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As Palestine simmers, calls for mutual restraint are both predictable and unjust

During the past week much has been written about whether the long expected third intifada has started. Opinion is still split down the middle. Despite the differences there remains a strong belief that given the appalling inhuman conditions in the occupied Palestinian territories it is not a matter of if, but when, the eruption will happen.

Amid all the confusion, one thing is certain; the next intifada will not be like the first two. For a start, it will not be confined to the 1967-occupied territories but will engulf all of Mandate Palestine. Secondly, the next round will not just be against Israel alone, but also against those who collaborate with the occupation forces.

For several years now the territories have been simmering with tensions provoked by the combined assaults of Israel's government, army and settlers. They have made life a living hell for Palestinians. When it has not been the theft of land, it's been the bulldozing of agricultural land, house demolitions, arrests, detention, torture and ultimately extrajudicial killings.

People can only take so much before a response has to be expected.

One reason why some observers believe that the third intifada has started stems from the role of Jerusalem. Unlike other cities in the occupied West Bank, the Palestinian Authority has absolutely no presence in Jerusalem. As such it cannot intervene there to suppress anti-Israel demonstrations as it does in the rest of the West Bank, to Israel's benefit. In other words the Palestinians in Jerusalem are much freer to resist settler attacks and provocations.

Fearing that the unrest was spiralling out of control, President Abbas last weekend sent two aides, Sultan Abu Al-Aynayn and Uthman Abu Gharibah, to Jerusalem to implore religious and community leaders there to calm the situation. That mission failed spectacularly and any plan to send another in the near future would be pointless while Israel's aggression against the largely unarmed civilians in the Gaza Strip continues.

Oft-regarded as the heart and nerve centre of Palestine, Jerusalem has throughout history been in the forefront in the resistance against foreign conquest. It was here that the second intifada erupted in September 2000 when the notorious Israeli general and war criminal, Ariel Sharon, made a provocative intrusion into Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Today the immediate cause is even more compelling. The recent burning alive of Jerusalemite teenager Mohammad Abu Khdair seemed to be the final spark to set the atmosphere alight.

Despite Al-Aqsa's distinguished status as the third most holy mosque in Islam, the life of a single Palestinian youth is even more sacred. Hence, it was for this reason that the streets and alleys of Jerusalem and its environs have witnessed the worst outburst of public anger recorded in recent years.

In many ways, living conditions for the Palestinians in Jerusalem and its suburbs are worse than they were in 2000. They have no control over their economy and their freedom of movement is curtailed and dictated by the Israeli occupation.

The events of recent weeks have shown that no military force or power can suppress a people who desire freedom. After enduring 47 years of life under Israel's brutal military occupation, it appears that the Palestinians in the West Bank and Jerusalem will take charge of their destiny regardless of the direction in which the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah chooses to go.

Nothing reinforces this conviction more than the inability of the PA to protect its people from the ravages of the settlers, despite President Abbas's proud claim that security coordination with Israel is "sacred". No political rhetoric can now conceal the fact that this so-called "security coordination" is, in reality, a business relationship whereby the PA provides services to the occupation and it receives in return a handsome payment from Brussels and the Washington. It is a "sacred" cash cow.

This Intifada Al Quds, as it has been already dubbed, could still be different in other ways. If the PA stands in its way as Abbas has said repeatedly that it will, then ultimately it too will become a target of popular discontent. While this may be portrayed as retrogressive, it may be a necessary step to regain Palestinian rights.

The groundswell of anger that has been building up after years of deception and betrayal by "friends" and foes alike has reached its limit. Armed with a vision and an unstoppable will, Palestinians in the occupied territories know that the prize of national liberation will never be granted; it has to be taken.

The White House and EU are already calling for restraint from both sides. This was not only predictable but unmistakably unjust in what is a clear asymmetric conflict. The truth is that such calls will never realise even the most basic of Palestinian rights: the right to life and happiness. Worse still, they will never be respected, or trusted, as long as these same power-brokers continue to provide Israel with the diplomatic cover and military hardware to suppress Palestinian aspirations.

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Commentary & AnalysisIsraelMiddle EastPalestine
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