Edition 2: No. 108
Israel applies desperate measures in the face of stern Palestinian resistance
Badayl-Alternatives shares with you an article by Jonathan Cook which underscores the obvious self-destruction that Israel is engaging in today. Through its policies of domination and control in Jerusalem, it risks creating a religious conflagration which can spin out of control and worsen an already harsh situation.
Jerusalem is in turmoil. Even peaceful Palestinian protests are met with ruthless suppression. At the end of Israel’s fifty-day war on Gaza, East Jerusalem was rocked by unrest. In the West Bank and East Jerusalem, Palestinians are losing count of the numbers of people who are being arrested and put into prison – all for claiming justice – for asserting their right to a life with dignity.
As a report from the Jewish Voices for Peace notes, “The tragic murders of Jews at prayer, the shooting of a 10-year-old boy on the Gaza border and the possible lynching of a Palestinian Jerusalemite have occurred in the context of an expanding system of Israeli control and oppression. All this is on top of the failure of the faulty Kerry “peace “ plan, constant land confiscation, and the Israeli assault on Gaza this summer.”
Today East Jerusalem and West Bank neighborhoods are seeing new levels of settler violence and army presence including midnight raids into people’s homes and wide scale arrests, including of Palestinian children. High-ranking Israeli officials proclaiming Israeli sovereignty over Haram al-Sharif (also known as the Temple Mount or Noble Sanctuary) have provoked violence in the holy city of Jerusalem that is likely to spread across Israel and Palestine.
A chain of events including land acquisition in sensitive Palestinian areas and the repeated incursions of Israeli police into the al-Aqsa mosque may have been the spark for the attack on the synagogue in West Jerusalem that killed four Rabbis. The synagogue attack, unacceptable as any other killing is, has come at a cost to Palestinians. The perpetrators were killed at the scene of the incident, but the Israeli government did not stop there. It pursues a policy of collective punishment against Palestinians with vengeance. There are house demolitions, arbitrary arrests. Every day people are beaten near al-Aqsa mosque and children arrested in the dozens.
Israel’s aggressive expansion of Jewish settlements into Palestinian territory is its launch pad for gaining effective control of the cultural and religious life of Palestinians. These events occur in East Jerusalem – identified as the capital of a future Palestinian state. That very fact makes them more explosive than the ‘normal’ business of Palestinian dispossession by Israel. That is why the spike in violence in the region has so much geopolitical significance, perhaps more than the deadly and bloody war in Gaza.
The open Judaisation of Jerusalem – with East Jerusalem and the Old City seeing newyeshivas, restored synagogues and expanded settlements that will make it impossible to divide Jerusalem; and the brazen Israeli denial of a two state solution happen alongside the Israeli government’s capitulation to the demands of religious nationalists. A right-wing Israeli held up a sign publicly: It read: “There is no coexistence with them.”
Palestinian resistance will expectedly evolve. Abhorrent as any form of killings are, Palestinians are seeking something tangible from Israel to deter violence. The apprehension is that Palestinian resistance could take an increasingly violent turn, especially in Jerusalem and other Palestinian enclaves within Israel if Israel pursues its ongoing policies.
For the current cycle of violence to come to an end, it will require unceasing but peaceful pressure from within Palestine and from the international community – everyone who subscribes to the striving for justice on foundations of love to stipulate that Israel remove those circumstances that create oppression and injustice. Resistance must use the “logic of love and draw on all energies to make peace”, it asserts. Indeed, civil disobedience, and other economic and social measures that compel Israel to talk and make peace including the BDS in all its dimensions must be pursued. It is said “Power does not part with power voluntarily; it does so only under pressure”.
Resistance is the only way in which justice can be achieved. Cesar Chavez, a Labor leader and farm worker advocate of the 1900s said: “If we’re full of hatred, we can’t really do our work. Hatred saps all that strength and energy we need to plan.”
We encourage readers to read the article below and disseminate it widely among those who seek justice and peace in this ever widening context of despair.
Israel’s model of political despair in Jerusalem
A Palestinian woman in Jerusalem assaulted by Israeli Jewish mob. (Via Aljazeera/file)
By Jonathan Cook – Nazareth*
Relations between Israelis and Palestinians have descended into a dangerous melee of tit-for-tat attacks and killings, with the violence of the past few weeks centred on Jerusalem. The city, claimed by Israel as its “undivided capital”, has been torn apart by clashes between Israeli police and Palestinian residents since the summer, when 16-year-old Mohammed Abu Khdeir was burnt alive by Jewish extremists.
Subsequent attacks by Palestinians culminated last week in a shooting and stabbing spree by two cousins at a synagogue that killed four Jews and an Israeli policeman. In this atmosphere, both sides have warned that the political conflict is mutating into a religious one.
Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, cautioned that Israel’s intensified efforts to extend its control over the Al Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City, including by imposing severe restrictions on Muslim worship, risked plunging the region into “a detrimental religious war”.
Yoram Cohen, the head of Israel’s Shin Bet intelligence service, concurred. He warned last week that Israel was stoking religious discord by encouraging Jews to pray at the site over rabbinical objections.
But despite these warnings, the Israeli government announced today it was drafting a law that would ban Muslim guards on the esplanade, making it yet easier for Jews to visit.
Government ministers, meanwhile, accused Abbas of religious “incitement” and masterminding the violence in Jerusalem.
Ari Shavit, an influential Israeli analyst, also blamed what he termed an emerging “holy war” not on oppressive Israeli policies, but on the spread of an Islamist extremism.
Shavit and other Israelis have preferred to overlook the obvious parallels between last week’s killings and an even graver incident 20 years ago. Then, Baruch Goldstein, a Jewish settler, entered the Ibrahimi mosque in the West Bank city of Hebron in his Israeli army captain’s uniform and opened fire on Muslim worshipers, killing 29 and wounding 125.
One can only wonder why the timeline for Shavit’s holy war did not extend back to Goldstein’s massacre, or include the waves of attacks, including arson, by settlers on Muslim and Christian places of worship ever since.
Israel’s responses to these two massacres are more helpful in illuminating the fundamental causes of the recent surge in violence.
In Hebron, Palestinians rather than the settlers paid the price for Goldstein’s slaughter. Israel divided the Ibrahimi mosque to create a Jewish prayer space and effectively shut down Hebron’s commercial centre, displacing thousands of Palestinian residents.
Instead of pulling out of the settlers from the occupied territories following the massacre, Israel allowed their numbers to grow at record pace.
Although the anti-Arab Kach group Goldstein belonged to was outlawed, it has continued to operate openly in the settlements, including in Jerusalem. Goldstein’s tomb, next to Hebron, is a site of pilgrimage for thousands of religious Jews.
Palestinians, not Israelis, are again the ones suffering, this time after last week’s synagogue attack.
Israel has begun demolishing the homes of those involved in recent attacks, and is drafting laws to jail stone-throwers for up to 20 years and harshly penalize the parents of those too young to be jailed themselves.
On Sunday the interior minister revoked the Jerusalem residency of a Palestinian convicted of driving a suicide bomber into Tel Aviv 13 years ago – a prelude, according to prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to many more such revocations.
Israel is also preparing to relax gun controls to allow thousands more Israeli Jews to carry weapons at a time when Palestinian taxi and bus drivers in Jerusalem say they are being regularly assaulted. Last week a bus driver died in mysterious circumstances, which Palestinians suspect was a lynching.
It should be no surprise that Jerusalem is the eye of the storm. For more than a decade it has served as a laboratory for the Israeli right to experiment with a model of political despair designed to make Palestinians either submit or leave.
House demolitions for Palestinians and settlement building for Jews, brutal policing and the encouragement of crime as a way to recruit collaborators are happening faster and more aggressively in Jerusalem than anywhere else in the occupied territories.
Since the second intifada erupted in 2000, East Jerusalem has been a political orphan. Israel expelled the Palestinian Authority, and jailed or deported Hamas leaders as they tried to fill the vacuum. Since then, Palestinians in Jerusalem have been defenseless against Israel’s intrigues.
Netanyahu and the right have made little secret of their wish to export a similar model to the West Bank, gradually eroding what control the PA still enjoys. But the spiraling violence in Jerusalem has exposed the paradox at the heart of their strategy.
Palestinian anger in the West Bank is every bit as intense as in Jerusalem but Abbas’ security forces still have the will and, just barely, the upper hand to keep a lid on it.
In Jerusalem, on the other hand, protesters face off directly with Israeli police. Because the city lacks organized Palestinian groups, the security services have been unable to penetrate them with collaborators. Instead Israel has been caught off guard by unpredictable attacks as individual Palestinians reach their breaking point.
By refusing to recognise any Palestinian national claims in Jerusalem, Netanyahu has forced the population to recast the conflict in religious terms. Unable to identify politically with either Fatah or Hamas, Jerusalem’s Palestinians have found powerful consolation in a religious struggle to counter the mounting threats to Al-Aqsa.
From this perspective, Netanyahu’s continuing efforts to weaken and undermine Abbas and the PA appear strategically self-destructive. Without them, the West Bank will go the way of Jerusalem – an ever more unmanageable colonial conflict that risks heading towards religious conflagration.
– Jonathan Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is www.jonathan-cook.net. (A version of this article first appeared in the National, Abu Dhabi.)