From religiously-minded Hamas and Islamic Jihad, to secularist Fatah and socialist Popular Front, there are various political groups that oppose Israel.
The Western media has often faced criticism for viewing Palestine's story through the prism of Israel and peddling the state narrative that the Palestinian cause has been hijacked by armed groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
But is that the case?
While the US, the EU and the UK designated Hamas a terrorist group, neither the international community nor the UN accepted that conclusion. As for many Palestinians and their international allies, both groups defend a just cause against Israeli aggression.
In 2006, Hamas won a majority in Palestinian legislative elections, showing its popular support. But the group coming to power was denied by the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who is backed by Western capitals.
The Western narrative also portrays the conflict in a way that suggests Hamas and Islamic Jihad are the only Palestinian groups opposing Israel. While the two groups are currently leading a widespread national resistance against Israel, particularly in Gaza, Palestine has historically had a comprehensive political opposition with several parties at play against the Zionist state.
There have been various political opposition organisations, ranging from secularist groups like Fatah to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. George Habash, a Christian Palestinian, was the founder of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a socialist group.
Despite the best efforts of the Israeli political machine to portray the resistance as a work of “Islamist extremists”, Christian Palestinians support the resistance against Israel as much as Muslim Palestinians.
Recent escalations have also shown the diversity of Palestinian resistance, which has been embraced not only by the people of Gaza, the political seat of Hamas, but also by the residents of occupied East Jerusalem and West Bank, where the headquarters of the Fatah-led Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) is located.
In addition to occupied territories, Palestinian citizens of Israel, who usually vote for political groups like the United Arab List, an official party in Israel, also rebelled against the Zionist state’s injustices after the Jewish settlers tried to seize the residential properties of Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah.
“The present dramatic events” show both diversity and complexities of the Palestinian resistance, which has recently been in play across both Palestine and Israel, “not allowing the violence to be reduced to the assertion that 'Israel has the right to defend itself,'” says Richard Falk, a prominent international law professor and an expert on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
US President Joe Biden defended Israel saying that it "has the right to defend itself."
“I am struck by the unique features of this cycle of violence: inter-communal violence in mixed Arab-Jewish towns in Israel, refugee protests massing on the borders with Lebanon, Jordan, internal Israel criticism of Netanyahu during the course of a security crisis,” Falk tells TRT World.
“This is what leads me to hope that this crisis may amount to an inflection point in the underlying struggle by the Palestinian people,” the Jewish-American professor views.
If Falk’s political intuition is right, Palestinians might finally come to a point where they could see the light at the end of the tunnel. The decades of struggle against Israeli injustices enabled by a brutal occupation and Western support may come to an end.
Here's a quick breakdown of the Palestinian political groups, who have shaped the resistance against Israel since the late 1950s.
Fatah, which means conquest in Arabic, was established by Yasser Arafat and his friends in 1959 in Kuwait, including, Salah Khalaf, Khalil al-Wazir, and Khaled Yashruti.
Khalaf and Wazir were assassinated in Tunisia while Yashruti died in suspicious circumstances in Beirut. Arafat’s death in 2004 in the middle of the Second Intifada was also suspicious, making many Palestinians and others believe that he was poisoned.
Long witnessing the Arab failure to stop Israeli aggression against Palestinians, the initial Fatah leadership found the group on a national resistance program initiated by mainly Palestinians. Many experts think that Fatah’s fierce attacks against Israel and Arafat’s charismatic leadership helped introduce the Palestinian plight and cause to the international community.
But Arafat and his Fatah successors were also criticised for accepting the failed 1993 Oslo Accords, which politically diminished the resistance while dividing Palestinians.
During the Second Intifada, alongside Hamas and Islamic Jihad, Fatah’s armed wing, Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, also played a major role, inflicting heavy damages to the Israeli occupying forces. Marwan Barghouti, a leading critic of Oslo in Fatah and one of the founders of the Brigades, has been imprisoned by Israel since 2002.
Under Abbas’s soft, diplomacy-based approach, Fatah lost much of its influence over Palestinians.
When Fatah’s political touch diminished in the shadow of the Oslo Accords, a new group, Hamas, which has defended a fierce armed resistance against Israel, emerged in the early 1990s. Hamas was originally the Palestinian wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, a religiously-inspired political group.
The group was established in 1987 in the wake of the First Intifada by Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi, Mahmoud Zahar, Mohammad Taha and other Palestinian figures.
Among others, Yassin, a cleric with several handicaps from quadriplegic to blindness, was regarded as the spiritual leader of the group, being the most influential personality for Hamas' decision-making. Yassin was killed by an Israeli missile when he was on the way to mourning prayers in Gaza City in 2004 during the Second Intifada.
While Israeli airstrikes and missiles have killed many Hamas leaders and commanders like Yassin to date, the group appears to fill leadership posts in a quick manner after losses. In order to prevent Israeli leadership from infiltrating into the group and protect both political and military leaders, the armed organisation has also developed highly sophisticated secrecy across the organisation.
As a result, there has been no widely known leader of the group since Yassin’s death.
After its election victory was not recognised by the PLO in 2006, tensions escalated between Fatah and Hamas, which ensured its sole control over Gaza in 2007. Since then, Gaza has been under Hamas' control.
Hamas has increasingly become the leading Palestinian force against Israel after its fierce defence of Gaza against full-scale Israeli invasions in 2006, 2008-09 and 2014.
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP)
One of the oldest Palestinian political groups, the PFLP was established by George Habash, a Christian Palestinian, in 1967. The group has been known for its socialist ideology.
After Fatah, the PFLP has been the second-largest Palestinian political bloc in the PLO for decades. The group’s current leader, Ahmad Saadat, was imprisoned by Israel in 2006, serving a 30-year sentence.
Like Hamas, the PFLP does not recognise Israel, opposing negotiations with the Zionist state. It defends a one-state solution to the conflict. The US and the EU also designate the PFLP a terrorist organisation like Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
Like Hamas, the group was established in Gaza in 1981 by Fathi Shaqaqi, Abd al Aziz Awda, Ramadan Shalah and four others. Along with six other Palestinian political groups, Islamic Jihad is a member of the Alliance of Palestinian Forces, which refuses to recognise the Oslo Accords. The group is backed by Iran.
Despite having different ideologies, Islamic Jihad and the PFLP appear to have been allied on a number of issues.
There are also numerous other Palestinian groups putting up resistance against Israel.
During the Second Intifada, Palestinian resistance also developed another remarkable opposition to the Israeli occupation. It was unarmed resistance, using Gandhian-style non-violent tactics to expose Israel’s cruel misconduct across Palestine.
Experts think that the Civilian Resistance also garnered considerable support among Palestinians.