Is A Third Intifada Starting?

My article below for the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, was published in the Morning Star on 13 October 2015

Is A Third Intifada Starting?

2015 Tuesday 13TH

posted by Morning Star in Features

As violence escalates an end to Israeli occupation is the only meaningful solution, writes Kamel Hawwash

A POSSIBLE third intifada is underway in Palestine and Israel. The past couple of weeks have seen an escalation in violence between Palestinians and Israelis the likes of which we have not seen since last year’s 51-day attack on Gaza.

While the spark was in Jerusalem, Palestinians are rising against the occupation, discrimination, inequality and the Gaza siege in the West Bank, Gaza and inside the Green Line. This has included daily clashes between unarmed Palestinians and the Israeli occupation forces, but also a number of knife attacks and incidents of stone-throwing by both Palestinians and Jewish Israelis.

As with previous incidents, the heaviest casualties have been on the Palestinian side, with hundreds injured and a more than 20 killed at the time of writing, including a pregnant woman and her three-year-old daughter in Gaza.

A further worrying development has been the killing almost at point-blank range of Palestinians who had not posed any danger, as documented by video clips from the scene on social media. Those include Asma’a Abed from Nazareth and Fadi Alloun from Issawiya, Jerusalem.

In addition, Palestinian medical teams have been targeted by Israeli forces. The Palestinian Red Crescent Society “documented 53 attacks against its teams and ambulances in which 37 emergency medical technicians were wounded and around 20 ambulances were damaged since October 3.”

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign is saddened by the loss of any innocent life in the conflict. But in order to avoid any further loss of life in the future, it is important that the cause of recent events is analysed and lessons learnt to bring about a just peace in the future.

We must first remember that the root cause of the continuing instability and violence is the longest military occupation in history, that the Palestinians continue to suffer from. In 1967 Israel completed the occupation of the whole of historic Palestine, the remaining 22 per cent. It immediately announced the annexation of east Jerusalem and later of the occupied Syrian Golan Heights.

Forty eight years on and the Palestinians continue to live under a brutal occupation, with no hope of this ending soon.

They see Israel expanding illegal settlement construction on their land in east Jerusalem and the West Bank. The number of illegal Israeli settlers now stands at 600,000. Israel interferes with every aspect of Palestinian lives. It controls their movement between their towns and villages and also their exit and entry to the occupied territories via Jordan.

Recent years have seen growing settler violence, which Palestinians see as terror, in which they attack their villages and crops and cut down their olive trees. The perpetrators call them “price tag” attacks. The violence has further escalated as it has gone unchecked by an Israeli government which is hugely sympathetic to the settlement enterprise and has largely shied away from calling them terror attacks.

The Dawabshe family paid with their lives when settlers burnt them to death in their home in Duma village. Their killers have not faced justice, despite strong suspicion by Palestinians that they are known.

Gaza is separated from the West Bank and Jerusalem and has been under an almost permanent siege since 2007, with access to the West Bank through Israel, or to Egypt through the Rafah Crossing, almost impossible. Even Prime Minister David Cameron called it a “prison camp” in 2010 but the situation continues to worsen, especially after last year’s Israeli war, which left over 2,000 dead, tens of thousands injured and tens of thousands of homes destroyed, with little reconstruction since.

If all of this was not enough to ignite an uprising by the Palestinians, Israel has been slowly but surely implementing policies that would change the situation on the ground in occupied east Jerusalem.

Prior to 1967, east Jerusalem, Al-Quds in Arabic, was home to Palestinian Muslims and Christians. But since its annexation Israel has implemented policies that restrict the growth of the Palestinian population, through the almost guaranteed refusal of planning permits for homes or businesses, and also the planting of illegal settlements among the Palestinian population, which only Jews can populate.

Which other democracy would build homes for only one ethnic or religious group?

The illegal settlements also encircle east Jerusalem with the plan to cut it off from the West Bank, making it impossible for it to be the capital of a future Palestinian state. The wall cuts through Palestinian areas, placing some outside Jerusalem and necessitating a daily crossing through a checkpoint, but also endangers their precious Jerusalem ID card which allows them access to the City. Israel regularly takes this away if a Palestinian resides outside the city.

In addition, Israel has its eye on Al-Aqsa mosque, the first point to which Muslims turned when praying and the third holiest mosque in Islam. Jews revere the area too, where they are told two Jewish Temples existed. Among Israeli government ministers and members of the Knesset are individuals who believe that a third Jewish Temple should replace Al-Aqsa Mosque. This kind of talk can turn the conflict into a religious conflict with predictable dire consequences.

In recent months, large groups of mainly extremist settlers, government ministers and Knesset members have forced their way into Al-Aqsa, protected by armed security forces, provoking Palestinians as they walked through the Old City.

Israel claims that a “status quo” exists, agreed with Jordan, that non-Muslims including Jews can visit the site but are not permitted to pray. But this did not imply daily unco-ordinated break-ins and a closure of the mosque to Muslims. This has though become the norm in recent months. Palestinians are worried that Israel wants to divide the mosque, first through scheduling Jewish-only times and then geographically, which they completely oppose, as does Jordan.

Recent violent attacks saw Israeli troops enter the Qibli mosque and desecrate it. Barring Muslims and specific individuals who have taken to protecting the mosque through their presence and challenging those who break into the mosque have led to clashes and raised tensions.

This, it seems, was a deliberate policy by Benjamin Netanyahu to change the status quo while the world was busy with Syria, Iraq, Isis and the Iran deal. He badly miscalculated and underestimated the resilience of the Palestinians. This was the final trigger for the recent violence.

The rising tensions and the lack of a genuine process to bring justice to the area have led to the current crisis and unless this is addressed in good faith, it will continue to cause regular spikes in violence, even if the current round subsides soon.

Successive British governments have sided with Israel. This has added to its sense that it can do almost anything illegal and not be censured. In the absence of government action, the British people have joined the escalating Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement to put pressure on Israel until it comes to its senses and accepts the implementation of international law.

It is quite simple. As Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti recently said in an article in the British Press: “The last day of the occupation will be the first day of peace.”

Professor Kamel Hawwash is vice chair of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

Join the London protest for Palestine on Saturday 17 October


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