Edition 2: No. 62
In a recent statement, U.N. human rights investigator, Richard Falk spoke out on the cold blooded murder of a Palestinian prisoner in an Israeli jail: “The death of a prisoner during interrogation is always a cause for concern, but in this case, when Israel has shown a pattern and practice of prisoner abuse, the need for outside, credible investigation is more urgent than ever.” That was a reaction from a credible observer whose years of investigations on Israeli actions in Palestine have resulted in exposing the extreme distress that Palestinians endure.
The death of Arafat Jaradat may not exactly be the worst thing that happened in Palestine. Much worse keeps getting repeated on a daily basis. But, what happened to Arafat Jaradat is vastly objectionable because it says to the world: Israel’s predilection for harsh and cruel measures is crossing margins that are ever widening. They are repeated with impunity. Indeed, the death of Arafat Jaradat is turning out to be a defining characteristic in the confrontation between Israel and Palestine. The Palestinians have threatened to take the matter of Arafat Jaradat’s death to the International Criminal Court. Prisoners in Israeli jails have gone on a mass hunger strike and the streets of the West Bank have erupted in protest against the ghastly and brutal killing.
Is the Third Intifada about to be launched? It does not take a lot for a protest over a single occurrence to translate into a larger and prolonged people’s movement. Palestinians have borne the brunt of Israel’s atrocities for far too long. They have waited in vain for the international community to intervene and make a difference. They have resisted peacefully and in a multiplicity of ways, hoping that Israel might someday see the folly of their ways and the truth of their unjust occupation. But to no avail.
Some events, though, have the potential to be the spark that can generate the energy for a larger rebellion. Already the protests demonstrate defiance and fearlessness for what may prompt ruthless Israeli responses. There will be vicious Israeli suppression if an Intifada were to break out. The measures would be ruthless. The Palestinians would bear the brunt of it. The world now in siesta mode- apathetic, callous about the urgency of the need for a comprehensive solution may just be aroused to intercede more decisively.
There is anxiety in western capitals already. Through various channels, they are asking Palestine for restraint and promising intervention in return. Experience, however, illustrates that such diplomatic interventions will be half-baked and geared to neutralise Palestinian anger. Opium almost! An attempt to hush things up! To allow Israel to be Israel – brute and bullying! Israel will persist with its occupation and worsen things with the time they buy with these delay tactics.
Palestinians cannot be asked to wait eternally for some supposedly auspicious day when Israel will wake up to the realization that their apartheid regime was, after all, wrong from the very start. By creating facts-on-the-ground Israel has dimmed hopes of just solutions. There is a worsening scenario- more settlements, more house demolitions, more displacement, more dispossession, more imprisonments, more of the wall, more of the blockade, more military outposts and check points, more deviation from the peace track, more restriction on freedom of movement – it gets worse.
If an Intifada were to be launched in the near future, it would signify that the people sense a crisis in their conditions owing to the occupation; a crisis that stems from heightened violations of human rights, sharp deterioration of humanitarian standards for the people, and a creeping sense that the political stalemate has taken root. These stark realities will then determine the timing and form of a peoples’ uprising and revolt- the Intifada.
For, after all, history attests to the fact that the powerful do not part with power voluntarily. They concede only when organized resistance makes it difficult for the power holder to wield supremacy any longer. In that sense, an assertive resistance through means that are relevant to the context must be pursued. The romance of non-violence has not yielded results and this alone makes for opening up the risks of a violent conflagration. The Gaza war and other Israeli escapades across borders have not left either side winners. But Israel must learn by now that mere military power cannot bring victory. They should acknowledge that war and violence will not win peace. Resistance is in the hearts and minds of the occupied and will always return to haunt the occupier.
The article we share in this issue of Palestine Update is titled –“How Intifada Fears Show Only Israeli Security Matters and is by Yousef Munayyer, a Palestinian American writer and political analyst. Hopefully, it will serve as an analysis and projection of the political factors that are, and will be in play in Palestine, in the coming weeks and months.
How Intifada Fears Show Only Israeli Security Matters
by Yousef Munayyer
Israeli security forces approach Palestinan stone throwers during clashes at the al-Arub refugee camp North of the West Bank city of Hebron, on February 26, 2013. (Saif Dahlah / AFP / Getty Images)
It’s happening again. Talk of the possibility of a third Intifada is on the rise as increased Palestinian protests are recurring in the West Bank. Many are on edge waiting for the spark. What will it be?
In late 1987, four Palestinians killed by an Israeli truck driver on a road in Gaza set off the first major uprising. The massacre of 29 Palestinian worshipers in Hebron by an Israeli settler 19 years ago this week catalyzed a wave of bombings in the mid-1990s. In 2000, it was Ariel Sharon’s visit to the Dome of the Rock with a massive armed escort that set off the second Intifada.
As settlements expand, as occupation deepens and with the absence of any acceptable peace plan, any event could be the spark. There was the killing of 17 year-old, Mohamad Salaymeh, in December. Israeli soldiers shot and killed Lubna Hanash, a 22 year-old female, in Hebron last month. Then there are the regular attacks of settler violence against Palestinians like this shooting in Qusra last week.
There is also the persistent Israeli firing into Gaza which has led to numerous Palestinian deaths and casualties since the “ceasefire.” Or the racist beating of a Palestinian man in Yaffa by a dozen or more Israeli Jews or the assault on a Palestinian women in Jerusalem. And, of course, the death of Arafat Jaradat, a 30 year-old Palestinian detained for allegedly throwing stones, only to have died days later in an Israeli prison after apparent torture.
Any one of these recent events could have been the spark. But why are we awaiting a spark when it is clear the situation is already on fire? Well, it is for Palestinians, at least.
The fear of an oncoming Intifada, so commonplace in Israeli and Western debates and policy discussion on the issue, underscores exactly how this discourse is problematically filtered through the prism of Israeli security alone. The State Department is now calling for “maximum restraint.” The Israeli prime minister’s office issued Mahmoud Abbas an “unequivocal demand to restore quiet.”
But the occupation itself is an intolerable and constant system of violence. It has been ongoing for decades, with episode after episode that could be a spark. Yet it is because an Intifada—or Palestinian uprising—is understood to mean that Israelis will face greater security risks, it suddenly generates urgency and fear. The message this sends is that only when Israeli security is challenged does the world seem to take note. The perpetual insecurity of Palestinians living under Israeli military occupation is acceptable to Israeli and American power-brokers.
The elevation of Intifada periods alone to the level of crisis suggests non-Intifada periods are not a crisis. But, in reality, the denial of self-determination to millions of people through military occupation is a crisis – a human rights crisis and a catastrophe.
What we should be asking is not, Are we on the cusp of the next intifada? But rather, why on earth do we have to be in order to demand change to a fundamentally unjust situation?