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Splits in Uprising Leadership Emerge over Return to Schools in West Bank

July 31, 1989
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A general strike Sunday in the administered territories drew attention to rifts within the unified command of the Palestinian uprising, which is affiliated with the Palestine Liberation Organization, and also between the PLO and the Islamic fundamentalist movement Hamas.

Schisms were revealed in different instructions the groups gave to students about attending school during the strike. Hamas urged the students to return to school despite the strike, while much of the PLO leadership told the students to remain at home.

The students appear to have been confused by the different instructions.

Hamas wanted to observe an agreement that school attendance would continue despite other strike activities. Various Palestinian factions reached that understanding when Israeli authorities permitted the schools to reopen July 20.

But PLO supporters believe the continuation of studies could create a normalization that would undermine the uprising.

In the end, most schools in the West Bank remained open Sunday, and many students attended classes. But there were tensions that caused numbers of students to return home.

In the village of Beit Ummar, near Hebron, for instance, students showed up for classes but were frightened away by masked youths who came to the schools to intimidate them.

In some refugee camps, such as the Dehaishe camp near Bethlehem, students just stayed home.


In other places, such as the Jenin area of the West Bank, north of Nablus, the PLO’s Al Fatah faction joined the Islamic fundamentalists in urging the students to return to school.

The more radical Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine warned the students to stay home.

The schools have largely been closed for more than a year, on the grounds that they served as bases for violent demonstrations. The schools were opened after Israel reached a tacit agreement with PLO and Hamas leaders that they would remain off-limits to the uprising.

But the question of studies on strike days was left unresolved, as was evident Sunday.

The division was played out, moreover, against a backdrop of opposing Israeli positions, as a group of Jewish peace activists visited a Palestinian village in a show of solidarity.

When a large group of left-wing Israelis Saturday, Israeli soldiers immediately demanded they leave.

The Israelis included Arab Knesset members Abd-el Wahab Darousha and Mohammed Miari, as well as activists Latif Dori of Mapam and Professor Shlomo Elbaz of the Hebrew University.

The army’s presence triggered local violence. Arab youths set up roadblocks to prevent the soldiers from entering the village.

After the Israeli visitors left, the soldiers returned and clashed with the Palestinian youths.

Nahalin was the site of a bloody clash between Israeli border police and local youths several months ago. In that confrontation, five Palestinians and one soldier were killed.

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