really anti imperialist countries, they're really not properly supporting the resistance.

If you ask what the resistance in Palestine says. ... you've got the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, perhaps the most radical of the factions, are saying, look, Iran doesn't have to be doing this. It's doing this selflessly. And it's supporting the resistance in a comprehensive way, meaning, not just political support, but also direct military and strategic support as well.

And so that's an indication really of what's happening in Palestine is that the resistance, which is unified internally, also has increasingly unified external support from Syria, and indeed, from Iran. And that's a really significant factor in what's going to happen next.

David Miller, Academic

What should the Palestine Solidarity Movement in the West learn from this?

I think one of the most important lessons, you know, I've seen over my time in the Palestine movement, at least here in the US, is that we should never try to make our movement palatable for Western consumption just for that sake, we should never undermine the role of the resistance or hyper focus on this human rights discourse that just places us as passive victims, because we are not that, we are fighters.

We are resisting. And I think that that's something that's beautiful, and that should be celebrated by people in the West. And just because we are labeled as terrorists by countries like the US and Israel, we have to reject that notion.

We look at how the world reacted to Ukrainians and they were calling them freedom fighters, even using a picture of Ahed Tamimi, claiming that she was a Ukrainian girl fighting for freedom, when in reality she was a Palestinian girl who had actually served eight months sentence in prison for slapping an Israeli soldier that kicked her off of her lands.

So we know that the world understands this concept of freedom fighters, but unfortunately, they never placed that onto the Palestinian people or oppressed people, in general. They never looked at us through that lens, and we don't need them to, but we should never undermine our own people, our struggle, our cause, to try to fit it into this western standard that's never going to accept us to begin with (sic).

It's our role to represent the principles of our people back home, to honor them, to the highest degree, to understand that those who are resisting are not terrorists.

They're defending their right to a future, they're defending the right for their mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, children to live in peace and dignity, free of harm, free of settler colonialism, occupation, apartheid practices, Siege blockade, constant bombardment, bombings, killings.

So I think that that we have to focus on these principles remain steadfast. We know that the world is taking a while to catch up to the Palestine struggle and understand that we will be liberated and we must be liberated by any means necessary, but we will get there and we're seeing that shift happen and the only way that we can make that shift happen is if us (sic) the people who are building the movement actually uphold these principles. Because if we're not the ones upholding them, who will?

I think that this isn't just for people in the US; this is for people who are in solidarity with Palestine across the world.

We take our lessons and our cues from those who are most directly affected on the ground and those who are resisting the occupation by any means necessary.

Nerdeen Kiswani, Within Our Lifetime - Unite for Palestine


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