Beginning of a third intifada?
Tony Greenstein assesses the situation for the Palestinian struggle.
While Mahmoud Abbas, ‘president’ of the Palestinian Authority, is certainly doing his best to dampen down the uprising, Palestinians in the occupied territories are once more saying that they have had enough. They are finding it ever harder to live any kind of life, thanks to the continued confiscation of their land and the overbearing presence of the settlements. Israeli army support for attacks by settlers, who are never prosecuted, compounds their suffering.
Abbas presides over his ‘state of Palestine’ from Ramallah, guarded by his US-trained Preventative Security Police, to whom collaboration with Israeli security is “sacred”.1 This quisling authority has been more and more exposed as a sub-contractor for Israel’s security apparatus.
Meanwhile prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s far-right administration has ensured that Palestinians cannot entertain even a sliver of a hope of a normalised existence. It contains the rabidly racist Jewish Home party, whose leader, Naftali Bennett, is on record, in a cabinet discussion, as declaring, “I’ve killed lots of Arabs in my life - and there’s no problem with that”. Then there is ‘justice’ minister Ayelet Shaked, who posted on her Facebook page an article by the late Israeli writer, Uri Elitzur, that referred to Palestinian children as “little snakes”:
They [the Palestinians] are all enemy combatants, and their blood shall be on all their heads. Now this also includes the mothers of the martyrs, who send them to hell with flowers and kisses. They should follow their sons - nothing would be more just. They should go, as should the physical homes in which they raised the snakes. Otherwise, more little snakes will be raised there.2
A prelude to genocide?
The past week’s series of stabbings and shootings was triggered by the police invasion of the al-Aqsa mosque, on the Temple Mount (Haram al-Sharif). Worshippers were attacked and the inside of the mosque was damaged. Al-Aqsa is the third most holy building in Islam and its golden dome acts as a symbol of the Palestinian presence in east Jerusalem. Jewish messianic groups, such as Ateret Cohanim and the Temple Mount Faithful3, want the mosque demolished and the Holy Temple of God rebuilt on the site. The Temple Mount group is part-funded by Israel’s government.
Just imagine if the Iranian police invaded a synagogue in Tehran, attacking those praying with stun grenades. The media would be thick with cries of ‘anti-Semitism’ and rightly so, yet an attack on the Al Aqsa mosque is treated as related to the rights of Jews. In Hebron, the Ibrahimi mosque was divided in two following the murder by settler Baruch Goldstein of 29 Muslims. The settlers believed they had stumbled on Abraham’s cave of Machpelah in a mosque!
The origin of today’s events goes back to last year and the burning alive, by pouring gasoline down the throat, of a 16-year-old boy, Mohammed Abu Khdeir, on July 2 2014. His cousin, Tariq Khdeir, who was on a visit from Tampa in the United States, was savagely beaten up by Israeli police, resulting in the White House unusually raising a complaint.4 It also resulted in atypical support and publicity from some Congress members for the victim of Israeli police violence.5
The burning alive of Mohammed Abu Khdeir was followed by Operation Protective Edge in Gaza, where over 2,200 Palestinians, including 550 children, were murdered. In July this year the Dawabsheh family home in the village of Duma near Nablus was set alight by people who then retreated to the nearby settlement.6 Israel knows who the culprits are, but refuses to prosecute them to “protect sources”.7 Tel Aviv even announced that, as Palestinians under occupation, they would not be eligible for the anti-terrorist compensation that settlers automatically receive. Couple this with the continuous ‘price-tag’ attacks on Palestinians in the West Bank by the settlers and you can see why the frustration has boiled over. This has taken the form of random knife attacks.
The Zionist parties in the Knesset regularly pass nakedly racist legislation. A bill to approve up to 20-year sentences for stone-throwing has been approved, with the support of the so-called Labour opposition. However, this will not apply to the settlers. When the supreme court insisted on the removal of illegal structures at the Beit El settlement, Netanyahu rewarded the stone-throwing Zionist protestors with a promise of new settlements - no 20-year sentences for them.8
The clashes this week have resulted in a lynch-mob atmosphere, as Israeli Jews are encouraged to carry weapons - and open fire first and ask questions later. In one particularly ugly incident a Palestinian youth, Fadi Alloun, was chased by a racist lynch mob, who demanded the police shoot him, as he was allegedly armed. Although he offered no resistance nor posed any danger, he was murdered in cold blood by Israel’s Jim Crow police force.9 In another incident, when demonstrators in Gaza approached the border fence and started throwing stones, Israeli soldiers began shooting as if it was a turkey hunt. Seven young Palestinians died and untold numbers were injured.10
Equally importantly, Israeli Palestinians have also begun to break the shackles that have bound them, however reluctantly, to the Israeli state. Shackles that have separated them from Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. There have been riots in a number of Arab towns and villages.11
Palestinians in Israel realise that the fate of the Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza is not separate from their own fate. They too are a ‘demographic threat’ to the Jewish state. They too are aliens in their own land. Maybe it is at one stage removed, but the danger they feel is real.
Protests have erupted in Israeli Arab towns, such as Nazareth, Ramle and Sakhnin. Previous, albeit token, efforts at integration of Israel’s Palestinian citizens into the state have been abandoned in favour of a policy of naked coercion. This should not be any surprise. Former foreign minister Tzipi Livni, in her dealings with the Palestinian Authority when she was part of the Likud administration of Ehud Olmert, repeatedly proposed land swaps - the settlements in the West Bank in exchange for the vacation of Arab towns in ‘the Triangle’, including the largest Palestinian town in Israel, Umm al Fahm. She is now in alliance with Israeli Labour, but her politics have not changed. This is a measure of how the Israeli Labour opposition, which Livni has joined, is as racist as the government itself. The only defenders of Israel’s Palestinian citizens in the Knesset are the members of the Joint List, which has 13 seats.
It is impossible to determine whether the conflagration will spread or be successfully repressed. Either way, the struggle will continue indefinitely. The Middle East today is on fire, with neighbouring Syria the venue for a conflict between US imperialism and Russia. The necessity for the Arab masses to rise up - both against their rulers and against confessionalism - has never been stronger than now.
9. See http://azvsas.blogspot.co.uk/2015/10/israeli-police-kill-fadi-alloun-in-cold.html.
10. Videos of these can be seen at http://azvsas.blogspot.co.uk/2015/10/a-shocking-video-cold-blooded-murder-of.html.