A people can only take so much abuse and violence before they finally snap. Israel knows this and it has been doing its utmost recently to provoke another popular uprising by the Palestinians. The constant stream of arrests of innocent citizens; the illegal and immoral house demolitions; the construction of the grotesque separation wall; the razing and theft of agricultural land; these are just some of the daily realities of life that Palestinians must put up with. Now Israel has taken the intensity of its provocation to a higher level.
Israel constantly threatens Muslim Holy sites but the latest target is the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron, one that Muslims have maintained for a thousand years. Benjamin Netanyahu has listed the mosque as one of Israel’s “heritage sites”. The perception seems to be that this is just one more notch on Israel’s belt in measuring its gradual but unceasing takeover of Islamic cultural and religious sites.
The Palestinian people as a whole are doing their best to protest in the most peaceful way they know how and to resist the occupation and destruction of their land, their homes and their lives in the least aggressive way possible; they have been very patient. One small group, for instance, took the Hollywood film Avatar as their inspiration to draw attention to their cause, dressing during protests as the Native blue-skinned Na’vi whose land, in the film, is taken over by a brutal occupying force bent on its destruction. But even such light-hearted attempts at protest have been met with tear gas and attacks from the Israeli occupation forces.
Other Palestinians have set up websites and blogs and use electronic media such as Facebook to tell the world about their daily experience of occupation, including their humiliation, suffering and torture. Nevertheless, how much can they be expected to take before it becomes too much?
A raw nerve is exposed
The latest Israeli political stunt announced by Netanyahu will push Palestinians beyond the limit. People may well sit in shocked disbelief when their own home is crushed to rubble by American Caterpillar bulldozers in front of their very eyes, but when Israel targets Muslim Holy Sites and places of worship, a raw nerve is exposed and a deep protective instinct kicks in.
If this instinctive reaction spreads and Netanyahu’s announcement is seen as a test-run for a takeover and eventual destruction of Al-Aqsa Mosque, (which already faces the threat of damage caused by Israel’s “archaeological” excavations), then you can almost guarantee a renewal of unrest and bloodshed.
Clashes in Hebron have already taken place, as Israel knew they would, between an estimated 300 protesters, including school children, and Israeli troops. This is taking place in an already charged atmosphere across the occupied West Bank. According to one Palestinian source, “Dozens of Israeli military vehicles escorted 500 Jewish settlers on an unwelcome visit to the Nabi Yousef [Joseph’s tomb] in Nablus city at dawn on Thursday. The settlers offered prayers and left behind slogans on the walls in Hebrew after sabotaging a nearby school.”
But why would Israel be provoking Palestine at a time when the world’s eyes are still on the country following public outrage at the massacre of over 1,400 Gazans during last year’s Operation Cast Lead? Well, Israel has never been shy about expressing its hostile intent with regards to Palestine and clearly welcomes the opportunity for more violent confrontations; the Israelis don’t, however, want to be accused of being the ones who started them.
By pushing Palestinians into violent reactions to Israeli provocation, it seems that the Zionist state is trying to legitimise in advance whatever their “reaction to Palestinian unrest” will be, no matter how violent or disproportionate. The media will play its part, of course, and you can almost hear the newsreaders already “Israel has reacted to Palestinian stone-throwers…” in context-free bulletins. Reasonable observers would say that Palestinian reaction can no longer be blamed because Israel is going too far. Moreover, Israel wants a violent reaction from the Palestinians which the occupation forces can then use as an excuse for more violence, more arrests and more oppression.
‘Uniquely, unaccountable for their crimes’
Israel’s bald-faced arrogance over their continued crimes against the Palestinian people has been bolstered by the fact that it remains, apparently uniquely, unaccountable for its crimes. When lawful attempts are made to bring Israel to task for the war crimes and human rights abuses the country’s armed forces perpetrate continuously, such efforts are blocked at every step. International UN-endorsed efforts to hold Israeli officials accountable for their war crimes, such as the Goldstone Report, are challenged at every opportunity by Israel’s supporter and ally, the United States of America.
Similarly, when its alleged war criminals planned to travel abroad and justice has been sought through the courts (as was the case a couple of months ago with the British arrest warrant issued for the arrest of Tzipi Livni), the British government sent Israel grovelling apologies and reassurances that our domestic laws will be changed to accommodate the safe passage and visits of such people to our country in future.
An attempt made by human rights organisation Al-Haq to challenge the British government with regard to its failure to fulfil its obligations under international law to hold Israel accountable, was thwarted by the Court of Appeal this week at the third attempt. Even when members of the public take it upon themselves to protest against Israel’s actions they face exemplary punishment. This was seen in the cases of British protesters who took part in demonstrations against Israel’s invasion of Gaza just over a year ago and who have received grossly disproportionate custodial sentences by British courts for alleged violent disorder, in what is seen as a thinly-veiled attempt to dissuade people, particularly Muslims, from taking part in future protests against Israel.
When legal efforts to hold Israel accountable are met with such unjust responses from the British establishment, a dangerous melting pot of frustration and anger is left to stew. If you take away peaceful, legal means to solve a problem, what are you offering in their stead?
If the world does not wake up and bring Israel to account based on international laws and conventions that the rest of us must abide by, then we should not be surprised at the inevitable explosion that will follow. We will have no one but ourselves to blame for letting it happen.
If a third Palestinian Intifada (uprising) does erupt, as is almost inevitable if Israel continues on its current path, it will surely be worse than its predecessors. The list of Palestinian grievances is growing longer: demands for the release of innocent prisoners, including civilian men, women, children and elected members of government is one; the frustration over the wall is another; the illegal siege on Gaza is a third; and Israeli abuses occur daily.
It is wrong to say that the Israeli government is setting up a new version of the South African apartheid system. That analogy does not go nearly far enough because the Israelis have already surpassed the immorality of that regime. If the world was motivated enough to join forces against the white South African government for its racism and subjugation of the non-white population, then where is world opinion now when a far worse form of racial oppression is taking place? Those who do not speak out against the Israeli government, knowing full well the facts as they stand, can only hold themselves to blame when more violence erupts, as it surely will. The blood of the victims on both sides will be on our hands collectively. No excuses will be accepted; the time for action is now, before it’s too late.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.