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Israel pushing an Intifada?

November 25, 2014 at 1:05 pm

On 12th July, three Israeli boys were kidnapped resulting in collective punishment throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Israeli soldiers led a manhunt to find the boys, ransacking thousands of homes- the boys’ bodies were found two and a half weeks later. Naftali Frenkel, Gilad Shaar and Eyal Yifrach had been shot dead shortly after they were kidnapped.

Their deaths unleashed a summer of fire which is still burning brightly across East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza. With no sign of it subsiding, fears and speculations regarding a third intifada are growing stronger. Whether the current events will spark an intifada or not, Israel seems intent on stoking the embers.

The week that started with the funerals of the three Israeli teens ended with the funeral of a Palestinian boy. The badly charred body of 16 year old Mohammed Abu Khdeir from East Jerusalem was discovered on 2nd July- he had been abducted by Israeli extremists in revenge for the murder of the three Israeli teens. After his funeral, protestors rioted on the streets of East Jerusalem calling for justice and change. By this time, the US brokered peace talks had already collapsed amidst continued settlement building, killing any hope of achieving an end to the situation by diplomatic means.

Just days later Israel began its military offensive over Gaza. The outbreak of “Operation Protective Edge” led to what some described as the strongest and most sustained uprising by the city’s Palestinian residents in a decade. In the protests, 16 year old Mohammed Sunuqrut was shot in the head with a sponge tipped bullet and died from his wounds a weeks later.

From Mohammed’s Abu Khdeir’s abduction until the Gaza ceasefire was brokered some 56 days later, around 727 people from East Jerusalem had been arrested and it is believed 260 of them were under 18- most are accused of throwing stones and partaking in the protests.

The months of October and November saw a series of car ramming incidents that took the lives of several Israelis, including a border policeman and a baby- dubbed the “run-over Intifada” by the New York Times. On the 10 November two stabbing incidents on the same day killed an Israeli soldier in Tel Aviv and a woman in the West Bank. Most of the suspects were extra-judicially assassinated. Israel bought back its policy of “punitive house demolitions” to further punish the assailants and their families.

This has all been happening against the backdrop of Jewish claims to the Al-Aqsa compound. Israeli Jews claim the mosque lies on the site of Temple Mount, the most holy site in Judaism, however many Rabbi’s, including Israel’s chief rabbinate, believe that entering Al-Aqsa, the third holiest site in Islam, is a violation of Jewish law. In October, an Arab Knesset member revealed that there would be a vote on a law drafted by an Israeli committee regarding the partition of Al-Aqsa Mosque between Muslims and Jews. Clashes have plagued the holy site more than ever recently.

On October 29 a Palestinian on a motorcycle attempted to assassinate US born right wing Yehuda Glick, spokesman for Israeli groups advocating greater Jewish access to the Temple Mount. A day later Al-Aqsa was shut for the first time since 1967.

On November 16, a Palestinian man from East Jerusalem was found hanging in the bus and colleagues claimed six extremist settlers had killed him. This version contradicted the official Israeli narrative of suicide, which was disputed strongly by his family and many Palestinians who took to the streets of East Jerusalem in protest.

Two days later, at a synagogue in West Jerusalem four Israeli Rabbis and an Israeli policeman were killed during morning prayers. Two assailants, cousins from East Jerusalem, were shot at the scene.

Revenge attacks and hate crimes directed against Palestinians followed the attack on the Synagogue. A settler shot a 16 year old boy. A Palestinian woman was run over by a car. Instead of seeking to ease the tensions, Israel relaxed gun possession regulations for the self-defence of its citizens.

After years of frustrations, various incidents served as tipping points that sparked the first and second intifadas. The first intifada is often attributed to the killing of four Palestinian civilians by an Israeli jeep, and the subsequent killing of a 17 year old by an Israeli officer who fired into a crowd of protesting Palestinians. The intifada was however a reaction to 20 years of Israeli occupation- 20 years of dispossession, degradation and frustration.

Ariel Sharon’s visit to Al-Aqsa flanked by a 1,000-strong security force lit the flames of the second intifada. Against the backdrop of years of failed negotiations it was the final straw for disenchanted and frustrated Palestinians that only saw concessions from the Oslo Accords.

Summer in the Occupied Palestinian Territories has been full of potential “tipping points”. This is by no means an exhaustive list of them, but highlights just some of the incidents that could have united Palestinians in a sustained and mass uprising. Added to continuing collective punishment and Israel’s discriminatory policies towards Palestinians; the failed negotiations, the devastating bombardment of Gaza and Jewish claims to Al-Aqsa, are an explosive mix.

Israel certainly seems intent on pushing the right buttons to spark an intifada. If it is successful, Israel will most certainly use the expression of Palestinian frustrations, albeit rockets or protests, or even car ramming incidents, to brutally crush the Palestinian population under the banner of “self-defence”, once again.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.