During October nine Israelis and 60 Palestinians — including 15 children — have died in violence connected to a spate of Palestinian knife and car attacks.
The immediate reason for the spike in violence and renewed Palestinian street protests seems to have been rumours that Israel intended to change long-standing arrangements for worship at Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
Provocatively, Israel’s deputy foreign minister, Tzipi Hotovely, a member of the right-wing Likud party, said recently on television, “My dream is to see the Israeli flag flying over the Temple Mount … It’s the holiest place for the Jewish people.”
The response of Israeli security forces has often been brutal. And since 14 October a large number of new checkpoints and concrete roadblocks have seriously restricted the movement of the 300,000 Arab resident of East Jerusalem and surrounding Arab villages. The Israeli state continues to take reprisals against the families of those suspected of attacks against Israelis. The Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem reports that, “On Tuesday 6 October 2015, Israeli security forces blew up two housing units in East Jerusalem and sealed another as collective punishment for attacks perpetrated by relatives of the people living in the three homes. The blasts also destroyed two adjacent apartments that were home to 11 people, including seven children.”
Of course the underlying reason for Palestinian discontent and protests is an Occupation which is now in its 49th year. President of the Palestinian Authority and PLO leader Mahmoud Abbas comments that the violence is driven by “a feeling of disappointment in the young Palestinian generation, which basically don’t see any hope.”
“Settlers in the West Bank go out among houses and villages, protected by the Israeli army, and commit killings and attacks against Palestinian nationals. These are the direct causes of the deterioration in the situation.”
Right-wing Israeli settlers have been responsible for a series of so-called “price-tag” revenge attacks on West Bank Palestinians.
The latest PSR opinion poll among Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza strip shows widespread discontent, with two-thirds in favour of the resignation of President Mahmoud Abbas. Fatah, the major faction in the PLO continues to decline in support on the West Bank and Hamas’s support is growing. If Abbas stood in a presidential election against Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, the poll suggests that Abbas would lose, 44-49%. The only Fatah candidate who would beat Haniyeh, according to the poll, is a leader of previous Palestinian uprisings, Marwan Barghouti, who is currently in an Israeli prison. There is a clear majority of support for a new armed uprising — intifada — and a widespread belief that the PA is not doing enough to protect Palestinians from the violence of right-wing Israeli settlers. Hamas is for a new intifada; the PA says its lightly armed police force is no match for Israeli tanks and opposes an uprising because it believes — reasonably enough — that it would make matters worse for the Palestinians, not better. Marwan Barghouti states that, “Israel’s actions and crimes not only destroy the two-state solution on 1967 borders and violate international law, they threaten to transform a solvable political conflict into a never-ending religious war that will undermine stability in a region already experiencing unprecedented turmoil.”
Barghouti is right that – irrespective of whether the Israelis manage to repress this current upsurge in violence in Jerusalem – unless the Palestinians are granted a viable state the conflict will become more religious, and even harder to solve. What the Israeli state will not be able to do is repress the Palestinians into unending silence. However the right-wing Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu has shown no interest in coming to a reasonable agreement with the Palestinians. Speaking at a Parliamentary committee meeting last Monday Netanyahu commented, “We need to control all of the territory for the foreseeable future... I’m asked if we will forever live by the sword — yes.”
During the last election he promised that there would be no Palestinian state if he remained Prime Minister.
Netanyahu distorts history
The Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has caused outrage by alleging that Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, played a central role in engineering the Holocaust, following his visit to Berlin in 1941 to meet with Adolf Hitler. Husseini was indeed bitterly hostile to Jews in Palestine, friendly to Hitler, and responsible for stoking a pogrom against Jews in Iraq. But responsible for the Holocaust? Netanyahu is trying to stoke hatred of Palestinians and should be condemned for a complete distortion of history. Not least because it serves to absolve Hitler and the Nazi government for their murder of millions of people during the Holocaust.